Freshwomen English class 6: How to prepare a spoken word review.

Nimen Hao,

welcome to our class for this week.

We’re going to do some preparation for the first spoken word assignment, a short (three minute) review of something you have watched, read, listened to (or otherwise observed or enjoyed).

We have quite a lot of time before you have to perform the assessed review, which you will do in week 13 (on 12.26). This is the first of two classes specifically dedicated to preparing for that assessed work. Today we will work on choosing your topics and planning your reviews. The next session specifically dedicated to preparing for the assessed review is in week 12 (on 12.19). In that class you can practice performing your reviews.   

The review can be of any cultural object, event or place. It might be a film, book, TV show (or episode), theater or dance review, or a review of a kind of holiday place, an artwork, or a building.

I’ll start by giving a little guidance on how to prepare a good spoken word review, and then we’ll do a little work on choosing and preparing a review (individually and in small groups).

How to prepare a speed review.

Aim: to express your view of aspects of an object, text, performance, event or place in an informative, interesting and logically coherent manner. You will talk about whether you like, dislike or just don’t mind something, and need to explain your reasons for your views.

Note: Because this is a time-limited exercise, you don’t need to discuss all aspects of your object, but may focus on some particular aspects.

There are five basis for a good spoken word review (similar to those for academic essay writing): unity, coherence, support, sentence skills, verbal skills.


Have a clearly stated point or thesis. Begin with a clear opening statment of the main point or thesis of your presentation. Make sure that everything else works to support this opening statement.


Organise and connect your supporting material. Have an effective introduction, body, and conclusion, make sure your points are well-linked.

A Model for structuring your 3-minute review presentation.

  1. Introduction
  2. Three or more main points, with supporting material.
  3. Conclusion.

Timeliness and organisation

This spoken word task is time restricted. Because there are only three minutes for the whole presentation, speakers need to plan the time devoted to each section of their speech carefully.

One suggestion would be to give no more than 20 per cent to the introduction, 60 per cent to your main points, and then the remaining 20 per cent to the conclusion. You could choose to vary these proportions, but be careful not to run out of time (for example, end up without giving your conclusion).

Time problems to avoid.

  1. Not using your full time. If a speaker doesn’t use the full three minutes they will not have said as much as they might. They may lack sufficient points and support, and one or more of their sections (introduction, body, conclusion) may be weak.
  2. Going over time. Anything said after the two minute mark cannot be counted as part of a presentation.


Provide logical and detailed support for your thesis, including sufficient specific evidence or examples.


Revise and edit so that you sentences are effective and error-free. Practice your presentation (record it and listen to yourself; ask a peer to listen to you). Check for the following.

  • Correct verb forms?
  • Subject and verb agreement?
  • Avoidance of fragments (speaking in full sentences)?
  • Correct use of pronouns including gender (he/she)?
  • Needless words eliminated?
  • Effective word choices?
  • Varied sentences?

Verbal presentation: clarity, speed, volume

Clarity: Speak clearly and enunciate correctly.

  • Pronounce your words correctly.
  • Make sure you don’t garble your words (they should be clearly distinct and not run into each other).
  • Express your ideas as simply and clearly as possible (avoid unnecessarily complex language).

Speed: Speak at a slow or moderate pace.

  • Make sure you don’t speak too quickly. A good way to ensure this is to concentrate on starting slowly (reinforcing the feeling of speaking at a measured pace to your audience).
  • If you are speaking too slowly that is likely to be related to not having enough to say (that’s a problem of content, not verbal ability).

Volume: Your volume should be appropriate for the context of your presentation.

  • As we will be presenting in a small classroom, first to the class group and then just to the teacher, you might use a normal conversational tone.
  • However, don’t speak too softly; we need to be able to hear you clearly.

Varied speech: Try not to speak in a monotone (like someone reading from a page). Try to speak in an expressive and animated style, while remaining within your normal mode of expression (be yourselves).

You might want to vary your volume at particular points. For example, it might be effective to finish one point in a loud and aggressive style, and then start the next argument in a softer manner.

There are also related qualities that may enhance your communication, including creativeness, inventiveness, entertainment. Different speakers might have differing positive qualities and still produce an effective and well-communicated debate presentation: for example, one student might gain positive marks for a humorous presentation while another might gain just as many marks for a serious and compelling (or persuasive) presentation.

Humour: a word of caution

If you have a humorous manner and can use it to support your review’s thesis that’s great. But make sure it does work to suppport rather than distract from your argument, that it is appropriate to your subject matter, and is used respectfully.

Different kinds of reviews

Keep in mind that each kind of review has a different kind of audience and specific characteristics belonging to the type of artwork, event, or location. All reviews require an introduction, discussion and conclusion. Below as some suggested structures for your reviews. You might use some of the other suggested elements (remember you only have three minutes).

  1. Movies and tv shows (fiction)

  • Introduction (title, topic, release date)
  • Story, plot, genre, style.
  • Social themes and significance. 
  • Creative craft elements (including, for example, quality of script, direction and performances, visual design and cinematography,  lighting, set design, costume, hair, make-up, special effects, sound, music, editing.
  • Conclusion: you will have given your opinions and reasons throughout, now summarise them and make a conclusion.

     2. Books (fiction)

  • Introduction (title, author, date of publication)
  • Story, plot, genre, style, characters, narrative voice.
  • Social themes and significance.
  • Comparison with other books
  • Conclusion: you will have given your opinions and reasons throughout, now summarize them and make a conclusion.

3. Theater and dance

  • Direction, script, story
  • performance (acting, singing, dance)
  • Stage design and lighting
  • Costumes, make-up, appearances
  • Music, sound.
  • Conclusion: you will have given your opinions and reasons throughout, now summarize them and make a conclusion.

4. Holiday places

  • Description, characteristics, points of interest, geography, culture, people,
  • Activities, conditions, suitability, price and value for money
  • Conclusion: you will have given your opinions and reasons throughout, now summarize them and make a conclusion.


  • Introduction, artist, artwork chosen, rationale for choice
  • Genre and Aesthetic qualities (differ depending on the type of work)
  • Social significance (including, for example, history, race, gender, etc)
  • Comparisons (with other works, artists)
  • Conclusion: you will have given your opinions and reasons throughout, now summarize them and make a conclusion.

6. Architecture

  • Introduction, architect, building, rational for choice as subject of discussion
  • Design quality. Does the design help make a building livable and likeable? For example, good design makes malls places we like to eat and shop rather than avoid).
  • Aesthetic qualities. Is it beautiful?
  • Sustainability: is it environmentally friendly?
  • Suitability: does the building suit its environment (the urban landscape, the way people use their spaces)
  • Spatial layout and scale. Is it well laid out for its use? Is it big enough.
  • Use of light: is the lighting pleasant and effective?
  • Comparisons with other buildings, architects.
  • Conclusion: you will have given your opinions and reasons throughout, now summarize them and make a conclusion.

Mistakes to avoid

  • Being overly descriptive means you will have spent too much of your speaking time describing things without giving enough analysis (your judgements and reasons). Sometimes poor speakers give their opinion without any reasons (or sufficient reasons); such as great acting, cool effects, a good movie, it was bad etc.
  • Talking about irrelevancies (you need to keep your discussion unified)
  • Lack of a strong structure (for example, not finishing with a conclusion).
  • Running out of time (anything you say after the three minutes is up cannot be counted for assessment).




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