German Oral Exam: TV Show Sketch

As you know, 5% of your final grade for German 102 comes from the second oral exam. On April 26th and 27th, we will be having these oral presentations in class. Here are some guidelines as to what you’re expected to do.

First off, this project should be fun -- yes, it’s a moderately significant part of your grade, but generally speaking, the more enjoyable presentations get better grades, so have fun! You’ll be working in small groups (three or four people: two is okay, but five is too many), and you’ll be presenting -- in front of the class -- a ‘skit’ that your group has come up with.

The length of these presentations must be a minimum of 5 minutes of speaking PER PERSON -- and they can certainly be longer. This means if your group is only two people, you can have a reasonable 10-minute sketch, but if you have four people in your group, it needs to be 20 minutes long. (That’s the primary reason I don’t recommend groups of five people, because the length becomes unmanageable.) Obviously, you’ll need to plan your topic and script accordingly. Please try to keep the speaking roughly even between members of the group: you CANNOT have one person say only one line, and the others talk for 10 minutes!

Your sketch should be modeled on a TV show, because that gives you a good framework for showing off your ideas. Some possible ideas are:

a talk show, like Rosie or Conan or Letterman. Have a host who introduces a few guests (who could be celebrities or simply people with interesting stories to tell), and interview them. Similarly, you could do a Jerry Springer type of show, with interactions between the guests rather than one-on-one interviews.

a game show, such as Jeopardy, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, etc. This is generally very easy to design, and has been a popular choice in the past. Make sure to plan the length accordingly!

other types of entertainment/variety shows, like Fear Factor, Iron Chef, Martha Stewart, etc. work well, too.

sitcoms or dramas: for these types of shows (Friends, South Park, ER, etc.), you’ll need to limit your presentation to a small segment, not an entire ‘show’ since that would be too long and complicated. These are often the hardest presentations to create, and sometimes fall flat if the humor or plot elements aren’t extremely clear, so unless you have a very good idea and can implement it well, I’d generally advise sticking to one of the other formats.

other formats of TV shows (the nightly news, The Daily Show, a telethon, Behind The Music, etc.) would probably work as well -- feel free to discuss your ideas with me if you’d like my opinion on whether an idea is feasible or not.

For the presentation in class, you must speak ONLY German. This means that you’ll probably need to clarify a few important vocabulary words for the rest of the class: do this before your presentation, either with a small handout or by writing on the chalkboard. A primary grading criteria (see below) is that the rest of the class should be able to understand and follow and enjoy your presentation, so it’s to your advantage to make sure any new words are explained before the presentation.

For the same reason, be careful about the humor in your sketch. Getting the rest of the class to laugh is great, but often it’s hard to pick up on subtle jokes -- remember that while you’ve been going over your skit many times, the rest of the class is hearing it for the first time and may not grasp every single thing you’re saying. In short, do be funny if you want to, but make sure the humor is obvious and clear.

You can certainly bring in props -- whether it be costumes, audiovisual materials, or whatever -- but you’re not required to do so. You should focus on whatever you need to make your presentation clear and easy to follow, as well as (hopefully!) enjoyable. If you want to play a CD/tape or show a video, please do, but keep it short: whatever external material you bring in doesn’t take the place of your own speaking time. Note: you may certainly videotape or film your skit outside of class and then show this video as your presentation! In that case, since you’re doing all the speaking on film, that counts as your entire presentation. You can also mix and match between pre-filmed and ‘live’ skits if that works to your advantage.

Grading Criteria:
There are a number of criteria in grading these presentations, and if one area is exceptionally strong, it can partially make up for weaknesses in another area. The main things I’m looking for are:

The audience (the rest of the class) should be able to understand and enjoy your presentation. This means you need to speak clearly and relatively simply, and make sure any important details are clear. This is probably the single most important element, and if the rest of the class can’t follow your presentation, your grade will suffer.

Pronunciation and clarity of speaking is also important. PLEASE check with me if you’re using words that you’ve looked up in a dictionary -- I can model the pronunciation for you so you don’t practice with mistakes. In this category I’d also put “natural” speech, e.g. do you sound like you’re reading your lines, or are you actually playing your part? Not everyone is an actor, but everyone can at least pretend to be a character for a few minutes, so do make an effort to ‘act’ as well as you can.

Creativity -- including the basic idea, as well as details like humor and novelty -- is a big plus. There’s nothing wrong with having a serious presentation, and in fact serious sketches can get very good grades, so don’t feel that you have to be funny. Still, most students find it more enjoyable to work on adding humor, and I do encourage that if you feel like that’s something you can do well.

Grammar and Accuracy. Since you’re not speaking spontaneously -- you’ll have plenty of time to go over what your ‘lines’ are -- grammar will be graded more heavily than in the previous oral interview. It’s still natural to have some grammatical mistakes, and as long as they’re fairly minor, they won’t count much against you, but grammar is nonetheless a graded element in these presentations. Also, beware of vocabulary: PLEASE check with me if you have any doubts that you’re using the correct word. Falsely chosen words (e.g. ‘bekommen’ doesn’t mean “become”!) will be counted against you, even more so than grammar mistakes.

You do not have to memorize every single line of your sketch: you can have a small notecard or two (a total of no more than one half of one full page) of ‘script’ -- but you should practice your sketch and lines so that you don’t have to constantly read off of your notes.

We will be devoting a small amount of class time to preparation for this project, but you will have to get together with your partners outside of class for planning and practice, so make sure to get their email addresses or phone numbers.

In an effort to avoid the problem of putting everything off until the last minute, I’d like to check on your progress over the next month. There will be two checks:

By MONDAY, APRIL 12th, you must tell me (a) who you’re working with, and also (b) a rough idea of your format or topic, with as many details as you’ve decided. You don’t have to have anything written at this point, although it wouldn’t hurt to have an outline or rough sketch of the general plot/idea of your skit.

By MONDAY, APRIL 19th, you will need to have a ‘rough draft’ of your sketch. I will collect this rough draft (KEEP A COPY FOR YOURSELF, so you can continue to work on it while I read it), and I’ll make notes on areas I think are good (creative, funny, clear) or bad (unclear or hard to follow, or simply wrong). I won’t be correcting every single grammatical mistake, I will merely be pointing out things and making suggestions. Your script will certainly change during the last week, as you put the finishing touches on it, so feel free to come to me with questions after this checkpoint as well.

Finally, the IN-CLASS PRESENTATIONS will take place on April 26th and 27th. As that time draws nearer, we’ll decide which day each group will present, but some people will have to go the first day, so you should plan on having your presentation ready by then.

Remember, this project should be -- and almost certainly will be -- fun. I can help out with the language aspects, but you will need to come up with the ideas on your own. Give yourself enough time, and be sure to practice a few times before the final presentation, and everything should go smoothly. Viel Glück und viel Spaß!