American Literature: Romanticism
Student Presentation
Reading Discussion Leader

PowerPoint presentations (and other such programs) are discouraged. If you prefer to use PowerPoint (etc.), use only for materials not available on course website (e.g., for your own questions or summaries of your answers). You may always bring handouts on paper or aids on a thumb drive for projection, or email ahead for posting to course website,

Do not copy and paste materials from course website into PowerPoint. Go directly to website for materials (e.g., text passages, instructor's discussion questions, objectives, etc.).

Student location: Student may work up-front or remain seated; instructor can help with computer-projector.


Length: 8-12 minutes for presentation; Discussion may continue indefinitely.

Responsibility: You're not responsible for the day's entire reading assignment. You may choose one or two texts from day's assignments, or focus on part of one text.

Open discussion by inviting seminar to raise questions, problems, or overall observations regarding reading assignment. (Questions may be referred to seminar or instructor as well as discussion leader)

Identify idea, theme, problem, issue, or literary feature in reading assignment, or preview discussion questions (yours, instructor's, or both).

Relate this idea to a course objective (or, if not, indicate why it doesn’t fit).

Direct class to 1-2 passages (locate by paragraph numbers on web-screen).  

  • read selections aloud

  • apply to opening theme or idea.

  • (If online text, discussion-leader or instructor may locate passages on projection screen.)

(Steps may be rearranged.)


Ask a question or questions to start discussion. Questions should follow from your interpretation or appeal more broadly to challenges in the text or intertexts with other class readings.

At least one question should be from instructor's Discussion Questions.

You may also ask questions along the way, at end of each passage for instance.

Lead discussion. You may follow up or re-start discussion with follow-up questions as prepared.

If students don't respond . . .

  • Keep pressing the question--restate, approach differently, or ask students if they understand what you're asking.

  • Invite challenges to analysis

  • Ask students what they saw in the passages or elsewhere in the assignment that mattered

Conclude discussion by highlighting major points from discussion + relation to course objective


Don't focus on author's biography or force the text to conform to external facts.

Single biggest aid to a good discussion: Start discussion as soon as possible after reading selected passages. After hearing and sharing the passages, the seminar is ready to jump in and discuss. Usually the only discussions that "die" are the ones where the students have to wait too long to start talking.

Next biggest aid to a good discussion: Don't save questions and discussion for end, but mix in questions and discussion as presentation proceeds.

More advice for successful presentation:

  • Mix discussion with your own analysis. Instead of telling class what you think, ask what they think, then add what they didn't say for you.

  • When in doubt, ask a question; when in doubt about what questions to ask, review objective(s) and terms.