Spring 2008

CALS 183: Communication Methods

Code Number: 12386            3 Credits

Lecture:  2:30 – 3:30             Wednesday

Lab:  3:45 – 5:30           Wednesday


Thomas F. Patterson, Jr., Ph.D.

Jonathan G. Leonard, Ph.D. 

656-0042 (work) 658-7496 (home – before 9:00 PM)

656-2979 (work), 434-3787 (home -- before 9:00 PM)



Office Hours: Thursdays 8:15 – 10:30 AM

Office Hours:  Wednesdays 8:15 – 10:15 AM 

Lecture:  Lafayette 207. 

Labs: Lafayette 207, Perkins 107, Rowell 244

Lab Teaching Assistants: Emily Gross, Lizzy Mazer

Rowell 244

Lab Teaching Assistants:  Mandy Sugrue, Brittany Wayne

Perkins 107

Lab Teaching Assistant:  DaVaughn Vincent-Bryan

Lafayette 207



Course Description: In this class participants learn how to give a variety of oral presentations appropriate for different audiences.  The focus is on improving public speaking skills, selecting appropriate media, and organizing information and materials to make dynamic presentations.  Participants develop communication competencies by giving several presentations and critiquing other student and outside presentations.

Why is This Course Important?  In today’s complex and ever changing world, the ability to communicate clearly is more important than ever.  Although communication takes on many forms, humans communicate mainly through the written and spoken word.  That is what’s happening now when you are reading this syllabus: communication is taking place.

You will have many opportunities to work on improving your written communication skills during your college years, but few opportunities exist to help you improve your speaking skills.  Recent graduates of UVM and employers are in agreement that the ability to communicate is an essential skill that every college graduate should possess.  In fact, oral communication is a core competency for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.  This course will be one of the few opportunities (in your lifetime!) to study, to learn, to practice, to make mistakes, to critique, and to improve your public speaking skills--in short, to become a better communicator.

Course Goal: The overall goal of this course is to help students improve their oral communication skills.  This is accomplished by students demonstrating specific competencies in oral communication and showing an understanding of concepts and ideas related to the art of spoken communication.

Course Objectives: Students will:

  1. Develop critical thinking skills through reading, oral presentation, listening, discussion and reflection.
  2. Understand propaganda techniques to give and analyze persuasive presentations.
  3. Understand different types of presentations and different audiences, and be able to appropriately match the two to meet specific speaking objectives.
  4. Be able to critique and learn from another person’s oral presentation.
  5. Prepare appropriate media for presentations.
  6. Be able to research, construct and present a dynamic and effective speech to a group.
  7. Understand and utilize small group dynamics and the concept of teamwork both from a participant and facilitator standpoint.
  8. Demonstrate teamwork and group presentation skills as a contributing member of a team.
9. Demonstrate increased confidence in speaking.

Texts and Tape:

Lucas, Stephen E., The Art of Public Speaking, (McGraw Hill, New York, NY: 2001)
Gelb, Michael J., Present Yourself! (Jalamar Press, Torrance, CA: 1988)
In addition, you must purchase a VHS videotape to be used to tape your presentations.

Apple Tree Approach:  Click here to view the Apple Tree Approach to constructing a speech.  You will the need the Adobe Acrobat Reader to display this file.  The Apple Tree Approach is a useful formula for researching and constructing your speeches for CALS 183.

Attendance Policy: Most of your final grade will depend on your active performance, both as a speaker and as a listener, in class.  Attendance will be noted each class. This is not a class to cut and get notes from someone else. This is a class where you must come to every class and lab on time and be ready to participate.   If you are not willing to do this, then make sure you know when the add/drop or withdrawl period ends.   Since we have only 15 classes, every class is important.  More than one unexcused absence is grounds for a reduction in your grade by one letter for each absence.

Make-Up Policy: If you can not make a class, you must notify your instructor or lab Teaching Assistant before the class.  Ex post facto notification will result in loss of points for that class and assignment.  If you miss a speaking assignment without notifying your instructor before the class or if you miss a speaking assignment because you weren’t prepared, you will earn a zero for that assignment. Only legitimate prior-notification absences (death in the family, serious illness or accident) will be made up.  This should be a rare occurrence.  This policy has been enforced over the years without exception.

Class Behavior:  Students are expected to have a positive attitude and to arrive to lecture and lab a few minutes early and be in their seat when class time begins.  Cell phone use during lecture or lab is not permitted.  Only one person should be speaking during class at any time.  If you need to leave class early, notify the instructor BEFORE the class begins.  You will be asked to leave the class and you will lose at least one percent of your course grade each time you: 1. continue to talk while the recognized speaker is talking, 2. fall asleep during class, 3. read the newspaper or do other assignments not related to our class, 4. leave the class early without prior permission of the instructor, 5. talk on your cell phone during class,  6. are late for class. Being late to class, leaving early without notifying the instructor, making hurtful or strong negative criticisms of others, is not appropriate or welcome.  Whining or excessive complaining about this or any other UVM course is not appropriate in class.  You are expected to come to class with a pen and notebook and to take notes.   It is appropriate and acceptable to raise your hand and ask questions during class.  You may eat food and drink water during class, but make sure you clean up after yourself when class is over. Students are expected to stay in lab the entire lab time.  Your job as an audience member is to give your fellow speakers helpful feedback.  Leaving early if you have spoken or are not speaking will result in you not earning full credit for attendance.

Religious Holidays:  (University Policy) Students have the right to practice the religion of their choice. Each semester students should submit in writing to their instructors by the end of the second full week of classes their documented religious holiday schedule for the semester.  Students have two weeks to complete the assignments missed due to religious holidays.  If assignments are not completed within the two week time period, students will earn no credit for the assignments missed.

Written Assignments: All written assignments should be word-processed.  Handwritten work will not be accepted.

Oral Assignments: Since this is a course in oral communication, your oral assignments are important.  It should be no surprise that students who spend lots of time preparing for their oral presentations do better than students who throw something together at the last moment or, worse yet, just  “wing it.”  Even though there are some extemporaneous speaking assignments, you can prepare for them by practicing before class.  Studying for this class may not always be passive (like reading a textbook or studying for an exam), in many instances it will be active (like practicing a presentation in front of friends).

Student Dress and Demeanor: Students will be expected to dress and behave appropriately for the assigned audience.   For example, introducing yourself to your peers will call for regular everyday dress, while you will need to wear business attire (which includes slacks, skirts, ties, dress shirts and dress shoes) when giving your persuasive speech.  The speaking assignments are clear regarding appropriate dress.  If in doubt on what to wear to your performance, ask.  If you do not wear suitable attire, your score will be reduced a minimum of half a grade.

Honesty Policy: From The Cats Tale:

The principal objective of The University of Vermont policy on academic honesty is to promote an intellectual climate and support the academic integrity of The University of Vermont.  Academic dishonesty or an offense against academic honesty includes acts which may subvert or compromise the integrity of the educational process at The University of Vermont.  Such acts are serious offenses, which insult the integrity of the entire academic community of the University.  Offenses against academic honesty are any acts which would have the effect of unfairly promoting or enhancing one’s academic standing within the entire community of learners which includes, but is not limited to, the faculty and students of The University of Vermont.  Academic dishonesty also includes knowingly permitting or assisting any person in the commission of an offense of academic dishonesty.

Graded Assignments




1. Extemporaneous Introduction to the large class--  plus quizzes


2.  Impromptu speech


3.  Three to 5 page paper critiquing a formal speech given outside of class (due 3/26)


4.  Group presentation 


5.  Informational presentation 


6.  Persuasive presentation


7.  Choice presentation (informational, persuasive, entertaining)


8.  Three speech reflection papers (5 points each)


9.  Critique student presentations/Class attendance and participation/Attitude 


10.  Final written exam




Assignments in Detail:

1.  Extemporaneous Introduction to the large class, plus quizzes (5%).  Students’ names will be called randomly throughout the semester to introduce themselves (2 to 3 minutes) to the large class.  Minimal topics to be covered include the following (to receive more than a C grade, you should include more than the minimum, e.g. read your favorite poem, give a short memorized quote, show us a picture of your favorite dog or cat,  talk about the lucky penny you always keep in your pocket, demonstrate your favorite yoga position, etc. ):

Family Background
Where you are from
Academic major
Why you chose UVM
Plans after graduating
Something about yourself no one else in the room knows

 You should demonstrate that you are prepared for this assignment and not just “wing it.”  It will be obvious if you do.

Quizzes will be announced ahead of time.  Individual and group quizzes will be averaged.  There is a quiz on the booklet "Present Yourself" scheduled for the January 23 class.

2Impromptu speech. (5%) The impromptu speech gets you up in front of your lab group and is intended to reveal a speaker's ability to develop a point of view on a general topic and to organize a 2 – 3 minute presentation within very limited preparation time.  Impromptu speech topics will be familiar ground for all speakers. We will look for clarity of thought, structure (introduction, body, & conclusion) and the effective use of plain spoken English.

3.  Attend and critique a formal speech given outside of class.  (5%)  Submit a three to five page paper that has been peer edited.  Click here for details.  Due no later than March 26, 2008.  Papers need to be edited by a fellow student in your lab.  You must hand in the edited first draft with your editor's signature, along with the final draft of your paper to your lab instructor.  Late papers will be downgraded according to their degree of lateness.  After two weeks, no credit will be given for this assignment.

4.  Be part of a team that gives a group presentation (10%).   The world of work that you will be entering consists of teams working together toward a common vision.  You will be assigned to a small group during the semester to prepare a 12 - 15 minute critical analysis presentation scheduled at the end of the semester.
Your group needs to select a controversial political or current event topic that everyone in the group is interested in.  Find a minimum of two articles (in journals, newspapers, magazines, books, or from credible web sources) that take opposite viewpoints and use the Guidelines for a Critical Analysis of an Article to orally critique each article in your presentation.  Discuss the conclusions your group can make about your chosen topic as a result of this analysis.

Your grade will be determined by the depth and coherence of critical analysis of each article, the quality of the group presentation,  the support and interaction among group members, as well as your personal participation in the group project as rated by your peers.  Click here for the checklist for group critical analysis presentation grading requirements.

 N.B.  Each team member bears personal responsibility for group participation. If you miss team meetings and fail to participate fully in the group presentation, then you have not met objective number 9 for this class and you will be graded accordingly.  It is your responsibility to make group meetings and fully participate in the group project. Do not expect your TA to intervene for you or to take mercy on you at the end of the semester.

5.  Give an eight to ten minute informational presentation to an audience of student peers (10%).  You will be given adequate lecture, handout materials and text assignments to help you prepare for your presentations. The subject of your presentations should be something that you are interested in (indeed, have a passion for!) and want to share with others.  It should be “college level” and “appropriate for your audience.”  If in doubt about your subject, ask.  Click here to see the checklist for grading your informational presentations. 

Each presentation will be videotaped, and your cumulative grade will depend on your speech as well as a 3 to 5 page reflection paper to be handed in the following week.  This reflection paper should be based on student feedback and your own critical analysis of your presentation and should start with the objectives of your presentation (“what you want your audience to know and to do as a result of your presentation”), to be followed with these three sub-headings:

(1) the speech I prepared for
(2) the speech I gave
(3) Improvements for next time

Along with the reflection paper, you need to hand in your notes or an outline or mind map of your speech, any visual aids that you used during your speech, and all the student critiques.   Please hand in your materials in a pocket folder with your name prominently displayed on the outside.

6.  Give an eight to ten minute persuasive presentation to a formal audience
(you must dress appropriately, or be willing to accept a reduction of half a grade on your presentation) (15%).   Students will be expected to have improved from the first presentation to the second.  The persuasive presentation will be graded in part on how much improvement you demonstrate from your first presentation.  This speech will also be videotaped to use in writing a reflection paper to be handed in the following week.  For your reflection paper, use the same three sub-heading format as above.

The subject and intent of your persuasive presentation must be approved by your lab instructor(s) the week before the first persuasive presentation is due (March 5th).  The subject should be something controversial that you feel strong enough about that you want to persuade others to at least understand if not adopt your viewpoint.  Click here to see the checklist for persuasive grading requirements.  Remember to hand in your reflection paper, notes or outline or mind map, visual aids and student critiques.  Please hand in your materials in a pocket folder with your name prominently displayed on the outside.

7.  Give an eight to ten minute presentation of your choice (informational, persuasive, entertaining) (20%).  This is your final individual presentation and the culminating speech to demonstrate your competency in public speaking.  You may choose to give either an informational, persuasive or entertaining presentation on the subject of your choice.  Click here to see the checklist for grading your choice presentation.  Again, after your speech, write a reflection paper based on a review of the videotape and student comments and your personal reflection of the experience.  Hand your notes or outline or mind map, visual aids, and student critiques with your reflection paper in a pocket folder the following week.

8.  Write three reflection papers (15%).   Without reflection, all experience is meaningless.  To truly learn, you need to consciously reflect on your experiences to put them into some sort of order or construct that makes sense to you.  This paper is an opportunity for you to reflect on the experience of putting speeches together and presenting them in your lab. Only then does learning from experience take place. 

The three papers, three to five pages in length, should be written after viewing the videotape of your presentation, reading the student critiques and honestly reflecting on the experience.  Start with the objectives of your presentation -- what you want your audience to know and to do as a result of your presentation, then use the following three headings to frame your paper:

a. The speech I prepared for:  Why you chose your topic…how your conducted your research…the credibility of your sources, especially web –based sources…the objectives of your speech…how you went about constructing the speech…the amount and type of practice you did…the feedback you received…any other preparation.

b.   The speech I gave:  Give details of how your speech went…comparison of the speech with the one you practiced…what was going on in your head during the speech…what the video tape showed…things you did right…things you did wrong…student critique comments…anything else concerning the actual speech and how it felt to you

c.   Improvements for Next Time:  Things you wish you had done differently to give the ideal speech…what would you have done differently in preparing for and delivering your speech…what will you do next time to improve…anything else that you wish you had done and would do in the future.

9. Critique student presentations/Class participation/Attitude (5%) Being a good listener and being able to give constructive feedback is an important critical thinking and communication skill and will help you develop as a speaker as well.  You will have the opportunity to give written and oral feedback to your fellow students.  Signed written critiques will be given to the student presenter for feedback.  Your grade will reflect how well you critically analyze and give helpful feedback (both positive and negative) to your colleagues.

Students will also be graded on their overall participation and attitude toward the class. Attendance will be taken.  Those showing enthusiasm for learning and helping their fellow students to learn will receive a high score, while those who argue each grade, refuse to participate, regularly come to class late and/or seem disinterested in the class will fare poorly.

10.  Final written exam (10%).  This will cover all readings, lectures, and guest speakers.  To do well, you must come to class, take notes, do all the readings and study.  The final is scheduled for 11:45 AM - 02:45 PM, Thursday, May 8, 2008.  Mark your calendars now.


Spring 2008 CALS 183  Lecture/Lab Schedule

Spring 2008 Date

Lecture Topic

Lab Topic

Reading Assignment Due 

Jan 16

Welcome, Course structure, WebCT

Go over lab schedule and assignments
Diads, introduce other person. 


Jan 23

Apple Tree approach.  Writing presentation objectives. Research source credibility.

Present Yourself Quiz

Small Groups and Synergy 

Lucas, Chpts.  1,3,6,7, plus

“impromptu speaking,” pp. 296-298 (8th edition)

Gelb, Present Yourself 

Group Speech Preparation

Jan 30

"Must knows" of public speaking, Group speech presentation, Critical Thinking Exercise

Impromptu Speeches

Lucas, Chpt 18

Group Speech Preparation

Feb 6

Informational speech example, preparing visual aids

Group Speeches

Lucas, Chpts.  4,6

Feb 13

Informational speech examples.  Introductions

Group Speeches

Lucas, Chpts. 8, 12

Informational Speech Preparation

Feb 20

Stylistic Language Devices.   Best speech of the 20th century.  Introductions

Informational Presentations (7)

Lucas Chpts. 13,14

Feb 27

Persuasive v. Informational speaking.  Persuasive speech example.  Introductions

Informational Presentations (7)

Lucas, Chpts. 5,7

Mar 5

Persuasive speech example, persuasive speech grading sheet.  Introductions

Informational Presentations (6)

Approval of persuasive topics and intents

 Lucas, Chpts. 9

Persuasive Speech Preparation

Mar 12




Mar 19

Choice speech example.  Introductions

Persuasive Presentations (7)

Lucas, Chpts. 10, 15

Mar 26

Choice speech example. Introductions

Persuasive Presentation  (7)

Outside Speech Critique Due

Lucas Chpt 16

April 2

Choice speech example. Introductions

Persuasive Presentations (6)

Lucas, Chpt 11

Choice Speech Preparation

April 9


Choice Presentations (7)

Lucas, Chpt 17

April 16


Choice Presentations (7)


April 23

Interviewing.  Introductions

Choice Presentations (6) 
Selection of Speak Off Candidates


April 30

Speak Off. Class Evaluations.

Lab Celebration of semester end


May 8

11:45 AM - 02:45 PM


Final Exam

Prepare for Final