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Listening: Word Choice and Tone
1.
Context: This is an 11th grade general English course in suburban Ohio. There are 11
boys and 12 girls.
2.
Broad, Lifelong Goal/s & Rationale It is important for students to be able to examine
how a person speaks and why the words and tone they use impact how we feel about their
speaking. This will be useful for students to apply to their own speaking to make it more
impactful and interesting.
3.
Specific Daily Objective: Students will learn to evaluate a speaker based on broad ideas,
word choice, emphasis, and tone.
4.
Common Core or NCTE Standards: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.3 Evaluate a
speaker's …, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone used.
5.
Assessment and/or Outcomes: The teacher will evaluate students by having them fill
out a worksheet with categories on how they are evaluating speakers. Students will then create a
sentence based on what they feel makes J.K. Rowling's commencement speech to Harvard in
2008 impactful. They will choose either word choice, emphasis, or tone as their reasoning or
make an argument for why it is or is not impactful.
6.

Materials:

Computer/Speakers
Whiteboard
J.K. Rowling Commencement Speech video 3:52-9:32: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=wHGqp8lz36c
Tim Minchin Commencement Speech 6:46-9:35 https://youtu.be/NyBvbot3emM?t=6m46s
Worksheet for speaker evaluation.
7.

Methods:
Attendance, Classroom Announcements, Book Talk: Between Shades of Grey
"During world war two there was a world changing event that you likely have never heard
about. Much like how Jewish people were put into labor and concentration camps, the
Russians did the same to intellectuals in their newly acquired Eastern Europe. A teen girl
Lina will experience this, how will art help her while she's in this situation?"~10 minutes
Minilesson Categories:
Anticipation:
 "In the future you will likely be graduating, that means you will be listening to a
commencement speech. Have you listened to any done by celebrities?"

Susan Scott- Wright State University (2016)

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"Why do we choose certain people to be commencement speakers? Why not just an
average person?"
"We want speakers who are communicating to graduates of high school or college to
inspire them, how do you inspire?"
"Impactful speaking is based not only on a person's experiences, but also how they
speak."~5 minutes

Overview: The teacher will introduce the idea of impactful speakers are impactful because
of how they speak. Will define and explain word choice, emphasis, and tone on the board(pre
written).
 "Impactful speaking means that the speaker has interesting word choice, emphasizes
words that are important, and using an appropriate tone."~5 minutes
Word choice- The choice to use interesting and unique language when more simple language
could have been used. Using words that add to the mental image or pique your interest while
you read/listen.
Emphasis- What the speaker raises their voice or pauses to say. Often repeated. The words
that are said so that you remember them, what they say differently from the majority of their
words.
Tone- A particular quality, way of sounding, modulation, or intonation of the voice as
expressive of some meaning, feeling, spirit, etc The way the speaker uses their voice to
convey emotion to you the listener.
Modeling: The teacher lists the same categories as seen on the students worksheet (see
attached) on the board. The teacher will then play the specific time of Tim Minchin's
commencement speech listed, often pausing to add ideas and ask students why Tim chose the
phrase or word and ask their ideas. After the selection ends, the teacher will discuss the notes
taken with the students, they will work together to create a statement about what does or does
not make Tim Minchin's speech impactful.~10 minutes
Guided Practice: The teacher will then pass out the worksheet for evaluating a speaker's
impact. Students will then be played the selected time from J.K. Rowling's commencement
speech. This will be played twice with a minute to keep writing in between. Students are
encouraged to write while they listen.~15 minutes
Application: The teacher tells students to listen to their favorite song and write a paragraph
describing whether it is or is not impactful based on word choice, emphasis, and tone for
homework.~5 minutes
8.
Adaptations: The teacher will provide text versions of the speech excerpts to students
who struggle or have such needs. There will also be handouts with the word definition for
students to take home.

Susan Scott- Wright State University (2016)

Scott 3
9.
Possible Problems & Solutions: The teacher will have the definitions on the board
while students listen so they cannot say they do not know what they are listening for. Teacher
will also be careful to start and stop at the determined times. There will be no visual while the
speeches are played to keep students focused on listening.

Susan Scott- Wright State University (2016)

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Name:__________________________________ Pd:______ Date:_________________

Evaluating a Speaker
While listening to the speaker write down what you notice. Write word choices that you like or dislike, describe
what it emphasized, and comment on the overall tone.

Interesting Word Choices:

What word are Emphasized?

Overall Tone:

Is this speech impactful:
Susan Scott- Wright State University (2016)