Form and content

Like the written task, the further oral activity is a marriage of form and content. Students can do a debate, interview or role play based on their understanding of 'course material' and 'texts'. However, if you study the FOA criteria carefully, you will see that textual analysis is at the core of the task. Criterion A and B refer to 'texts', 'language' and their relation to 'subject matter'. It's tempting for students to do a 'cut and dry', good old-fashioned presentation. In fact that may be the best starting point for many students. There is nothing wrong with this. Creativity, after all, is not (directly) rewarded.

For students who are up to the challenge however, role play, campaign pitches, speeches or interviews may be very appropriate. One of the aims of this course is to develop the 'powers of expression' in various contexts. This means that students should be exposed to a range of different types of 'speech acts' (which is like the term 'text type' for the spoken word). What is the language of a speech? What do good interviewers usually say? What does a campaign pitch look and sound like? 

This lesson takes a step in answering such questions. We will look at three speech acts: speeches, campaign pitches and presentations. We will focus on the use of language that defines and distinguishes these three. Finally, we will ask how the analysis of an awareness campaign on blood diamonds could be carried out in the form of one of these speech acts.


Before we explore various speech acts, we have to take a step back and ask ourselves: what do we want to demonstrate our knowledge of? The best FOAs are rooted in a primary source. Below you see three ads from a blood diamond awareness campaign, designed by an art student, Michael Griffith, in 2008. Imagine these are your primary sources on which your FOA is based. You have to show your understanding of how these ads use language (and image) to construct meaning. Write a bullet-pointed list of ideas that show your analysis of these three ads.

 3 Conflict diamond awareness ads
Michael Griffith

Sample student response

After brainstorming together as a group, you may come up with a list of ideas such as these:

  • There seems to be a great deal of justaposition: black/white, blood/luxury, death/marriage, etc.
  • Photoshop has been used to create a unrealistic images.
  • Diamond rings are usually presented on white hands in ads. Number 3 is black.
  • There is a use of idiom and pun in each to make you think about the complex issues surrounding blood diamonds.
  • The cursive font is characteristic of ads for luxury products. 
  • The message of the cursive font is much different from the language below. Whereas the slogan (above) is abstract and figurative, the copy (below) is very concrete and factual, with the exception of the tagline: "Beauty isn't worth death."


Now that we know what to say, the next question is: 'How do we say it?' After course material has been explored, you can discuss which speech acts are appropriate. Although the guide says that students should plan activities 'in consultation' with teachers, it is recommended to limit students to two or three types of activities in the beginning.

Below are three examples of speech acts: a speech, a presentation and a campaign pitch. As you watch each speech act, take notes on the defining structural characteristics of each speech act.

Speeches, presentations and pitches

Speech Presentation Campaign pitch
Many rhetorical devices: hypophora, antithesis, anaphora, etc. Good delivery skills, such as pauses, body language and inflection of voice. There is evidence of logos, pathos and ethos. The Chocolate Biscuits speech is persuasive.
A clear purpose, such as the analysis of ads. Jean Killbourne's presentation shows the actual ads that it critiques. Presentations often present findings and ideas are focused on the audience's interests.
Don Draper is persuasive. He does not run through a list of product atributes or qualities of the ad. His ad is insterted in a slide show, quite cleverly. In fact he talks about the ideas and philosophy behind the product, "it is not a wheel. It's a carousel."

  Chocolate Biscuits
For the sake of argument

  Killing Us Softly 3
Jeane Killbourne

  The Kodak Carousel
Mad Men

The language of the activity

Each speech act comes with its own set of language. There are certain phrases that you can and cannot say in certain contexts. Below are several statements that could have been taken from FOAs on the conflict diamond awareness campaign. For each statement, discuss whether the language is typical of a speech, a presentation or a campaign pitch. Some statements may belong in multiple categories.

The language of the activity

Speech Presentation Campaign pitch

3. This clearly defines the nature of the context in which the speaker is speaking.

5. Such generalizations work well in speeches.

8. Comments on the use of Photoshop might fit into a speech on the media.

9. The question is sweeping and it grabs the audience's attention.

1. The phrase, "I have decided to analyze," tells the audience that this is analysis for the sake of analysis.

7. This focus on the font is characteristic of an ad critique presentation.

8. Comments on the use of Photoshop are part of deconstructing the ad in a presentation.

10. This statement sounds very school-like in that the conclusion is a basic summary of the commentary.

2. The question draws in the audience and focuses on the rationale behind the ads.

4. The target audience is clearly defined by "your magazine," and the purpose is to sell these ads to editor

5. Such generalizations work well in pitches.

6. The phrase 'my ads' lead one to believe that this is a pitch. Furthermore the speaker explains the rationale behind the campaign, which is characteristic of a pitch.

9. The question is sweeping and it grabs the audience's attention.

11. This statement extrapolates the essence of the campaign to intrigue the audience.

12. 'Your magazine' gives away the target audience.

13. This statement could be considered persuasive for those who wish to see the ad 'go viral'.

  1. I have decided to analyze three counter ads that make you more aware of the effects of ‘blood diamonds’.
  2. What do you think of when you think of diamonds? Do you think of violence, death and African wars? Probably not. But these ads will make you stop and think of these injustices next time you see a diamond.
  3. Thank you for inviting me here today to speak about the power of the media in shaping our views of Africa.
  4. These ads belong in your magazine because your target audience cares about these atrocities in Africa.
  5. Shocking circumstances require shocking ads.
  6. I find that the best way to criticize is through satire. My campaign satirizes the legions of ads we see for luxury products every day.
  7. Notice that the ads use the same type of cursive font seen in ads for beauty products.
  8. Through the use of Photoshop, we can manipulate images to give them new meaning. It’s a powerful tool in the hands of the media.
  9. How do you get people to care about the 500,000 deaths it takes to produce 300,000 carats of diamonds?
  10. To conclude, I feel that these ads are very effective in making the target audience think about blood diamonds.
  11. People are drawn to conflict. Remember those fights on the school playground? We look at ads like these with the same interest. Black / white, death and marriage, blood and diamonds. These are conflicts that intrigue anyone.
  12. Running these ads will give your magazine an edgy status. Controversy sells.
  13. In these times, these are the kinds of images that go viral and spread awareness.


How would you base an FOA on the conflict diamond ads from this lesson? Prepare a speech, presentation or campaign pitch, as if you were the chocolate biscuits man, Jean Killbourne or Don Draper. Use some of the language from the activity above.

Teacher talk

This lesson raises several question on the nature of the FOA and how it is assessed. Should creativity be encouraged or discouraged? What is in the students' interest? More on this in the box below (click on 'show').

Criteria, creativity and language

At the core of this lesson is a dichotomy between form and content. Even though these are presented as clear-cut concepts, students (and teachers) often confuse the two. Often times at teacher workshops the question arises: “If we have studied speech writing, and my student delivers an excellent speech, will he/she score well on the criteria.” The short and simple answer is ‘no’.

In fact the IB has published a ‘clarifications’ document (OCC) on this very question. Criterion B asks for an awareness of “how language is used,” full stop. In the clarifications document they have finished this sentence so that it reads, “how language is used in the texts studied.” This means that the FOA must be rooted in a primary or source, turning the activity into an exercise on textual analysis. This is to say that the speech must show both an understanding of the medium of delivery (form) and an understanding of the text(s) studied (content).

The Chocolate Bisuits speech is perfect for illustrating this very important rule: both content and form matter equally. If you were to assess the Chocolate Biscuits speech against the FOA criteria, it would score very poorly on Criteria A and B and very well on Criteria D and C. In other words, it has no content and excellent form.

This begs the question: “Is there room for creativity in the further oral activity?” The answer is not very simple. It would have to start with “Yes, but…” As suggested in the introduction to this lesson, you may want to start with presentations before moving on to creative performances. Students are more familiar with this type of speech act from school-life, and it lends itself well to textual analysis.

Arguably, if students have studied an advertising campaign, a campaign pitch (a la Don Draper) should lend itself well to an analysis of these ads. Without a doubt, in the third video, Don Draper demonstrates an understanding of the actual ad campaign that he is pitching, even if it is only presented as one slide in a reel of family pictures. Although he does not analyze the image with the carousel (the actual ad), it reflects the sentiments of nostalgia, youth and family life, which are important to an understanding of the text. Admittedly, Don would score poorly on Criterion B, an understanding of the effects of how language is used. It is important to point out to students that Don Draper is not an IB student.

As far as form is concerned, we must also ask ourselves if we as teachers are giving students the proper support to perform debates, interviews, talk shows or campaign pitches. Students come to us with ideas that they would like to perform, which are not always based on speech acts that we have studied in class. How many interviews have they seen? Do they know the defining characteristics of a good interview? In the Language A: Language and Literature classroom, there should be some teaching of speech acts. Activities such as third one, which asks students to say where each statement could have come from, a speech, presentation or pitch, are good for developing the language necessary to perform well and to score well on Criterion C and D.

In the end, teachers are responsible for their FOA marks. If you have seen a student explore the subtleties of campaign pitches and deliver one with excellent delivery, then the student should be rewarded on Criterion C and D. If this speech act does not lend itself well to Criterion A and B, you may want to be more forgiving when assessing those criteria. However, there should be at least some understanding of a primary source, and students should engage in textual analysis at some point, even if only briefly. Because we are working with these criteria, we may see presentations disguised as pitches, speeches about speeches (see my Cambridge textbook, pages 30-31) or talk shows about controversial ads. We are preparing students for various speech acts and assessing their school work at the same time. 

All materials on this website are for the exclusive use of teachers and students at subscribing schools for the period of their subscription. Any unauthorised copying or posting of materials on other websites is an infringement of our copyright and could result in your account being blocked and legal action being taken against you.