Rhetorical Strategies for The Declaration of Independence
Lesson Plan Reference
Grade Level 9-10
Difficulty Level 5 (Advanced / Mastery)
Type of Assignment Individual, Partner, or Group
Type of Activity: The Rhetorical Triangle: Ethos, Pathos, LogosCommon Core Standards
- [ELA-Literacy/RI/9-10/1] Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
- [ELA-Literacy/RI/9-10/6] Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.
- [ELA-Literacy/RI/9-10/8] Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.
In high school, the ELA Common Core 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. The ability to dissect and validate, or debunk, other arguments is key to strong persuasive writing. This requires a basic working knowledge of rhetoric. A great way to enhance students' understanding of effective arguments is to teach the Aristotelian concepts of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. Students can then identify and analyze the effectiveness of these strategies in a work of literature, a speech, or a letter.
The Declaration of Independence was written to officially announce the colonies’ break-up with England; however, it also needed to formally outline why they had done so not only to King George III, but also to the citizens of the colonies, and to the world. It needed to be clear, show that all steps had already been taken to avoid this, and persuade the people that this was the right decision. Have students examine the text and come up with quotes from throughout the document of Ethos, Logos, and Pathos rhetoric. Have students illustrate these examples in a storyboard. The following example shows two examples of each strategy.
ETHOS (ETHICS / CREDIBILITY)
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America in general congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do in the name and by authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare that these united colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states…
...that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government…
He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
A prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
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Create a storyboard that shows examples of ethos, pathos, and logos from the text.
- Identify two examples of each rhetorical strategy: ethos, pathos, and logos.
- Type the examples into the description box under the cell.
- Illustrate the examples using any combination of scenes, characters, and items.
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