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. To engage an audience on a particular topic, the person presenting the information must first establish themselves as someone who 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 provided information and is often the catalyst to drive 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 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 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 an idea through exaggeration|
By recognizing the tactics of a persuasive argument, students learn to use 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 or 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.
Use the following activities in your own classroom with the examples below! Use the template with your students, and assess their progress with Quick Rubric!
| Proficient |
| Emerging |
| Beginning |
Ethos, Pathos, and Logos
The elements of ethos, pathos, and logos are correctly identified and depicted, and an appropriate quote or summary is provided. There are at least 2 examples provided for each rhetorical element.
Most of the elements of ethos, pathos, and logos are correctly identified and depicted, and an appropriate quote or summary is provided. There are at least 2 examples provided for each rhetorical element.
The elements of ethos, pathos, and logos are incorrectly identified and depicted. Quotes and summaries may be missing or too limited. Only one example may have been provided for each rhetorical element.
The art chosen to depict the scenes are accurate to the work of literature. Time and care is taken to ensure that the scenes are neat, eye-catching, and creative.
The art chosen to depict the scenes should be accurate, but there may be some liberties taken that distract from the assignment. Scene constructions are neat, and meet basic expectations.
The art chosen to depict the scenes is inappropriate. Scene constructions are messy and may create some confusion, or may be too limited.
Ideas are organized. There are few or no grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.
Ideas are mostly organized. There are some grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.
Ideas may be disorganized or misplaced. Lack of control over grammar, mechanics, and spelling reflect a lack of proofreading.
Check out these ethos, pathos, logos activities from our guides on Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, and "Letter from Birmingham Jail".
Begin by introducing ethos, pathos, and logos as rhetorical strategies used to persuade an audience. Explain that incorporating these strategies in group discussions and debates can enhance the effectiveness of arguments and promote critical thinking.
Provide clear definitions and examples of ethos, pathos, and logos. Illustrate how each strategy appeals to different aspects of persuasion: ethos focuses on credibility, pathos appeals to emotions, and logos emphasizes logical reasoning.
Engage students in analyzing real-world examples of group discussions, debates, or persuasive speeches. Encourage them to identify instances of ethos, pathos, and logos used by the speakers to support their arguments.
Assign group activities or provide sample texts where students can identify and analyze the use of ethos, pathos, and logos. Guide discussions on how the application of these strategies influences the effectiveness and persuasiveness of the arguments presented.
Divide students into groups and assign a debate or discussion topic relevant to the curriculum or current events. Instruct each group to incorporate ethos, pathos, and logos into their arguments and encourage them to support their viewpoints with evidence and logical reasoning.
After the debate or discussion, facilitate a reflection session where groups can evaluate their use of ethos, pathos, and logos. Provide constructive feedback on their application of these strategies and encourage students to reflect on how they can improve their persuasive skills in future discussions or debates.
The Rhetorical Triangle is a framework developed by Aristotle to analyze the elements of persuasive writing and speaking. It consists of three key elements: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. Ethos refers to the credibility of the speaker or writer, Pathos appeals to emotions, and Logos appeals to logic.
Understanding the Rhetorical Triangle is essential for effective communication, particularly in persuasive writing and speaking. By analyzing the use of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in an argument, one can identify the strengths and weaknesses of the argument and ultimately develop stronger persuasive writing and speaking skills.
The Rhetorical Triangle can be applied in the classroom to teach students how to develop persuasive writing and speaking skills. Teachers can introduce students to the concepts of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos and provide examples of each. Students can then practice identifying these elements in various texts and speeches and apply them in their own writing and speaking.