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In-Class Group Evaluations of Short Videos

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Eminem looking at marquee saying "Keep Detroit Beautiful"
Image Credit: 

Image of Chrysler's "Imported from Detroit" taken from a post on Jalopnik

Brief Assignment Overview: 

For an entire class period, groups of students are tasked with evaluating a short video. Each group is assigned a video and a category of evaluation that they will use to evaluate their assigned video. They will work together to come up with criteria, evidence, and an evaluative claim for their video. By the end of the activity, students will present their evaluation to the class.

Type of Assignment: 
Assignment Length: 
Pedagogical Goals - Digital Literacy: 
Additional Pedagogical Goals: 

With this activity, I want students to get familiar with seeing how evaluations can look very different if the category of evaluation is not the same. This activity is also quite useful for getting students to practice coming up with criteria for a given category, as well as making them see that some criteria need justification depending on the audience. Students also start thinking about the rank of importance for the different criteria that they've chosen. 

Required Materials: 

Computer classroom with internet access. I use my course Wiki at PBworks to get students to post their group's findings, which I then project onto the screen so that the whole class can see a group's Wiki page as they present their evaluation. I can see a number of different websites besides PBworks fulfilling the same function. 

Timeline for Optimal Use: 
Full Assignment Description: 

In small groups, students evaluate one of two short videos, Chrysler's "Imported from Detroit" Superbowl Commercial with Eminem and Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind." Each group is assigned a video and a category of evaluation. Students then work in groups to come up with at least three criteria (appropriately ranked and supported/justified with two other "texts" from the same category) to use to evaluate their video. Students will then find evidence for whether or not their text meets/doesn't meet each criterion. By the end of the activity, each group will present their findings, starting with an evaluative claim that they drafted together.

Suggestions for Instructor Preparation: 

I spent the previous two classes discussing evaluations, categories, and criteria. The first class was mostly spent explaining the concepts, and the second was spent looking at sample evaluations (of the same item, such as an album by a specific musical group). Students should be familiar with evaluation, category, and criteria before this in-class activity. 

Before the activity, I assigned two short videos for students to watch for the day's homework: Chrysler's "Imported from Detroit" Superbowl Commercial with Eminem and Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind." Students should have finished watching these videos before the in-class activity. 

On the day of the activity, split students up into six groups.

Instructions For Students: 

You will be put into one of six groups. I am going to assign a video and a category of evaluation to each group. Groups 1-3 will evaluate Chrysler's "Imported from Detroit" Superbowl Commercial with Eminem, and Groups 4-6 will evaluate Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind." The first Chrysler group will evaluate the Chrysler video as a Chrysler commercial, the second will evaluate it as a 2011 car commercial, and the third will evaluate it as a 2011 Superbowl commercial. The first Jay-Z group will evaluate "State of Mind" as a rap music video, the second will evaluate it as a Jay-Z music video, and the third will evaluate it as a music video set in NYC.

In the next 45 minutes, each group should:

  1. Find two other "texts" in the same category using YouTube.
  2. Use the assigned video and the two supplemental "texts" to come up with at least three criteria for the category, justifying the criteria as necessary for your audience of peers.
  3. Decide on a rank for the criteria.
  4. Provide evidence as to whether or not the assigned video meets each criterion.
  5. Draft an evaluative claim about the video.
  6. Post their findings (category, criteria, evaluative claim) to our PBworks "Group Work" folder.

At the end of 45 minutes, each group will present their findiings to the class using their Wiki page.

Evaluation Suggestions: 

I did not assign a grade for this assignment, since I want students to experiment with evaluations before they had to write their own without the help of their peers.

Notes on Reception, Execution, etc.: 

Students love this activity! They enjoy giving their opinions, and they gain confidence in the rhetorical concepts of evaluation, category, and criteria. Many of them say it's the activity that finally made them understand what kind of paper they'd be writing in the coming weeks! Plus, I inevitably have a few Jay-Z or Eminem fans in the classroom who are always vocal about their undying love for either artist.

Course Description: 

RHE 309K: Rhetoric of Suburbs & Slums


Depending on who you ask, London can be a cultural mecca or a den of vice, Los Angeles can be a palm tree paradise or a polluted suburb, and Lagos can be a dangerous slum or an exciting place where residents reclaim space for their own uses. In this course, we will identify, analyze, and evaluate the discrepant ways that we think and feel about cities (and their respective suburbs and slums) around the world. We’ll begin our exploration by looking at explicit arguments made about (sub-)urban places by urban planners, architects, and citizens. After rhetorical analyses of the various arguments made about these places, we’ll then move into uncovering and evaluating implied arguments made about cities, suburbs, and slums by artists, musicians, writers, and filmmakers. We’ll end our journey through these locales with you and your peers adding to the conversation. For better or for worse—with the rapid urbanization of our planet—cities, suburbs, and slums are here to stay. What we say about the nature, value, and future of these places is just as important.

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