Our Essential Lessons are a sequence of lessons that form the backbone of the Writing Program curriculum, illustrating what we want all students to learn across our program’s diverse course topics.

BU’s international students and English language learners (ELLs), often new to North American higher education, are poised to learn more about and start analyzing individual and group differences across a variety of contexts. This lesson serves as an introduction to the Hub unit for the Individual in Community and foregrounds these themes for the rest of the course.


This lesson models how to leverage the diversity of the BU student body as a learning opportunity for all.


Students will analyze at least one of the dimensions of experience (historical, racial, socioeconomic, political, gender, linguistic, religious, or cultural) that inform their own worldviews and beliefs.

Key Terms

community, diversity, inclusion, oral presentations, writing for presentations, body language, multimedia, multimodality, visual design, copyright and fair use


Students are assigned three-minute presentations highlighting characteristics (geography, politics, language, food, culture, etc.) of what they consider to be their hometown(s) in the second or third week of WR 111, in order to allow them to have an awareness of the different cultures and backgrounds of their classmates early in the semester and gain practice giving oral and visual presentations before the semester gets underway.


Genre Awareness

Through this lesson, students become more cognizant of how information can be used and shared and how arguments can be made both visually and textually. Students gain awareness of how different visual and oral mediums require different kinds of writing and different visual and textual elements.

  1. Assign readings or viewings that discuss issues of community, home, and related aspects of identity. Some possible examples follow, but feel free to choose your own.
  2. Discuss the readings in class. Some questions for the class to consider:
    • Why does one consider a certain place “home”?
    • What are the elements that come to mind when one thinks of “home”?
  3. Discuss different elements that students might come up with, including family, language, food, clothing, architecture, and how these elements can be incorporated into the presentations.
Possible readings/videos
  • Tan, Amy “Mother Tongue,” in The Norton Sampler, 9th ed., edited by Thomas Cooley, 2017, pp. 253. After reading this essay, students have a greater awareness of the role language plays in identity formation.
  • Amy Tan talking at the White House (2013). Watching this talk leads to good discussions about family and cultural backgrounds in the classroom.
  • Clip from the movie, “The Joy Luck Club” (1993). This scene provides a good way to discuss how cultural norms related to food and its consumption are different in different cultures. 
  • Li, Yiyun “Orange Crush,” in The Norton Sampler, 9th ed., edited by Thomas Cooley, 2017, pp. 161. The essay provides a good insight into how different cultures view certain products differently, and how they assign different values to these products.


At the end of the presentations, students complete some reflections in class about what they learned through the process of putting together their presentations, presenting to their classmates, and watching the other presentations. The instructor collects these reflections, reads, and discusses them in class.

  1. Preview the presentation assignment.
  2. Have students watch and complete the Flipped Learning Module on Oral Presentations for Multilingual/English Language Learners in class.
  3. Discuss the elements (covered in the FLM) of a good oral presentation: body language, keyword stress, parallel construction of sentences, introductions, and conclusions.
  4. Have students watch and complete the Flipped Learning Module on Effective Visual Presentations in class or for homework.
  5. Discuss the elements (covered in the FLM) of an effective visual aid for a presentation: arrangement, layout, consistency, colors, fonts. You may want to use this handout as a prompt for discussion.
  6. Discuss use of images: Copyright and Fair use. The MIT libraries website provides good background information about Copyright and Fair Use and can be used as a preview before talking about the use of images in class.
  7. Analyze the basics of discussion questions and work on productive question crafting in class. This handout summarizes these points and may be used with students.
  8. Share this sample presentation with students, if you’d like.

See all Writing Program Essential Lessons
Remote Implementation of Essential Lesson Activities