In class one day in August, I conducted what I call a “pseudo” Impromptu Speech activity. This is in preparation for the actual Impromptu Speech my students are set to deliver in a couple of weeks as one of the requirements in Rhetoric. The `pseudo-Imp’ was of course a tweaked version of a kind of speech according to a method of delivery. Instead of a 3-minute preparation time, and a 3-minute speaking time, my students must turn into a sentence phrases that they see written on strips of paper. Apart from that one sentence, they must supply one other sentence, hopefully, as support to the previous assertion, and not a mere restatement.
As Second Language learners of English, my students are understandably uncomfortable with the language. But I want them to speak up, and I want them to be aware of the structure of their sentence(s). Eventually, becoming habitually aware of delivering their thoughts in complete sentences is a skill they will hopefully generalize into other speaking situations, even beyond this present course.
So on strips of paper, students pick out and complete phrases that begin with words like “I wish I had known that…”; “I wish I were…”; “I don’t think there is anything good in…”, etc., getting them to think along the lines of the mood of the statement ingeniously enough to add what was lacking, and wow the audience with their quick wit. Many did OK; a few were pretty dismal, not because they weren’t smart but because they allowed their anxiety to overwhelm them, and a handful were truly awesome as if they had had an opportunity to know their topics beforehand. (They had not.) One particularly honest and bold response I heard was from a quiet girl who completed “What I learned about blogging was that … it was hard. You have to be very careful with your words so you don’t offend.” The answer was pretty direct, and was over in seconds.
What she said of blogging should be true of speaking and of living, too. When one writes, one grapples with one’s words, constantly thinking, revising, re-wording, in constant search of that elusive word or sentence that perfectly animates the thoughts, and not offend. This isn’t true of speaking sometimes: when a moment presents itself and the tongue couldn’t be reined in fast enough, the process of thinking is abbreviated, and the result pretty terrible. (There were far too many disastrous events of this in the past with me in the center, and while they cannot now be recalled, I can only hope to do better at reining the tongue in next time!)
So maybe cyberspace is as good a place as any to start being conscious both about the act of writing and of behaving. In time one learns to transfer conducting one’s self well on cyberspace on to an actual space, with brilliant results!