You're the Expert

Unit Plan

Phil Coogan
Adapted by Linda Scott
3 weeks

California Language Arts Content Standards
Standards Addressed in this Unit
Listening and Speaking Strategies
1.7 Use props, visual aids, graphs, and electronic media to enhance the appeal and accuracy of presentations.
1.8 Produce concise notes for extemporaneous delivery.
1.9 Analyze the occasion and the interests of the audience and choose effective verbal and nonverbal techniques (e.g., voice, gestures, eye contact) for presentations.
Listening and Speaking: Speaking Applications
2.2 Deliver expository presentations:
  1. Convey information and ideas from primary and secondary sources accurately and coherently.
  2. Include visual aids by employing appropriate technology to organize and display information on charts, maps, and graphs.
  3. Include visual aids by employing appropriate technology to organize and display information on charts, maps, and graphs.
  4. Anticipate and address the listener's potential misunderstandings, biases, and expectations.
Supporting Standards


As the focus of this unit is listening and speaking, it is left to students to provide the context; that is, their self-chosen research topic becomes the vehicle for skill development. However, a teacher may decide to be more prescriptive to ensure that the research is linked to a larger topic of study, e.g., a literature, media or language study.

For guidance on how to build online Research Modules which will challenge your students to make up their own minds while supplying them with rich information to support such thinking, visit the Online Module Maker.


Smiley Select and adapt these learning activities to best meet the needs of your students, and to fit the time available:

  1. Explain the unit in general terms to the students. To ensure they begin the project with a range of options, have the class brainstorm onto the board, a list of topics which they are interested in and would like to find out more about. It might be helpful for the teacher to add a few of her/his own.

  2. Ensure that students' research questions are appropriate (as mentioned in their assignment). Take one of the topics which resulted from the brainstorm and, in groups, have students come up with three research questions for one of the topics. As these are shared back to the class, get students to decide about whether each question is:

    • worth asking?
    • too narrow or closed to present any sort of research challenge?
    • too wide and open to be researchable?

  3. Give students their Research Seminar assignment.

  4. Ensure that students' research questions are appropriate (as mentioned in their assignment).

  5. Provide models of the research process by:

    1. Modeling the use of the library (perhaps by using one of the student's topics) ensuring all students know how to use:

      • the catalogue
      • the vertical file
      • the reference section.

    2. In a similar way, modeling information retrieval from books by ensuring students are aware of the functions of a table of contents, index, bibliography, glossary, title page and publishing information (to ascertain currency).

    3. If possible modeling an Internet search including:

    4. Modeling or role playing both live and face-to-face-interviews.

    5. Guidance and practice in the speaking skills mentioned in the rubric. This can be achieved through a variety of means eg.

      • A series of games to 'break the ice' and increase student speaking confidence.
      • The teacher or a senior student delivering a short speech in the worst possible manner (too quiet, no eye contact, no variation in pitch, no pauses or lots of stumbling showing lack of preparation and the class lists ways to improve).
      • Use a video of a competent public speaker in a similar way, this time focusing on the positive aspects of delivery.
      • Prior to the delivery of their seminars, students are given the opportunity to practice in small groups.
      • Prior to delivering the speech, students could use this ARB Peer Assessment Scale to help each other improve both content and delivery.

      See Also:


Assessment Task

See Assessment Rubric which needs to be shared with and modeled for students prior to their seminar.

The rubric can be used for peer assessment, teacher assessment or a combination of both. The most powerful assessment tool of all for this unit is to have individuals privately view a videotape of their seminar, checking their own performance against the rubric.