Reflection: Trust and Respect Students Teaching Rhetorical Strategies (6 Days) - Section 3: Day 2: The Rhetoric of Letters in "The Apology: Letters from a Terrorist"


Well, the lesson itself as it was planned did not really go as planned, but ultimately we had a nice discussion about the rhetorical influence regarding the use of complete letters.

The first challenge was the homework itself.  I know when I did it I had a hard time finding entry into the letter because the father isn’t really part of the essay—he doesn’t have a voice.  Additionally, we as the reader don’t really know if the author communicates with her father throughout the process, or if he had seen all the other letters.  It turned out that other students had a similar challenge in figuring out voice.  Talking about the challenge of writing the letter led to some great discussion, however, of the piece itself and in particular, how Omar’s voice changes through the letters, and also the general intrigue of the narrative.  Similarly, the debate idea didn’t really work as planned, again because of voice—we have Omar’s voice from the time because they are actual letters, but Laura Blumenfeld’s voice is from the essay written afterwards, not the voice at the time.  As the student teachers wrote in their reflection “the group ended up discussing Omar’s voice and how he changed from his first letter to his last letter.”  So, this ultimately was a good lesson in really thinking more deeply about how you as the presenter would do the tasks you’re asking a group to do; had they thought more about that rather than simply thinking about the cleverness of the writing assignment, they may have seen this issue, and also got to the deeper understanding of voice and point of view.  However, ultimately this was the lesson that the whole class got, since they talked about it.  And the girls did a nice job of recognizing that their initial idea was not going to work and letting the conversation go in the direction it did.

Part of the class conversation also centered on just how intriguing the narrative is, with the author endearing herself with the family of the terrorist, and how the events happen over the course of a couple years—the letters providing that authentic voice really create a strong narrative element.  One student had a fantastic idea for a future lesson when she said that this would make a great movie.  A number of students joined into this discussion, talking about ways to make the movie, and debating about the central focus—one student in particular said how they wouldn’t want it to be an American’s point of view, but rather give equal voice to both cultures.  This got me thinking about a future lesson where I have students do a story board for the essay.  This is something I’ve done a number of times with fiction, but never with a non-fiction essay like this.  I think this would give students a really interesting way for students to dig deep into understanding the central idea of an essay, as well as considering organizational techniques and how they translate to film. 

So, the lesson didn’t go as planned, but the girls facilitating did a nice job of recognizing that and allowing for the broader discussion.  This is turning out to be a great way for students to practice preparing and facilitating discussion in a safe environment, because the class has bonded so well throughout the year and feel comfortable with each other that the teachers of the day feel okay taking risks.

  Lesson on Preparation
  Trust and Respect: Lesson on Preparation
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Students Teaching Rhetorical Strategies (6 Days)

Unit 12: Rhetorical Review: Politics and the Environment
Lesson 5 of 5

Objective: SWBAT recognize a key rhetorical strategy utilized by an author by preparing a lesson on the particular strategy and teaching it to their peers.

Big Idea: A great way to deeply learn a topic is to prepare to teach it. . . and then teach it.

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