Rhetoric is using language in an effective manner with the aim to persuade or motivate an audience. Rhetoric is applicable to both speaking and writing.
In high school, the ELA Common Core State Standards require students to develop formal writing skills, creating essays and arguments that are well-thought-out and syntactically varied. They also require students to effectively use persuasive writing strategies to defend a claim or point of view.
A great way to enhance students' understanding of effective arguments is to teach the Aristotelian concepts of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. This requires a basic working knowledge of rhetoric. A key to strong persuasive writing is the ability to dissect and validate, or debunk, the rhetoric of other arguments.
Ethos is the credibility of the speaker or writer. In order to engage an audience on a particular topic, the person presenting the information must first establish him or herself as someone that can be trusted, or as someone who has a lot of experience with the topic. This is also known as ethics.
Ethos appeals to:
Pathos accesses the emotions and deeply held beliefs of the audience to draw them into the subject matter. Pathos often makes audiences feel like they have a personal stake in the information being provided and is often the catalyst that drives them into action.
Pathos appeals to:
Logos uses logic, reasoning, evidence, and facts to support an argument. Logos appeals to the more rational side of the audience’s minds, and provides support for the subject matter. Logos strategies can often be used to strengthen the impact pathos has on the audience.
The successful implementation of ethos, pathos, and logos in writing or speech depends on the effectiveness of different rhetorical strategies. There are many different rhetorical strategies (and rhetorical fallacies!) that can strengthen or weaken an argument. A few of the more familiar strategies to students include:
|Rhetorical Questions||encourages audience to think about an obvious answer|
|Analogy||establishes a more familiar concept to explain a more complicated or remote subject|
|Rebuttal||disproves or refuses an assertion|
|Antithesis||uses strongly contrasting words, images, or ideas|
|Parallelism||repeats a grammatical structure to emphasize an important idea|
|Repetition||repeats a specific word or phrase to ensure that the audience pays attention|
|Loaded Words||uses the connotations of words in order to play on the audience’s emotions|
|Restatement||expresses the same idea but in different words to clarify or emphasize|
|Understatement or Overstatement||use to be ironic call attention to an idea, or to emphasize and idea through exaggeration|
By recognizing the tactics of a persuasive argument, students learn to utilize it themselves and recognize these tactics in daily life. One excellent way to teach and review the concepts of ethos, pathos, and pathos is through a storyboard.
In the following example storyboard, each concept is briefly explained and then shown in action. When students create a definition-example board like this, classroom concepts are reinforced, and students have the chance to demonstrate them creatively.
By incorporating the visual elements of a storyboard as well as text, even students who struggle creating organized written thoughts can demonstrate mastery of the subject. Additionally, teachers can immediately see and respond to inaccuracies, allowing them to use class time to assess and correct, rather than handing back graded work a day or two later.
Utilize the following activities in your own classroom with the examples below! Use the template with your students, and assess their progress with our Quick Rubric!
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