Rhetoric and Composition/Teacher's Handbook/Rhetorical Analysis

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Designing a Unit of Study for Teaching Rhetorical Analysis

Have you ever planned a trip to a new destination? If you have, you know that it requires having some knowledge of where you are going, what you would like to do when you get there, where you will stay, and how you will get back home. Designing a unit on teaching rhetorical analysis is not so different from planning a trip. The assignment you give your students plots out the destination at which you want your students to arrive and this becomes their initial "map" for the task. Understanding the rhetorical vehicles of logos, ethos and pathos help them on their way to analyzing a text. The critical thinking process they go through to analyze such a text results in them being able to focus on specific aspects, such as logical fallacies, to determine which textual "souvenirs" work well to persuade an audience and which don't. Overall, though the student is given the tools to embark on their own analytical journey, this process can be fraught with obstacles and difficulties.Included here are some ideas for using this handbook, as well as ideas that may help you guide your students along their individual paths.

The Planning Stage

Guide Questions to Design the Unit (Samples)

Creating a Unit Timeline:

The key to teaching rhetorical analysis is to start small. Students need to understand the "building blocks" of ethos, pathos, and logos before analyzing text. Some helpful methods to include in a unit timeline are:

  • Visual Analysis

Just a few of the mediums to consider using here include magazine advertisements, commercials, films, and news clips.

  • Close Reading

To prepare students to analyze a large piece of text, it is helpful to start with small pieces of text, such as poetry or song lyrics.

  • Practice, Practice, Practice

Now that your students have a grasp on the concepts of analysis, it is time to practice these skills on large pieces of text, such as newspaper editiorials, magazine articles, etc.




Sample Lesson Plans With the above mentioned units to cover, there are many different ways to tackle teaching them.

Teaching Ethos, Pathos, and Logos Lesson 1

Knowing the ways in which these rhetorical stepping stones work in texts and visuals is key to being able to analyze any kind of rhetoric. Students should read the definitions of these terms located in an earlier section of this book. In order to make these terms "come to life" for the students, some sample lesson ideas are included here:

Break students into groups of three. Ask for one person in the group to take some money out of their pocket (it shouldn't matter what amount). Ask another person in the group to be the persuader, and the third person in the group to be the observer. The object of this lesson is for the persuader to use whatever appeals or arguments he/she can think of in two minutes time in order to get the money from the person in the group who has it. The observer has to jot down whatever appeals the persuader uses in those two minutes. During or at the end of the two minute time period, the person with the money has to decide whether or not to "give" their money to the persuader based on the appeals that person has used. When the two minutes is up, take a tally to see how many monied students gave up their cash to the persuader and how many didn't. Then, have the observers tell the class (or write on the board) what appeals they heard the persuader using during the two minutes. Once this has been done, and you have a list of appeals on the board, go through them with the class to see what rhetorical appeal category they fall into. For example, if a persuader said that they needed the money to pay for a parking spot at the hospital to see their dying grandmother, that example would fall under "pathos." If the persuader said that they needed to borrow money now, but would pay the money back with interest, that would be an example of "logos." This activity helps student see the differences between the terms and how effective they each term can be in attempts at persuasion. Most often, the student persuaders who "get" the money (yes, they do have to give it back at the end) have used a combination of appeals, so you can discuss how using a mix of appeals often makes for more persuasive arguments.

Visual Analysis Sample 1 One of the first concepts to teach in analysis is the idea of audience. A great way to do this is to bring in a variety of magazines (any type of magazine will work). Put students into groups and have them look through the articles and advertisments.

Some questions to ask:

  • Who is the target audience? Young, old, men, women, the list goes on and on.
  • How do you know this?

After determining audience for the entire magazine, the next step would be to look at individual advertisements. Questions to consider:

  • Who is the target audience of the ad?
  • How is the text organized? What significance does this hold?
  • How was the creator attempting to influence or persuade the audience?
  • How does it appeal to ethos, pathos, or logos?
  • What connections or associations is the reader supposed to make?

Basically, these questions can be applied to any visual or verbal text, commercials, films, etc. After students have practiced these concepts, it might be time to have them write their own analysis of a visual.


Visual Analysis Sample 2 To get students to practice their ability to analyze a variety of visual rhetoric, it can be helpful to have students work with cartoons, logos, and artwork. For this lesson, show students a visual such as the Apple logo or a photograph such as "Candy Cigarette." Give them 10-15 minutes to write about these visuals in their journals or notebooks. Some guiding questions that they can use to help them write might be:

  • What is it about the visual that grabs your attention first? Why?
  • How does this image connect to the rest of the visual?
  • What purpose does this image serve? What do you think the person who created it wanted you to know?
  • What is this image about? Describe what ideas, emotions, etc.. are portrayed in the image.
  • What kinds of ideas is this image trying to persuade its audience about?

After students have some ideas written down, conduct a class discussion and ask students to volunteer what they observed about the images. If no one offers to volunteer their answers, it might be a good idea to ask each student to offer an answer to only one of the questions listed above.

After the discussion of the students' observations, ask if they see the rhetorical appeals of ethos, logos, and pathos at work in the visual. Exposing students to ways in which these appeals work in a variety of visuals can be key in helping them to understand the differences between the appeals and how they are used to persuade audiences. Doing these exercises aloud in class can help students see and hear the process of analysis and how it differs from that of simple observation.

Close Reading (Sample Assignments)

  • Bring samples readings of poetry to the class. As a class or in groups, have students do a line by line analysis of the poem. What does each line mean? How does it contribute the the poem as a whole? Are there any words/phrases you do not understand? Are there any double meanings to any of the phrases or the poem as a whole?
  • A similar way to do this would be with song lyrics. Bring examples to class, or have students bring their own examples to do a close reading of. Analyze the piece line by line, and also as a whole.

Practice, Practice, Practice (Sample Assignments)

  • Create an ad or logo for a company or product you admire. Keep your audience in mind and include visuals and text that they would find appealing. Attach to this visual a description of how you use each of the rhetorical appeals (ethos, pathos, logos) in this ad to get your ideas across and persuade your audience. The descriptions for each appeal should be at least one paragraph in length.
  • Split students into groups and have each group create an ad for the same company or product, but each will target different age groups, categories, etc. For example, have each group create an ad for Nike. How will one group appeal to teens, middle-aged people, men women, etc.?
  • Practicing rhetorical analysis with the class as a whole is important. Using editorials from newspapers and magazines, discuss as a class or in groups the elements of the piece. What is the author's message? What is the author's purpose? What rhetorical devices does the author use? What kind of language? Is the author successful in relaying his or her message?

Sample Rhetorical Analysis Assignments

Sample 1

Rhetorical analysis is a way of understanding and interpreting texts by examining and interpreting rhetorical devices used in a piece of writing. You are to find a piece of published work that is persuasive in nature; in other words, it argues a point. Editorials and pieces from opinion/commentary sections of magazines or newspapers will generally work the best. You may find these online at sites such as startribune.com or sctimes.com., or in an actual publication. The piece you choose should be at least 350-500 words in length. Choosing an article that is too short may result in not having enough to write about in your paper, choosing something too long may not fit the parameters of this assignment. Write an essay in which you in which you ANALYZE the author’s rhetorical effectiveness/ineffectiveness. How does the author appeal to ethos, pathos, and logos? You will need to consider the points we have discussed in class, as well as the strategies discussed in Chapters 10 and 11 in your book.

Primary Audience: Educated readers who have not read the text you are analyzing.

Point of View: Objective

General Purpose: To help your readers understand the connections between purpose, audience, subject matter, and rhetorical techniques.

Things to consider when writing the rhetorical analysis:

  • Take the time to find an article with a topic you can relate to. Don’t just choose the first article you find.
  • Photocopy the article, because it will need to accompany all drafts.
  • This paper is NOT a summary. One will be included, but it should be no more than one paragraph in length.
  • Your focus is not to agree or disagree with the author’s article, but to analyze how effective or ineffective the author is in presenting the argument.
  • Sample Peer Review For Rhetorical Analysis

(Samples)