Saturday Morning Coffee 3/2: Teaching Rhetorical Analysis

6:00 AM Sarah Koves 0 Comments

Early Saturday mornings are the only quiet time I get to myself most weeks, and I save all the interesting reads that I find online for that time.  This week I am going to share with you a collection of resources that I use for teaching rhetorical analysis.


My classroom has had rhetorical analysis lessons for the last several years for a couple of reasons.  Michigan started giving the SAT test as our major high school state assessment, and this test includes a writing section, which is a rhetorical analysis.  I also teach online part time for Michigan Virtual, which provides online classes to Michigan students in schools.  Last year Michigan Virtual assigned me to the Advanced Placement English Language and Composition, which also has a rhetorical analysis essay.  I am sure there is a connection here since both the SAT and the Advanced Placement English Language and Composition test are departments of The College Board.  With these changes in my teaching assignment, I very quickly had to come up with lessons to build this into my classroom.

1-  I have created this quizlet to help my students practice some literary terms before the quiz.  Students have to understand the elements: their definition and application before they can begin to analyze an argumentative piece of writing or a speech.  Some of these are fairly easy for students to grasp (anecdote and statistic) while others like tone and allusion are more complex.

2-  Many teachers start a rhetoric unit with ethos, pathos, and logos.  I, however, prefer to do that after a broader collection of literary terms.  My students use this sketch note freebie to begin learning these three rhetorical elements.  They can take their own notes and glue the pages in their notebook to serve as a reference going forward.  I always limit any piece to only one of the three because otherwise, it becomes too routine.

3-  Stacey Lloyd has a great post with ideas on how to teach rhetoric and persuasive writing using speeches and advertisements.  She even included a link to a free lesson on teaching some of the terms, and the lesson is a great starting off point.   I was especially happy to find her link to recorded speeches to use for analysis.  Each of Stacey’s ideas is a great point of entry for students doing this type of analysis for the first time.



4-  Building Book Love created a way to visually graph the literary/rhetorical techniques used in a passage.  With a shared texts students can pick out examples of different techniques and display them on the board as visual of what is most common.  After students pull our the items, they can discuss what might be the best choices to write about in the essay.    Her example is from Animal Farm, but she also has done this with Julius Caesar.  I am going to try this activity with The Crucible.

5- Rhetorical Analysis with a PAPA Square by The  Daring English Teacher.  Her PAPA Square (purpose, argument, persona, and audience) analysis brings a more creative way to going over the basics of rhetoric.  I would love to do this in small groups giving each group one speech from a collection of famous speeches on different topics.  I like that she has her students select one of their own sources from their research writing for completing this project.  She also is offering a freebie of her PAPA Square Analysis Project if you sign up by email.

6-  The College Board site for the Advanced Placement English Language Exam has exams going back to 1999.  Every year has a rhetorical analysis question that is passage-based.  You can even get sample analysis responses with scores and commentary.  I use the passages for reading practice and annotation.  Students can even do some scoring on the sample essays themselves.  I also use them for sample analysis with questions for students to see great examples.

7-  John Grisham’s A Time to Kill is a great novel.  The movie with Matthew McConaughey is also stellar.  His closing argument is all kinds of fun to use with rhetorical analysis; plus, who doesn’t love Mr. McConaughey?


8-  Pernilla’s English Classroom’s post on writing an argument speech has a great image, which is also available on her posters tab and a link to another video of one of President Obama’s speeches that illustrates ethos, pathos, and logos.  Given the current political climate, I am leery of using the current president or former president’s speeches and prefer to go back farther for examples.



9-  The Rhetor’s Toolbox’s post on How to Teach Analysis Like a Boss gives a basic process for working through rhetorical analysis.  I love chunking the text and looking for patterns and shifts.  Plus, I am always a huge fan of writing the introduction and conclusion last.  As a bonus, there is a link to another post on writing a thesis statement for the rhetorical analysis essay that I am using regularly. 

10-  Open Classroom’s Rhetorical Analysis Bookmarks are a stellar reference for students. There is both a foldable, two-sided bookmark and a one-sided bookmark that you can download and print for free.  Any reference that students can have on their desks as they read is a bonus.

What is your best resource for teaching rhetorical analysis?



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