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Explore the Genre of Speeches


What makes a great speech? Develop a clear enough understanding of the history and characteristics of this genre to be able to explain your understanding to others

Time To Complete 

1-2 days

Content Areas 

  • Social Studies
  • Science

Learning Strands 

  • Reading
  • Writing

Common Core Standards 

  • CCRA.L.3, CCRA.SL.3, CCRA.R.2

I Can Statements 

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Possible Activities 
  1. Conduct a series of mini-lessons on the characteristics of a great speech (devices of rhetoric) and the power of speeches to influence society.
  2. Allow students to listen to and/or watch powerful historical speeches (example – MLK’s “I have a Dream”) and identify characteristics of great speeches and speakers.
  3. Provide several written exemplars and ask students to select 2-3 to examine and create a list of similarities in structure, craft and form.
  4. Use a jigsaw format, where students work in groups, and each group reads texts about the genre of speeches and examines a different exemplar. Then groups reorganize so that the new groups each have 1 representative from the former group, and each representative shares their learning with the others in this new group, to create a collective understanding of the genre.
  5. Have students explore the internet searching for and identifying speeches on issues they find most interesting. Share their finds with the class, and save them online so students can refer back to these ideas when they are “stuck” working on their own speeches. (Recommended tools: padlet, wiki, diigo page)
  6. Ask students to examine 2 exemplars and use a list of codes such as the following for students to mark-up the text.: H: How does the author hook the audience at the start of the speech? E: What tactics are used to create an emotional impact on the listener? C: What tools do the author use to ensure the information is compelling and persuasive? P: How does the author of the speech reveal their purpose and call the listener to some sort of action? Instruct students to write a brief paragraph on each of the codes explaining and justifying their responses.


35 Great Speeches in History with an Introduction on the Art of Giving Speeches:  http://www.artofmanliness.com/2008/08/01/the-35-greatest- speeches-in-history/ Famous Speeches with Audio  http://www.history.com/speeches Top Ten Speeches (Includes Socrates and Information on rhetoric)  http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,18 41228_1841749_1841736,00.html 12 Speeches No one Heard – Speeches prepared for historical situations that didn’t occur – focus on preparation  http://mentalfloss.com/article/32069/12-historical-speeches- nobody-ever-heard Speeches for Students  http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson- docs/SpeechSignOut.pdf Rhetoric  http://quizlet.com/9886195/types-of-rhetorical-devices-and- persuasive-speech-flash-cards/
Downloadable Resources 
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