COMM200: Critical Thinking and Speaking

I developed a version of this argumentation-focused public speaking course that focused on multimodal public speaking. Students created Twitter threads, blog posts, and podcasts alongside traditional extemporaneous speeches. This was a six-week summer course.


This is why I value that little phrase “I don’t know” so highly. It’s small, but it flies on mighty wings. It expands our lives to include the spaces within us as well as those outer expanses in which our tiny Earth hangs suspended.

Wislawa Szymborską, 1996, “The Poet and The World”

Welcome to COMM200! The primary purpose of this course is to encourage you to love the phrase “I don’t know” and the questions that follow it.

Since antiquity, rhetoricians have been the go-to experts for making stronger arguments. In COMM200, you will learn a few tricks of this trade. The benefit to you is at least twofold:

  • you learn some persuasive speaking skills that prepare you for academic, personal, civic, and professional life; and
  • you learn some critical thinking skills that hopefully allow you to live a more engaged, interesting life—of questioning, knowing, and arguing.

Schedule and Assignments

1. Week 1: Begins Mon July 13 — Telling stories
2. Week 2: July 20 — Analyzing argument
3. Week 3: July 27 — Inventing and arranging arguments
4. Week 4: August 3 — Thinking about and caring for discourse
5. Week 5: August 10 — Producing critical speaking
6. Week 6: August 17 — Criticizing in the world
Final: Aug 21 — Reflective essay

Narrative speech: In the narrative speech you will craft a presentation that connects a personal narrative to a larger
lesson. The speech should be 2-3 minutes long. [Week 1, 150 points]

Twitter thread argument analysis: In the Argument Analysis Twitter Thread you will use Toulmin’s theory of
logical argument to analyze a published argument. The argument you are analyzing should ideally be a controversial
Tweet, but it can be something published in a magazine, a newspaper, some online sites, an academic journal etc. It
is your responsibility to find something suitable for the assignment (I can offer advice). Consistent with Toulmin’s
theory, your Twitter thread must represent the relationships between the claims, data, and warrants that are
employed within your chosen argument. The thread must be a minimum of 10 tweets, so roughly 500 words. [Week
2, 150 points]

Public argument blog post: In the public argument blog post you will write an 800-1000 word blog that proposes
an argument about an issue relevant to you. This blog will build on our discussion of argument, but it will also
explore techniques of arrangement and audience analysis, as well as presentation style for blogs. [Weeks 3 and 4, 200

Podcast criticism: In the podcast criticism, you will synthesize what you learned about oral communication (from
the narrative speech), argument analysis (from the twitter thread), and making your own argument (from the blog
post) to craft an original piece of criticism that describes a controversial issue, interprets multiple perspectives on
the issue, and crafts your own evaluation of that issue. [Weeks 5 and 6, 200 points]

Activities: There will be 12 activities during the course, including but not limited to: quizzes, discussion boards,
reflections, and worksheets. Each will be worth 10 points. Your two lowest scores will be dropped. [Weeks 1-5, 100
points total.]

Final exam: Your final exam will be a reflective essay that asks you to narrate your experience of the course and
engage with course concepts. [Aug 21, 200 points]

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