Activity theory based lesson for establishing audience roles for presentations

shared by pmeister on December 15, 2015

Activity Summary:

This activity presents a group discussion about audience that will help students become more aware of their roles as audience members and, by extension, as presenters.


I use this lesson at the end of unit 3 or 4, depending on when I begin talking about formal presentations. I use it to talk about presentations, audience roles, and group interactions. It engages their prior experiences and makes explicit patterns of interaction that are situated in a specific time and place. It brings out their knowledge of these situated interactions in order to get them thinking about our situation and the interactions we want to create.

  1. Begin the lesson by introducing or reinforcing what the students will need to be doing for the presentation that you are working on at that time.
  2. Establish being an audience member as a task that is fulfilled in various ways, and to various degrees of fulfillment.
    1. Distinguish
      1. Places people are willing audiences (movies, concerts, Netflix, etc.)
      2. Places people are not willing audiences (campus free speech zones, bad concerts, some TV advertisements, etc.)
      3. Places people are not willing audiences but are expected to fake it (church, school, formal presentation, piano recital, family gatherings, etc.)
  3. Write three headings on the board: Football Game, Movie Theater, Classroomjacktricemovie theater peopleclassroom with no people
  4. Begin with football game, complete a line of questioning for that category, and then move on to Movie Theater, and then classroom. The line of questioning prompts students to think about the activity of focus, the audience, the place and time, and the interaction between the main activity of focus and the audience.
    1. What is the audience’s role?
    2. Who has the power to speak?
    3. What is the give and take between the speaker (activity) and audience?
    4. What activities should you be doing as an audience member?
    5. What object/motivation are these activities working toward?
    6. What is the purpose of you being there? Are you being informed, entertained, persuaded?
  5. Repeat for movie theater
  6. Repeat for classroom
  7. You may choose to save the last question (6) until after you have talked about all three situations. If you save (6) until last, then it becomes a reflective question with which your students can make some things about each situation explicit.
    1. (I haven’t experimented with timing too much in this lesson, so I don’t have specific advice about multiple configurations for different outcomes.)
  8. After these activities, you and the class can generate ideas about the role of good audience members in in-class presentations, and define the role of audience members.