Thursday, August 27, 2015

How did you get selected to speak? Were you the first choice or the 51st?

The Pearls Before Swine cartoon for August 24th asked that question. Stephan got invited to speak as an author at the National Book Festival. Then Rat asked him if their first fifty choices for speaker had died.

That putdown is a reminder that a speaker’s focus should be on his audience rather than how important he thinks he is for having been chosen.

A Puck cartoon from 1899 came from the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Using pop-up debate to teach adolescents not to be scared of speaking up in class

In the March 2015 issue of AMLE Magazine (from the Association for Middle Level Education) there was an article by Dave Stuart, Jr (who teaches history and English to ninth graders in Michigan) titled 5 Strategies for promoting college and career readiness. His first strategy was to Go Big on Argument. How can this be done? Dave says:

“First, form the day’s lesson around a debatable question. For example, rather than setting an objective that states ‘The students will demonstrate an understanding of the differences between Mayan and Aztec cultures,’ ask, ‘Which civilization would have been better to live in, the Mayan or the Aztec?’

The lesson can still look much the same as you would have taught it with the prior objective, except that now the exit ticket for the lesson can require students to answer the debatable question. The only way they can do this is by making a debatable claim and supporting it with evidence and reasoning. They’ll argue every day if you try this - and if your students are like mine, they will learn to love it.
Second, bring the power of argument into the classroom through simple, robust pop-up debates. The pop-up debate strategy is simple:

*  Every student speaks at least once, at most __ times (the maximum depends on your time constraints and the breadth of the debatable question you’ve posed).

*  To speak, students simply stand (‘pop’) up and talk. The first person to speak has the floor. When more than one student does this simultaneously, I coach them on how to practice self-control and social intelligence, yielding the floor politely.

*  In every debate, teach and assess one or two speaking skills. Sentence templates are an ideal scaffold for this.

Pop-up debate has become a favorite class activity in my room over the past few years, but keep in mind that it takes some skill to use the strategy well. You’re probably doing it right when kids start begging you for a debate.”

Pop up debate is a kinder, gentler activity than traditional debate that requires walking to the front of the classroom. How scary is that? In June 2012 I blogged about What social situations scare American adolescents, and what are their top 20 fears? A large careful, survey called the NCS-A found that the most common fear (35.8%) was Performing before an Audience, one version of which is a traditional debate. The second most common (24.9%) was Speaking in Class.

Dave described pop-up debate in more detail in a recent pair of articles on his web site. On August 14th there there was Starting strong with the transformative & simple Think-Pair-Share strategy. Dave described debate preparation by students first thinking about the topic alone, then discussing it with a student partner (pair), and finally going on to share with the whole class. On August 17th there was Beyond the Fear of Public Speaking: Making the First Pop-Op Debate a Success for All Students. Last year there also was a nine-minute YouTube video on Problems with Pop-Up Debates

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Three more generic spam comments

Honest feedback on either a speech or blog post is wonderful. In one case an alert reader caught me when I accidentally said seconds rather than minutes. Oops!

Dishonest feedback to induce posting of links to other questionable web sites is awful. Recently I got three comments on my blog posts that all wound up in the Google Blogger spam folder. None added anything useful. They began as follows:

1]  I always liked your blog post because you always comes with different ideas and information. I always shared your site post with my friends. Keep posting and I will follow you.

2]  I admire the valuable information you offer in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and have my children check up here often. I am quite sure they will learn lots of new stuff here than anybody else!

3]  Very very interesting post. I like this one. Gotta bookmark this one. More information visit our site...

As I noted last December, these comments are generic - completely independent of the content they claim to discuss. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

New doesn’t mean great

Opening and closing latched gates is a nuisance. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a gate that opened by itself as you drove up to it, and then closed behind you?

At Wikimedia Commons I found a description of the patented (U.S. 13,109) circular one from 160 years ago shown above on the front page of Scientific American magazine for August 25, 1855. When you drive onto the platform E the gate rolls to the left to let you enter. Why aren’t these everywhere? (Does a rolling gate gather no moss?) There is a fatal design flaw though. The groove for the gate soon would fill with windblown dust, which when wetted would form mud - and would keep it from rolling freely.

Decades ago I saw photos and brief stories about the little British Reliant Robin three-wheeled cars. They were light, inexpensive, fuel efficient, and actually licensed as motorcycles. What could go wrong? As shown above in a brief YouTube video, their cornering performance was rather abysmal. There is a hilarious 7-1/2 minute BBC Top Gear video about Rolling  a Reliant Robin

I’ve been using PowerPoint for a decade, and have thought perhaps there might be something new and better to replace it. There are recent lists with five alternatives here and here. But, I’d prefer not to get the equivalent of a Reliant Robin.    

The image of a latched gate also came from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How to confuse your speech audience with a misleading title

On Sunday, August 16th, Brian Tracy posted an excellent four-minute YouTube video of a speech. It is about the seven most effective ways to open a talk (and make a powerful presentation) which are:

1] Present a problem that needs a solution.
2] Present a common goal.
3] Ask a rhetorical question to grab attention.
4] Make a startling statement.
5] Tell your own story of why you’re here.
6] Compare or contrast two things or conditions.
7] Promise them advantages and benefits from listening.

But, the misleading title just is Brian Tracy, How to Talk and Prepare a Powerful Presentation. Also, back on December 12, 2012 he posted the same video with the shorter title How to Talk and Prepare a Powerful Presentation. He didn’t take his own advice, since on page 26 of his Speak to Win book he says:

“There is a powerful method of preparation that I have used over the years. I start with a clean sheet of paper. I write the title of my talk at the top. I then write a one-sentence description of the purpose or objective of the talk. What is the ‘’job’ it has to do?”

There’s also an amusingly backward hand gesture near the beginning. Watch Brian’s hand move counterclockwise when he says:

“We imagine that a talk is like a circle, and it starts at the top like a clock and it goes tick, tick, tick, and it comes around back to where it started.”
The audience image came from Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mixing up clear English and turning it into mud

At a local public library I recently found the new book Spin•glish: the definitive dictionary of deliberately deceptive language, by Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf. It has numerous examples of how to muddy up your language with jargon, which is something that a speechwriter always should avoid. (There was a preview in Vanity Fair with 25 examples).

Here are six examples for products:

Air sickness vomit sack becomes motion discomfort receptacle.

Cow manure becomes dairy nutrients.

Hammer becomes fastening device impact driver.

Hex nuts become hexiform rotatable compression units.

Paint becomes facade protectant.

School bus becomes education transport module.

An event like an airplane crash also gets muddied up to controlled flight into terrain or  failure to maintain clearance from the ground. The former phrase can be made even more confusing by use of the acronym CFIT, which would be pronounced see fit.

Sex gets several spin terms. Three from Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina, are:

Adulterous sex becomes serious overdrive.

Committing adultery becomes hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Sex becomes incredibly intense conversation.

Three other related terms are:

Engaging in illicit sex becomes discussing Uganda.

Outdoor sex becomes watching badgers.

Zero gravity sex becomes undue preferential treatment.

You can read more at the web site for the book.

The only error I found in the book was that on page 154 it claimed that:

Spade becomes round-nose shovel - a substitute descriptive term for the digging tool formerly called a spade, now widely used by hardware stores in an effort to avoid a word that once was a common racial epithet.

My 1994 5th edition of the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms says a spade instead is:

“A shovellike implement with a flat oblong blade; used for turning soil by pushing against the blade with the foot.”

The cement mixer was adapted from Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Did a survey find that Americans’ greatest fear is a waitress forgetting about them - pedisecaphobia? No!

An article in The Onion on Friday, August 14th, claimed that:

“Surpassing their anxieties regarding public speaking, mass shootings, and natural disasters, Americans’ single greatest that their waitress will forget about them.

....More than 70 percent of the individuals we surveyed listed having their waitress set down some glasses of water, promise to come back and take their order when they’re ready, and then never return to their table as their number one fear in life.

....Americans’ second-most common fear was that their waitress would take their order, but then a shift change would occur without her ever conveying the information to the next server.”

That article claimed their source was the latest Chapman Survey on American Fears, and quoted Chapman University sociologist Christopher Bader.

Is it true? No, it’s about 95% bogus! The Onion is a satirical phony newspaper. There really was a Chapman Survey on American Fears, but its results were reported back in October of 2014. When you look for current press releases about a new one at the Chapman University web site, you will come up empty. I blogged about last year’s survey in three posts titled What do the most Americans fear? The Chapman Survey on American Fears and the press release copying reflex, and Chapman Survey on American Fears includes both zombies and ghosts, and Where in the heck did this data really come from?  

What about the word pedisecaphobia? When I looked on the Phobia List there wasn’t one for waitresses. So, I looked in a Latin Dictionary to find that the word for waitress was pediseca, and created the phobia. The only place you’ll find it mentioned on Google, Bing, or Yahoo is in this blog post. 

The waitress image was cropped from one by Alan Light at Wikimedia Commons.