Effective multimedia presentations start with effective public speaking. Scaffolding your course assignments with Barbette Spaeth’s Classical Studies 100

In a Nutshell

In Barbette Spaeth’s Classical Studies 100 course, “The Witch in the Western World,” students learned to produce oral and digital presentations through a weekly workshop in which the parts of the presentation were chunked into smaller pieces. Students practiced the physical aspects of class presentation (eye contact, posture, gestures) in one class session, verbal aspects in another (pace, volume, tone), effective slide production in another. By the end of the semester, their confidence built, they put it all together and presented their final reports to the class. This DIY shows you the tools and resources Barbette and her students used to put their best foot forward.

Course Description

One of the hallmarks of this CLCV/COLL 100 course was the use of the fourth credit hour as a weekly lab session where students worked in groups on perfecting their communication assignments. Questions the students grappled with, both in the coursework and in their assignments, were: What exactly is a witch and why have ideas about this figure been so tenacious in the history of western civilization?  Why did people believe in witches and why did they prosecute others for the practice of witchcraft?  How were witches represented in the arts and literature?  What do these representations tell us about Western attitudes toward those who are associated with the practice of witchcraft?  Why do some people today identify themselves as witches and how do their beliefs and practices connect with earlier concepts of the witch? This seminar style course of 18 freshmen examined these questions through focusing on three periods:  classical antiquity (Greece and Rome), the early modern period (Europe and colonial America), and the modern world (the U.S. and Britain).  It considered both the evidence for the practice of witchcraft and the representation of the figure of the witch.

Course and Assignment Objectives

  • After completing this course successfully, students should have been able to do the following:
    • Compare and contrast ancient Greek and Roman ideas about witches and witchcraft.
    • Critique current scholarly approaches to the “witchcraze” in early modern Europe and colonial America.
    • Differentiate the various modern practices of witchcraft, including ceremonial magic, Satanism and Wicca.
    • Analyze primary sources regarding witches and witchcraft.
    • Analyze the image of the witch in art.
    • Locate and evaluate sources on witches and witchcraft and deploy these sources in argument.
    • Create and deliver oral and digital class presentations that communicated effectively their knowledge of witches and witchcraft.


Note: Prof. Spaeth used the 4th credit hour in this COLL 100 course for lab work related to information literacy and developing presentation skills

  • Lab Work (20% of final grade) In the lab for this course, students worked on and practiced their digital presentations.  Graded assignments for information literacy included an initial bibliography and an annotated bibliography.  Students were encouraged to decide on the topic for their final presentations early to enable them to do their initial bibliographies on this subject, but this was not required; it was required for the annotated bibliography.
  • Presentations (60% of final grade) Students completed 4 presentations over the course of the semester.
    • Presentation 1: Students recited a verbal spell of their own creation, modeled on examples from ancient texts or inscriptions (1-2 min.:  5%)
    • Presentation 2Students gave oral presentations summarizing scholarly articles on witchcraft that they chose from a list  (3-4 min.:  10%)
    • Presentation 3:  Students gave digital presentations discussing images of their choosing representing a witch or something to do with witchcraft. (5-6 min..:  20%)
    • Presentation 4:  Students gave digital presentations on topics of their choosing related to the study of the witch in the Western world (8-10 min.:  25%).

Lessons Learned

Major Takeaway: One of the most important elements of the success of the student assignments was the implementation of scaffolding. Scaffolding is the creation of several smaller component assignments that builds student skills to prepare them for a more complex assignment. Each of the assignments and presentations in Prof. Spaeth’s course was meant to build foundational elements for the final project. Presentation #1 had the students recite a spell they had written to allow them to focus on the physical and verbal aspects of their presentation, including eye contact, posture, gestures, pace, volume, and tone.. Presentation #2 built on their physical and verbal skills and had them summarize and explicate a scholarly article. Presentation #3 further built on that foundation and asked the students to present and analyze a single image in a digital presentation. Finally, presentation #4 brought all these elements together and had the students do a complete PowerPoint style presentation on their topic.

Things that worked well:

  • Scaffolding of assignments gave students the practice, skills, and confidence to perform well at every step of the process.
  • Lily Lamboy’s oral skills workshop was an important model for students. Ms. Lamboy’s videos break down the separate components of public speaking into easily grasped concepts. Those videos are available on YouTube. You can find the links to the individual videos in the Try It Yourself section below.
  • Groups: Students were divided up into “support and critique groups that remained constant for the entire semester. The groups consisted of 4 to 5 students and offered feedback on presentation practice during the lab sessions and acted as cheering sections for the presenters during their class presentations. Keeping consistent groups throughout the semester added continuity and trust within the groups that generally worked well.

Things to think about improving for next time:

  • Presentation #3, which asked students to do a multimedia presentation on a work of art:
    • Originally, Barbette allowed students to choose any work of art depicting witches they wanted, but a few of the students chose the same work of art, and several students chose the same artist. Rethinking how works of art are selected to ensure there is a greater range of artworks but that still allows students the freedom to choose works that are meaningful to them is important in the next iteration of the course.
    • Understanding image resolution, size, and faithful reproduction was an issue for some students, so part of the lab session next time might be spent teaching students about these concepts.
    • Some students had trouble pointing out aspects of the images without turning their backs on the audience and pointing with their fingers while talking. More practice on doing this is needed.


Shared Resources

Below are resources developed by Dr. Spaeth for her course. All her assignments are included in order to stress the scaffolded nature of the course assignments. If these are useful to you, she would be glad to hear how you’re using them or incorporating them into your own teaching.

Try it Yourself / Tools Used



  •  Speaking to Connect: Lily Lamboy. This series of public speaking tutorials is a useful tool in scaffolding your students’ presentation skills. In this playlist, you will find useful segments on:
    • Eye contact
    • Posture
    • Gestures
    • Pacing
    • Fluency
    • Volume
    • Tone


  • Students in this course used Microsoft PowerPoint, still the industry standard for presentations. PowerPoint is an important app to know, but there are many other options to choose from, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Being familiar with the different types of presentation software available and how the application you use can inform the story you’re telling is an important aspect of digital literacy. Some other options are:
    • Microsoft Sway: More visually appealing than PowerPoint for many applications. Lots of built in features that PowerPoint doesn’t have, including collaborative opportunities, embedding videos, image galleries, and more. Free for anyone with a W&M account.
    • Google Slides: Very similar to Microsoft PowerPoint, with the added functionality of easily embedding YouTube videos. Real-time collaboration for group presentations is very easy. Free for anyone with a W&M Apps account.
    • Timeline JS: Great for telling stories with timelines. Embedded video, audio, and images can make Timeline JS presentations very compelling. Free.
    • Storymap JS: From the makers of Timeline JS, Storymap JS is a map-based, rather than a timeline-based storytelling application. Free
About Mike Blum

Mike is the Academic Technologist for the Humanities at the College