Lesson Plan: Analyzing and (Re)Performing Vocality

Clip art illustration of a radio-era man speaking into a microphone.

As rhetoric and composition instructors, we typically have students work with written texts, both in analysis and in production. While we might ask students to answer questions about tone and prosody in written texts, often their analyses remained confined to stylistic concerns without attending to questions of delivery. What gets overlooked in this assignment mainstay is the possibility of analyzing oral texts for delivery, affect, and vocality. Yet Erin Anderson notes that with contemporary mediated technologies, “this notion of voice-as-effect becomes more immediately accessible, expanding our abilities not only to speak in voice, but also to compose with voice as a malleable material.” Moreover, Trisha Nicole Campbell reconsiders the ethical significance of voice, arguing “intentional digital practices and experiments through modalities like performance, mimesis, and repetition via audio editing in platforms like Audacity and Adobe Audition might invite us into affectively charged, new rhetorical and empathetic relationships with voices that are both our own and not our own.”  Thus, digital audio tools offer different ways of both analyzing and producing texts, as well as experimenting with new ways to ethically engage with difference.

Building on the work of these scholars, this lesson plan asks students to consider how delivery, affect, and vocality contribute to rhetorical effectiveness and situated difference.

This assignment asks students to (1) analyze an oral artifact or speech, (2) compose and record their analysis while incorporating audio from their artifact into their own text, and (3) reperform a section of their artifact in a different rhetorical register.

Students will learn:

  • How to recognize the rhetorical significance of delivery, affect, and vocality of an oral text.
  • How to compose and record an audio text using GarageBand.
  • How to reperform an oral text to produce different rhetorical effects from the original.

Assignment Length

You will need two class periods for this lesson.

Tech Requirements

You will need GarageBand, an internet connection, and an audio file of a speech.

Skills Necessary

You will need basic GarageBand recording and editing skills for this assignment.

Access and Adaptability

This lesson plan describes students working on independent projects; but it could equally work for a collaborative project. If the class is in a non-computer classroom, instructors might request students who own laptops to bring them to class and work collaboratively in groups.

Although this lesson plan utilizes GarageBand to record and edit audio, other tools are also available that can be for this project. For example, Audacity is a free, open source, cross-platform alternative.

Assignment Description

For this assignment students will record and edit a five minute audio text that analyzes and reperforms an oral speech from American Rhetoric.

First, students will select a speech from American Rhetoric, analyzing their artifact for delivery, affect, and vocality. Students should focus on affective tone (seriousness, humor, sarcasm, anger, fear, etc.), pacing (energetic, quick, languid, fluid, staccato, laborious, etc.), style (repetition, emphasis, pregnant pauses, etc.), and the use of non-semantic vocality & non-lexical utterances (laughter, crying, “ums,” “ers,” etc.).

Second, students will record their analysis using GarageBand, incorporating and editing audio examples from their artifact.

Third, students will record and reperform a short section from their artifact using a different rhetorical delivery from the original, altering the affective tone, pacing, and style in order to produce different rhetorical effects.

Instructor Preparation

  • Become familiar with the rhetorical concepts of delivery, affect, and vocality.
  • Choose a speech to analyze with the class.
  • Practice recording and editing audio with GarageBand.

Student Preparation

Have students review the rhetorical concepts of delivery, affect, and vocality.

Have students choose their own speech to analyze.

In-Class or Assignment Instructions

Introduce the rhetorical concepts of delivery, affect, and vocality.  As a class, analyze a speech from American Rhetoric using these concepts. Have students work in groups to practice identifying and analyzing aspects of delivery, affect, and vocality. Demonstrate how to record voiceover audio in GarageBand. Watch the skills workshop video for editing audio. Have students practice recording and editing in GarageBand using their chosen artifacts.

Clip art illustration of a radio-era man speaking into a microphone.

Skills Workshop

Assessment Suggestions

For portfolio-based and Learning Record assessment, instructors may want to provide feedback and allow for revision. Instructors may also want to assign a short refection to students, having them address both the drafting and revision processes.

For traditional assessment, instructors may want to grade students on (1) the quantity of their analysis of delivery, affect, and vocality; (2) the quality of their audio text, including incorporating and editing their own voice with examples from their artifact; and (3) the production of a section of their artifact, reperformed in a different vocal register.

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