In this in-class exercise, students create genre-appropriate titles to generate potential topics and arguments for their alternative genre assignment. Writing the title first helps to narrow their focus and think in the way the genre necessitates. This exercise works best after analyzing a number of genre models and identifying the genre’s conventions.


To begin to think in the way that your new genre necessitates; to use genre models as sources of inspiration

Key Terms

title; audience; genre; rhetorical situation


  1. Focus students on the new genre (beyond the academic essay) that they will be creating–a TED talk, an Op-Ed, a public intellectual essay, or another genre of your choice.
  2. Isolate the titles of a few genre models and create templates that students can fill with their content.
  3. Have students work in groups to share some of their favorite results. Encourage audience-specific feedback on their titles. For example, if your students are creating TED Talks, they might ask:
    • Would a TED Talk audience watch a talk with that title?
    • What would they expect that talk to include and not include?
    • What would they hope it would include?
  4. Ask students to select one or two titles from their list and begin to brainstorm ways to develop them.

Here’s an example of how one instructor uses TED Talk titles as the basis for this assignment.