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Study skills project

Exercises: Body vs Brain; Prompting; Breaking Stones
Exercise 1:
QUESTION: How much of your presentation is BRAIN (content, information, ideas)
and how much is BODY (posture, breath, gestures, eye contact, body language)? Give
each of them a mark out of ten for importance.
Now compare your marks. Discuss them. Here are some ideas to provoke argument…
• Could you argue BODY gets 10/10 because without a body there can’t be any CONTENT?
• Did you know that an audience takes in more than half of a talk in purely visual ways (i.e. through gestures, facial expression, etc. as opposed to what you actually say)? Does this mean you should dash around and make lots of gestures? • Is it sensible to set up Body and Brain as opposites? Instead of ‘Body versus Brain’ shouldn’t it be ‘Body and Brain’, or ‘Brain through Body’? Or ‘Brain with Body’? • ‘Words and text are really “modified breath” ’. Discuss. Exercise 2:
In seminars and presentations, various forms of ‘prompt’ are crucial: they maintain fluency, clarity, vibrancy. They ensure that we engage and inform the audience. EXAMPLE. Compare the following two versions of the same statement: “The issue of slavery can be put to one side temporarily in order to deal with the more pertinent factor of colonialism.” “So – let’s leave the issue of Ethiopian slavery (just for
now) to one side: because in this second half of the talk,
what I REALLY want to consider is something of at least
equal importance….
What kinds of ‘prompt’ can you find in the 2nd version? [Use the notes overleaf –‘Some Types of Prompt’ – to help you.]
Who are those prompts for (i.e. for audience or speaker)? In the 2nd version, are the prompts effective? In what ways? [HANDOUT: PRESENTATION SKILLS 1: p. 1 ]

Mario Petrucci 2005
‘Mission Possible’: THE STUDY SKILLS PACK
Some types of Prompt
Tonal Prompt (eg: to mark a shift in voice) Informational Prompt (confers authority) ‘Expectation’ – Temporal/ Structural Prompt second’ ‘least’ ‘REALLY’ ‘Emphasis’
(use of: font, bold, italics, brackets, etc) Relational Prompt (compares things) Modal Prompt (type of argument proposed) Syntactic Prompts (for drama/ delay/ effect) [paragraphs, indents, gaps, etc…] ‘Space’ Spatial Prompts (for clarity, emphasis, etc)
… and so on!
In a longer text we would also want ‘Logical Prompts’ – i.e. connective words between sentences,
paragraphs and sections. These are words or phrases that continue, or carry through, the thread of
the argument (eg ‘In the light of this…’ or ‘Moreover…’). Think of the sentences in your
presentation as a long line of dominoes. Each sentence needs to ‘knock’ the next one over…
There are, of course, many other types of Prompt. Come up with your own. But please – don’t
try to memorise my jargon. What’s important is that you stay alert to Prompts in all their
variety. Tune in to them. Use them. They’re an essential form of textual lubrication.

Exercise 3:
“Whenever passages (in essays or talks) are feeling ‘woolly’ or diffuse, it can be useful to sometimes try breaking them down (as far as possible) into simpler sentences of the type we might call subject-verb-object, like breaking a large stone into smaller ones – an exercise I have called (elsewhere) the breaking of stones.” In other words… “That passage feels woolly. It is diffuse. I will try to break it down. I shall use simple sentences. The sentence type is: subject-verb-object. This is called ‘breaking stones’.”
Often, the result of this exercise will uncover two types of deficiency:
1. If it is impossible to complete the exercise – or if the result is hard to follow –
then your original statement may have some logical error in it. Perhaps your original argument is unclear, or misses a step. Perhaps the ‘Logical Prompts’ are absent, or are misleading (eg using ‘Therefore…’ instead of ‘In addition to this’).
2. If the result is blindingly dull, then check your original text for inventiveness. Is
your wording a bit on the lazy side? Is the text full of padding and irrelevant detail? Could you pare it down? Do you use strong, precise, unusual verbs and nouns? [ HANDOUT: PRESENTATION SKILLS 1: p. 2 ]

Mario Petrucci 2005
‘Mission Possible’: THE STUDY SKILLS PACK
Conclusion: even the simplest of logical prompts or ‘connectives’ can convey a lot of information…
Mario Petrucci 2005
‘Mission Possible’: THE STUDY SKILLS PACK


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