Tuesday, February 9, 2016

"Shark Tank" Speech Experience: A Lesson Plan Story #SOL16

When I teach students in both Fundamentals of Communication (general speech) and Communication 1101 persuasive speaking, I teach an organizational structure called MONROE MOTIVATED SEQUENCE. 

Purdue University Alan H. Monroe developed this model for persuasive speeches "that seek immediate action." Unlike a problem/solution persuasive speech structure, Monroe believed that the effectiveness of a rhetor's attempt at persuasion could best be measured by the individual's willingness to take a specific, immediate action. 

Evidence of Monroe's influence on rhetoric abounds. To demonstrate this to students, I assign an activity called "MOTIVATED SELLERS" to students in Comm. The activity is based on ideas prevalent in advertising. Thus, students, working in groups,  create a skit for a product they are selling. They must follow the Monroe Motivated Sequence, link here

I've assigned this activity for several years now and find it helpful in demonstrating to students the challenges of identifying a specific action they will ask their audience to take in their speeches. 

Watching the students "create" products to sell and present their "evidence" offers levity in a highly competitive class. Today we had a group sell us the "kick stick," a lipstick and pepper spray combo designed to ward of unsolicited advances when on a date. 

All the groups took advantage of "creative license" in citing evidence. Their ability to "suspend disbelief" enabled them to clearly identify and incorporate all parts of the Motivated Sequence in their speeches. 

At the end of the period, students proclaimed their approval of the activity with comments such as "that was so much fun." One girl who is also in my AP Lit and Comp class announced that the activity was as much fun "as we had in AP Friday." Another student asked me to go shopping with her, which, while not related to the activity speaks to her enjoyment of the class. 

During the class I laughed so hard that I had a mild headache at the end of the period! 

This year, I wanted to freshen the  PERSUASIVE SPEECH instruction in my general speech classes and decided to incorporate segments from "Shark Tank" into my instruction. The segmentation of the show lends itself to easy inclusion as a way to illustrate MMS. 

To begin, students reviewed the steps in MMS. Next, I showed them a segment notoriously identified as "The Worst Pitch in Shark Tank History." Prior to viewing, I asked students to be prepared to identify the steps in MMS and to be prepared to discuss examples of Aristotle's RHETORICAL TRIANGLE: ETHOS, PATHOS, LOGOS. 
Students really honed in on the presenter's lack of credibility. They also did a superb job identifying his attempts at logos. However, because he was unable to complete the pitch, students struggled to identify the components in MMS. Consequently, I won't use this segment next trimester in the way I used it this time. 

Next, I showed students the "Shark Tank" segment known on YouTube as "The Biggest Fight in Shark Tank History." 
This segment proved much easier for students to analyze based on MMS. To assist them, I showed the segment in three sections, saving the fight among the sharks for the end of the discussion. 

Since the student did a fabulous job making the connections between MMS and the "Shark Tank" episodes, we viewed and discussed a special segment featuring Jimmy Kimmel at the end of the period. 
This segment, of course, generated lots of laughs among students. More importantly, they grasped the components of MMS immediately. 

This Friday I'll have students team up to create their own SHARK TANK-STYLE PITCHES.  This will be the true assessment of how well our foray into the tank worked. 

Both activities remind me that play plays an integral part in student learning and that even in a college-level class that students often describe as one of the most demanding in our school, we can learn and have fun. 

Thank you Two Writing Teachers team for sponsoring the #SOL story challenge each Tuesday. For more slices, click here. 


  1. I have sort of noticed this pattern in advertisements and/or PSAs, especially infomercials. The "Save the ______" type ads are a glaring example of the format. Now I have a specific term for this. Adding to the "Learn Something New..." files. Thanks!

  2. Such a cool idea! You are so much fun. I love this.