Two sample eportfolios

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Here's a few links to a few sample eportfolios from Penn State seniors:

We'll discuss these in class in order to develop criteria for assessing our eportfolios for class.

Unit Four Speech and Essay

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Persuasive Speech 

 In this 5-6 minute speech, you will present the arguments you will be making--in necessarily abbreviated form--in your persuasive essay (the next assignment). The objectives of this assignment are: 

  • to draw on your cumulative knowledge and experience about rhetoric and public speaking in order to present the most persuasive argument possible to your audience 
  • to conduct independent research about an issue 
  • to synthesize that research and incorporate it into your speech in a way that is relevant and persuasive 

Preparation for this speech will likely return you to lessons learned early on in this course, particularly in the context of the rhetorical situation and rhetorical analysis assignments. Your knowledge about the topic ought to strengthen your ethos, and you will want to consider which other proofs might prove most effective given the issue you have chosen and what you have learned about your audience (members of the class) through the course of the semester. 

Because you will be so familiar with your subject matter, you might consider taking additional risks in delivery by attempting a more extemporaneous speaking style (better eye contact with the audience, less reliance upon notes, use of appropriate gestures, and the like). 

Speeches will be delivered Thursday, April 15; Friday, April 16; and Tuesday, April 20. 

Persuasive Essay 

The aim of this 4-5 page essay is to draw on all the rhetorical skills you have been building in this course so far in order to write a persuasive essay. For this paper, you'll need to choose an issue you care about, and take a stance on the issue. 

It's important that this paper have a well-defined audience, which might include a specific venue--will the paper take the form of a Sunday Times Op-ed piece? A short article in your favorite music magazine? A piece in a local mainstream or alternative paper? When thinking about the audience, ask yourself "who cares about this issue?" And perhaps more importantly, "who should care about this issue?" And "who can help change the shape of the issue?" 

For this paper you'll not only want to pay attention to the rhetorical situation and what appeals might work with the audience, but you'll also need to attend to arrangement and style and how these rhetorical concerns overlap, along with other aspects of rhetorical situations such as kairos and ethos. 

Before you turn in the paper, I will give you an opportunity to discuss the rhetorical choices you've made, so be aware of your strategies as you compose. 


Peer review will be conducted out of class. Please have a rough draft and peer review conducted sometime during the week of Monday, April 19. 

Final Draft will be due Tuesday, April 27.

PDF version:

Working in a group of 3-4, students will create a 7-9-minute multi-media text that explores, depicts, and makes an argument about the history of a controversy. The multi-media text will be created using the platform Kaltura, which you and your classmates will be trained to use during an upcoming lab session. 

The objective of this assignment is three-fold: 

  • to integrate the rhetorical skills you have been developing thus far in the course, especially with regard to the variety of rhetorical modes available in a digital context 
  • to work as a team researching, designing, and presenting an informative text to the class  
  • to develop basic facility with a variety of multi-media tools 

Your first job as a group will be to settle on a controversy that you will research. The main goal of the multi-media text is to present new information about the history of this controversy to the class in a lively, compelling, and well-organized way. The text your group produces should incorporate more than one medium--e.g., podcasts, video, photographs, and/or written text. 

Friday, March 5: Lab Session on Kaltura 

Tuesday, March 30, and Thursday, April 1: Presentations of multi-media texts

possible blog posts and an example

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I thought I'd share some ideas for possible blog post topics if you are struggling to come up with something to write.

1. Is there a story in the news that you think is particularly worth discussing, or that you have you an opinion you want to explain? Perhaps you read or saw someone's viewpoint on something that you disagree with (either it total or with an aspect of it)?

2. Have you seen a commercial recently that you thought was highly effective or ethically disturbing (or had some other reaction to)? If it's online somewhere, it might be interesting to share that and explain your reaction. Perhaps a bit of an argument about it.

3. Practice a rhetorical analysis -- you could get a start on your paper by either starting a brief freewriting or analysis of the text you want to analyze or practice with a different text.

4. Reflecting or sharing on something that goes on at Penn State. The blog Onward State is a good model for this type of activity (and just a good read in general).

Here's an example. As some of you may know, I'm a coffee addict, so when McDonald's came out with their new advertisements for McCafe in 2008, I was particularly interested. Not because I wanted another place to get my coffee, but because of the rhetorical constructions of gender and the appeals to authenticity (an ethos appeal) of the ads. In particular, there were two ads, one with women and one with men. I can't embedd the one with women (at least can't find a version that I can), but you can watch it here. Here's the clip with men in it:

The other ad shares a similar narrative arch: one person announces that McDonald's now has cappuccinos, both individuals in the clip start sharing what they don't have to do anymore, and they're eager to go off to McDonald's. In each clip, it seems like they're at a Starbucks, and they're all dressed in typical urban white "yuppie" attire: your young urban professional. But soon we see this is a facade: the tuft of facial hair, the chic sweater, the skirt past the knees, the "snobby" glasses, listening to jazz, faux knowledge about world geography--they're all pretenses at being snobby.

These ads obviously don't work for everybody--they're meant for a certain group of Americans who see urban professional "elitism" as snobby and inauthentic. The ads work for these people by appealing to the notion of an authentic self and authentic gender roles--to people who probably don't want to go to Starbucks because it seems snobby anyway. Those urban elites are pretension and going to Starbucks; real men (who like football) and real women (who don't engage in world politics and show off their legs) prefer a place that's authentic, according to the logic of this ad.

Of course, from my perspective, there isn't anything more real about McDonald's than about Starbucks -- they're both large national chains with pretty standardized menus, and both attempt to appeal to "authentic" experiences: Starbucks to the European coffee shop, McDonald's to the "average" American. What makes these ads particularly effective, I believe, is their situatedness in the first decade of the 21st century. In 2004, Kerry was critiqued as a Northeastern liberal elite, as have other urban or coastal liberal politicians like Obama in 2008. Bush, however, characterized himself (as did Palin in 2008) as a real American. I'm not in anyway claiming that liberals or Democrats tend to go to Starbucks, and that conservatives or Republicans prefer McDonald's for the coffee, but rather pointing to this larger cultural divide about authenticity.

McDonald's, through these two ads and their website Unsnobby Coffee, appeal to these notions of authenticity. Particularly, the pretenses of young urban professionals is viewed as "snobby" -- it's not just that their not authentic, according to the logic of this website and these ads -- but that they're elitist as well.

I'm concerned about the notions of being more authentically a man or a woman. What does it mean that watching football is more authentic, or that real women don't care to know where Paraguay is? Do these ads help to limit what it means to be a man or woman for their audiences--reinforcing a stereotype by granting validity to the notions of real man and real woman?  

Feel free to share other ideas in the comments.

State of the Union speech

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Obama's State of the Union speech (both the video and the transcript) are available at C-SPAN, as is the Republican response afterward. We'll take time to discuss part of Obama's speech in class, and as we do so, we'll pay close attention to key rhetorical terms: exigence, audience(s), rhetorical situation, appeals (ethical, pathetic, and logical), purpose, medium (speech vs. written, in this case), and constraints.

Jersey Shore... I'm concerned about America's future

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Mike suggested we watch this video:

Unit Two Essay: Rhetorical Analysis

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In this 4-5 page essay you will perform a careful rhetorical analysis on a single essay, speech or advertisement (other texts would be okay--discuss this with me first). Choose a short essay, speech, or advertisement and analyze its rhetorical appeals (proofs). The aim of the paper is to make an argument about how rhetoric is working in the text in question. What sort of ethos does the speaker, writer, or advertisement convey? Does it use logical arguments? Does rhetoric operate visually in this instance? Are there appeals to pathos or emotions at work?

All the texts in question depend on their "audience"--their participants--for effectiveness. To begin your analysis, some important questions to ask about audience and rhetorical situation include: where did you encounter the essay, speech, or ad? To whom might it be directed, and how do you know that? If you are working with a speech from one of the online speech banks, where and when was the speech originally delivered?

As you write your paper, use concrete details to support your claims. Consider quoting directly from the text under analysis, or using detailed language to describe the setting (in the case of a speech), or, in the case of an advertisement or text, images, colors, layout, etc. The paper need not address every aspect of every proof--if the whole paper focuses on one proof, that's fine.

A good rhetorical analysis paper (B or C work) often does a strong job of analyzing the text under study. A strong rhetorical analysis paper makes the analysis important to their readers, addressing why this analysis matters, speculating on broader implications, or making a larger argument about an aspect of culture.

Remember that your final draft should be double-spaced, in a 12-point serif font (such as Times New Roman), printed in black ink, and double-spaced, with one-inch margins. Place your name, my name, the course name, and the date in the upper left corner of the first page. Number all pages and staple your paper. Papers not stapled will not be accepted. Your paper should have a title (centered in the same font as your text) that would draw in a reader and give a sense of what your paper is about.


We will discuss your introduction and plans for the paper on Friday, February 26, so bring a draft of the introduction to class that day, as well as some notes in preparation for your paper. Rough drafts of this essay will be due on Tuesday, March 2. Final drafts will be due on Thursday, March 4.

PDF version of the assignment sheet:
Unit Two Essay.pdf

Unit Two Speech: Rhetorical Situation

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The aim of this 4-6 minute speech is to apply the concepts and principles learned thus far in the course by carefully analyzing the situation of a particular issue. To begin, choose an issue that lots of people are talking about right now and examine it by using one or two of the rhetorical concepts we've covered thus far (ideology, power, kairos, exigence). A speech might, for example, describe why this issue is urgent right now (kairos). It might sift through the various competing values (ideologies) and who gets a voice in the issue (power). Or it can come up with any other combination of two concepts.

Keep in mind that the issue might be local, specific to college students or Penn State, or it might be national or even global. Once you select issues, we will do some work in class to generate material for the speech.

Structure and Requirements

See the grading standards for speeches for how this speech will be evaluated. Remember that your speech should include an engaging introduction that gives exigence to your speech, clear organization (marked by verbal cues for overall organization toward the beginning and clear transitions), and a memorable conclusion that leaves your classmates wondering about the topic.

Delivery should be extemporaneous and engaging; that is, deliver the speech in a conversational manner, using only a brief notes or speaking outline. You should not read your speech from a manuscript; nor should you recite it from memory.

In addition to whatever notes you may use while speaking, please bring a second typed copy of your notes or outline. You will submit this to me at the start of class. Your submitted notes/outline should abide by the following standards:

  • Write out the introduction, transitions, and conclusion in complete sentences. (These areas tend to be difficult for speakers to navigate, so precisely thinking about how you will start, move between ideas, and close the speech is important.)
  • The body of the speech does not need to be written in complete sentences, but make sure that the concepts are understandable to someone who has not yet heard the presentation if they read your notes/outline.
  • Don't forget to include a citation of any sources at the end of your notes/outline.


Speeches will be delivered in class on Thursday, Feb. 11, Friday, Feb. 12, and Tuesday, Feb. 16.

PDF version of the assignment sheet:
Unit Two Speech.pdf

Your Course Blog

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Early in the semester, students will set up a Web log using the The Blogs at Penn State platform ( This blog will be devoted to LA101H and will be distinct from any other blogs you keep on the site. Blogs from this particular section of LA 101H will be aggregated so that you (and your instructor) may easily read--and hopefully engage--each other's responsive posts.

The syllabus lists 16 directed prompts to help you prepare for class discussion. Responses to these prompts will be required and ought to be posted by midnight the night before class meets. When you are assigned a directed prompt, it is a good idea to include the prompt at the outset so that readers from outside the course will have a sense of what the entry is responding to.

Blog activity need not be limited to these prompts; students will be expected to post at least five course-related entries in addition to the prompted responses. Students will be able to revise and select entries for inclusion in final e-portfolios. Ideally, some of these self-sponsored posts, as well as posts in response to prompts, will also link to and engage with other material on the Web, including news article, other blogs, and classmates' blogs.

Students will be placed in groups of "blog buddies" (groups of three or four classmates), and it will be the responsibility of these buddy groups to engage each others' blog posts by means of the comment function.

Blogs will be assessed much like a journal, with focus mostly on engagement with course materials, timely completion of prompts, reflection, and participation on each others' blogs. As I assess throughout the term and at the end of the course, I will be attending to the overall gestalt of your blogs. Obviously, length and quality of posts will vary, but overall, there should be high-quality work. Your blog will be included in the daily assignments portion of the final grade for the course.

Important: When you post to your course blog, include this tag so that your post can easily be found by classmates and me: LA101H-Faris. Posts without this tag run the risk of being missed by your classmates and by me.

Posts with this tag can easily be found on the PSU Blogs search page (

PDF version of this description: Blogs.pdf 

Final E-Portfolio

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The final e-portfolio, the last assignment for this course, will comprise a selection of your very best work. The objectives of the e-portfolio assignment include:

  • to reflect on the work you have done this semester by revisiting that work with an eye to revision and to individual assignments' place in the larger scheme of the course
  • to learn--and put into practice--the difference between revision and proofreading or editing
  • to use rhetorical skills, once again, to design and present that work to a broad online audience that might include Paterno fellows or SHC administrators, future employers, friends, parents, and the like
  • to reflect on the rhetorical dimensions of such broad self-presentation and to make design decisions accordingly

For this assignment, you will want to pay attention to design and arrangement issues, and you will also want to revise earlier assignments based on feedback you received as well as things you have learned subsequent to that point in the semester. Revision ought to take into account approaches to writing style you have learned during the semester as well.

In preparation for this capstone assignment, the last few class meetings will be spent revisiting earlier assignments, reading and talking about revision.


Final Portfolios will be due during our scheduled final exam time during finals week. Then we will also present and discuss final portfolios.

PDF version of the assignment sheet: 
More Info: Go to e-Portfolios at Penn State for more information on e-portfolios, including videos and some screenshots of sample e-portfolios.

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