This quarter, my seniors are honing in on rhetorical analysis. They’re looking through the lens of issues that are significant on the local, state, national, and global levels. Since our vertical and horizontal alignment is a bit of a work in progress, I needed to find an entry point that would serve as instruction, review, and assessment–all at once. Enter the word sort.
I made this word/example sort while I was on maternity leave, knowing that I would be working on rhetorical appeals when I came back to the classroom. Teaching the appeals can be as dry or as interesting as you make it, so I wanted to have an interactive tool that would be engaging, versatile, and timely.
I started this lesson with a little clip from the most recent Presidential debate. While they watched, my students had to fill out a little T-chart. On one side, they focused on Hillary Clinton; on the other side, Donald Trump. I asked them to brainstorm bullet points to finish this sentence: “The candidate appeals to our sense of ________.”
Next we broke into partners and busted out the word sort packets. I had them find and match the terms ethos, logos, and pathos with their definitions. A quick check for accuracy, then we labeled the appeals from the T-chart to use as a reference point later.
Once we had worked through the terms, my students set to work with the sorting activity. They had 25 examples from Presidents’ speeches to sort by the dominant appeal used. These were pithy quotes, such as
“It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.” – Barack Obama
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. ” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
“One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty counsels. The thing to be supplied is light, not heat.“—Woodrow Wilson
They chose five (at least one example of each appeal) and plugged them into a graphic organizer to hold their thinking. They also had to explain the effect on the audience.
That’s a lot for 58 minutes! This is one of my new favorites, though. I love how open-ended it is: it forces critical thinking. I managed to get the information I needed without giving a quiz, and those kids who didn’t have exposure to the appeals got a crash course. Plus, we were able to tie in current events. During a non-election year, this would be fun with the Living Room Candidate.
If you’re interested in trying this out with your students, you can find the word sort I used in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. I also have a sports version–same process and handouts, but with speeches from famous sports professionals.
I hope you’re also finding some interesting ways to incorporate current events. After all, it’s all about helping our students become citizen rhetors who can think critically and independently.
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