This activity helps students clarify the oral presentation genre; do this after distributing an assignment–in this case, a standard individual oral presentation near the end of the semester which allows students to practice public speaking while also providing a means of workshopping their final paper argument. Together, the class will determine the criteria by which their presentations should–and should not–be assessed.

Guide to Oral/Signed Communication in Writing Classrooms


To collaboratively determine the requirements for students’ oral presentations; to clarify the audience’s expectations of this genre

Key Terms

rhetorical situation; genre; metacognition; oral communication; rubric; assessment; collaboration


  1. Ask students to free-write and think about these questions: What makes a good oral presentation? Think of examples of oral presentations that you’ve seen, one “bad” and one “good.” They can be from any genre–for example, a course lecture, a museum talk, a presentation you have given, even a video. Jot down specific strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Facilitate a full-class discussion to list the important characteristics of an oral presentation. Group things together. For example, students may say “speaking clearly” as a strength; elicit specifics (intonation, pace, etc.) and encourage them to elaborate.
  3. Clarify to students that the more they add to the list, the more information they have in regards to expectations on the oral presentation rubric. If they do not add enough, or specific enough, items, they won’t know what to aim for or how they will be assessed.
  4. Review the list on the board and ask students to decide what they think are the most important parts of their oral presentations, ranking their top three components.
  5. Create a second list to the side of the board, called “Let it slide,” asking students what, as a class, they should “let slide” in the oral presentations. Guide and elaborate, choosing whether to reject, accept, or compromise on the students’ proposals.
  6. Distribute the two lists to students as-is as a checklist-style rubric or flesh the primary list out into a full analytic rubric.

Here’s an example of one possible rubric created from this activity; here’s another example of an oral presentation rubric that assesses only the delivery of the speech/presentation, and which can be used by classmates to evaluate each other.