Suggestions for written assignments

Although students were quick to remind me that this was a speaking class and not a writing class, I liked to have brief written assignments spread through the semester. It allowed me to see what kind of examples the students could generate on class topics and to provide a little bit of a grade boost to those with stronger writing skills than speaking skills. I did these in two formats — reaction papers and a group scavenger hunt.

Reaction papers

One way that I did this was through reaction papers.

These were brief papers that asked students to react to something we discussed in class and provide their own observations and examples. I would offer 10 papers through the semester but only require students to do 4-5 of them. The students could choose which ones to do. The deadlines were fixed — so if someone wanted to do paper #1, they had to do it by the due date or choose another paper. I wanted these to be casual 1-2 page papers and even accepted them handwritten for many years. The papers started fairly easy and got more difficult at the end, something many students noticed that encouraged them to do them quickly.

Group scavenger hunt

In one interpersonal comm class, the students were organized into groups that lasted through the semester. I put a spin on the reaction paper assignment by making it a scavenger hunt. There was a list of communication situations to find, such as a televised example of a face-saving move. When anyone in the group found one of these examples, they could write it up and turn in the paper. The first group to complete five papers received the full amount of points available, the second group received fewer points, etc. Groups that did not do all five papers got a set number of points per paper. There was a single deadline at the end of the semester. I had to frequently remind groups about this assignment when they had class meetings, but they did a nice job with it — some groups dividing the papers among members and others working in teams to target one paper at a time. These papers were shorter than the reaction papers.

Encouraging the students to write and react to class material helps you know them better and can provide good examples to use in later classes. I’ve listed several of the writing assignments I used here. They are easy to vary with fewer or more questions depending on the length of paper you want.

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About teachingpublicspeaking

I believe public speaking can go from most dreaded class to favorite class. I'm a former public speaking college instructor who spent years seeking out activities, assignments and examples to make the class interactive as well as educational -- they are collected here. I welcome suggestions for additions.

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