Student Presentations


Beginning on September 16th, each class will begin with a five-minute student presentation followed by five to ten minutes of class discussion led by the student presenter. Each student enrolled in the course is required to complete one presentation over the course of the semester. In the presentation, the student will bring in a poem or passage from his or her chosen contemporary collection, and identity a particular moment or point of difficulty in the text. The student will walk the class through what, precisely, makes the passage or poem a difficult one, and the ways in which the student has tackled the problem thus far. In the discussion, the rest of the class will offer their own take on the difficult aspect of the text, and provide suggestions for how the student might continue to work through the problem. One week after presenting, the presenter will turn in a one-to-two page summary of his or her presentation as well as a 500-word reflection on the process of composing the presentation and the class feedback received. My evaluation of the presentation will be based on these documents, as well as the presentation itself.

Students may sign up for presentation days here using a Google Docs spreadsheet, which also has a space for you to indicate you choice of contemporary collection. Please ensure that you have selected a book and a date by Wednesday, September 9th. There will be only one presentation per day. Please choose your presentation date carefully. If you need to change dates at any point for any reason, please try to swap with a classmate if possible.


The presentation assignment is meant to be an opportunity for each student to practice identifying, framing, and discussing moments of poetic difficulty while enlisting the help of their peers to work through a particular problem. Given that each presenter will be discussing material from his or her chosen collection, it is also a chance for the whole class to encounter some poetry from a book in the class library other than their own. Finally, the presenter may be able to use the insights generated in class discussion in composing his or her written assignments, incorporating class feedback into future work. I encourage you to think of your presentation and following discussion as a mini-workshop for developing ideas about your chosen collection. Conversely, when others are presenting, remember that it is your job to help them develop their own ideas by participating in discussion.

Completing the Assignment

The presentation assignment has essentially four elements: the presentation itself, the discussion, the presentation summary, and the written reflection.

Presentation: As stated in the overview above, the presentation should be around 5 minutes long and focus on a specific poem or passage from your collection that you have found particularly difficult and are interested in unpacking. In your presentation, you should do your best to describe as precisely as possible what makes the passage a difficult one, as well as your thinking thus far in how the passage might be approached. Remember, the goal of the presentation is both to identify and describe a difficult passage and to solicit your peers’ help and feedback in thinking that difficulty through. With that in mind, try to gear your presentation so as to most effectively engage the class in discussion. You are encouraged to use a visual aid like a PowerPoint presentation or a handout to help the class connect with the passage you’re discussing.

Discussion: The presenter is responsible for leading the five-to-ten minute discussion following the presentation. Be prepared to ask questions of the class that will effectively solicit their participation and feedback. Remember: it is up to you to engage your peers in your presentation and discussion.

Presentation Summary: A week after the presenting, the presenter must turn in—electronically via email and as a hard copy in class—a one to two page summary of his or her presentation. It does not have to be super detailed—think of it as a spruced-up version of your notes for the presentation itself. Be sure to include the passage you selected and some description of the difficulty you framed for the class in your discussion.

Reflection: Along with the summary, each student must turn in a 500 word reflection on the presentation process as a whole. Here is your chance to tell me in more detail why you picked the passage you selected, your impression of how the presentation went, and what you learned in putting together the presentation and leading the discussion. The objective here is two fold. First, it’s an opportunity for you to reflect on what you’ve discovered in completing the assignment, which may help you toward further work in the class. Second, it gives me an insight into the reasoning behind your choices in the presentation itself, as well as your sense of what worked and what didn’t—all of which will help me better evaluate the assignment.


My evaluation will be based on all four elements of the assignment; all four elements must be completed for the presentation to be graded. Each student will receive a letter grade based on how well they meet the following criteria:

  • Did the student make a thoughtful and productive choice of poem or passage to focus on in their presentation?
  • How well did the student frame the difficultly of his or her chosen passage for the class?
  • How well did the student engage his or her peers in discussing the passage? That is, did he or she provide the class with a “way in” to the poem by asking questions or offering hypotheses about the passage at hand?

Note that the presentation is worth 10% of your overall grade. A full grade breakdown can be found on the Assignments page.