Evaluating Rhetoric

Author: Jill Torrey Emmons

Time: 1 class period
15 minutes
Materials: Copy 2 evaluation checklists for each student, 2 students to deliver “mock” speeches, copies of this “mock” speech, as well as “good” and “poor” speech tips (see below)


In this final week, students will be preparing and delivering their final presentations. Since this is the first big project of the year, the students naturally may be a little nervous. They may even have some lingering questions about speech delivery, and perhaps even the content of their final projects. This is why the next two lessons are short “mini” lessons, allowing the second half of the class period for the students to work on their projects and ask the teacher for assistance. This first “mini” lesson is a fun opportunity for students to get excited about delivering their speeches, and to put aside their fears. We will review what makes a good speech, and how they can incorporate the persuasive techniques into their writing. On the other side of the coin, we will also discuss what makes a poor speech and how to avoid the pitfalls of such a delivery.

Purpose – This lesson is the engage and explore piece of the final learning cycle. It is meant to get the class excited and motivated to polish their speeches and to explore what it takes to present a confident persuasive speech.

Students will be able to:
1. Identify the qualities of a successful persuasive speech.
2. Identify the obstacles to presenting a successful persuasive speech.

National English Education Standard
Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and non-print texts.

Teacher Background
The teacher should take a few minutes to review the qualities of a successful persuasive speech, and be familiar with the persuasive appeals. The web sites below provide some information and templates for speech evaluation.

Related and Resource Websites



1. Before you begin this lesson, you may want to take the time to create an evaluation checklist for your students which they can use to critique the speeches they will hear today. You may also want to use these checklists during the final presentations in order to allow students to get feedback from their peers. You may create your own evaluation criteria, or you may use the following checklist:

12 Question Speech Evaluation Criteria

1. Did the speaker appear informed about his/her topic?
2. Did the speaker keep within the time limit?
3. Could I identify the main idea of the speech?
4. Did the speech have a clear beginning, middle, and end?
5. Were the facts in the speech logically presented?
6. Did the presenter speak clearly and pronounce words correctly?
7. Did the speaker use powerful words to communicate their message?
8. Was the speech appropriate to the audience it was presented to?
9. Did the speaker use voice variety and avoid monotone?
10. Did the speaker look up at the audience?
11. Could you identify use of at least one of the 3 appeals (logic, emotion, and ethics)?
12. Was this speech successful at persuading you to accept the author’s viewpoint?

This criteria is intended for students to use for evaluation of their peers, but it may be modified to be used by the teacher if desired. Each student should have two copies of this checklist at the beginning of class.

2. At the start of class, take about 5 minutes to brainstorm the following two questions:
What makes a “good” speech presentation? What makes a “bad” speech presentation? As the students think about and respond to these questions, list their responses on the board in a double-column format. Help the students to compare and contrast what makes a speech succeed and what makes it fail. In these two lists, make sure you include elements from the POAM method, such as rate of delivery, clarity of speaking, organization, target audience, etc.

3. After discussing these points, tell the students that two students from the class are going to present “mock” speeches today (pull aside two students you have chosen ahead of time who are fairly accomplished and feel comfortable in front of the classroom). Give each of these students a slip of paper indicating that they will give a “good” or a “poor” mock speech; you may also include some of the following details to guide their mock speech, which only need be a minute or two.

“Good” Speech Habits
Speak confidently and clearly
Smile and take your time
Avoid fidgeting, stand up straight
Look at the audience every so often

“Poor” Speech Habits
Look at your feet or at the page all the time
Use the word “um” often
Speak slowly, pause often, or speak quickly
Use monotone (no variation in your tone)

Both students will be given the same short speech to deliver:

The Importance of Making Friends

Making friends in high school is a very important part of your educational experience. First of all, friends help you discover who you are as a person. As you talk and get to know them, you discover who they are and what they believe in. This often leads you to consider what you believe in and want in life. Second, friends provide an important emotional support. You will go through some challenging experiences in high school, and friends will be there for you when you most need them. They will be a shoulder to cry on when needed, and give you encouragement to go on when times are tough. Finally, friends are vital for your educational experiences because they help you develop social skills. Learning to share experiences, discuss important issues, clarify misunderstandings, and forgive errors are all skills vital to the development of social relationships.

4. Distribute 2 evaluation sheets to all students and instruct them to mark each question with a “yes” or “no” as they listen to the two mock speeches. Have the students who are presenting get ready, perhaps allowing them to practice in the hall where other classmates cannot see them. Proceed with the mock speeches.

After the class has had a chance to independently evaluate each speech, compare and contrast the two. Which made the “good” speech successful? What made the “poor” speech less successful? What can you learn from this to implement in your own presentation?

Students will continue working on their final projects, which will be presented in class this week.

Embedded Assessment
Students should be assessed during discussion on their ability to identify the qualities of a successful speech.



PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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