The Rhetorical Triangle and SOAPSTone Analysis

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SWBAT explain the context of a text through concepts in the rhetorical triangle, as well as complete a SOAPSTone analysis of a text.

Big Idea

Analyzing the basic circumstances of a text first will lead to deeper analysis of rhetorical moves.

Lesson Overview

Rhetorical terminology review

15 minutes

The students will come into class having read a chunk of their textbook The Language of Composition over the two previous evenings, taking notes on essential terminology regarding rhetorical analysis and the rhetorical situation (this should be review to some extent, since I introduced the rhetorical triangle in their sophomore American literature class last year).  They also completed a SOAPStone analysis of George W. Bush's 9/11 speech (identifying subject, occasion, audience, purpose, speaker, and and tone).  The goal of this first part of the lesson is to assess their understanding of the terminology and clarify any issues students might have.

In order to have students review the material to get into that frame of mind (they don't have mastery yet, and who knows when they did their homework?  Having students review before engaging in discourse tends to lead to much better understanding), I will ask students to sit with a partner and ping-pong back and forth with explanations of each of the bolded terms from the textbook, using their own words to explain the terms and not the textbook's (they were coached before the homework assignment that notes are for them, not for me, so use words that make sense to them).  If there are any terms that were confusing, they should discuss those and try to iron them out.

 As they do this, I will circulate and listen to their conversations to get a sense of their understanding, and what items I will need to address further.  I also can get a sense of who didn't do their homework.

After the groups seem to be done going through the terms, I will ask each group what terms that were vague for them as another way to understand what they know and don't know, and to make sure everyone has a similar understanding of the concepts; as they share, i willa clarify these terms and concepts with the class.

Once I've heard from the groups, I will address a couple items if they don't come up in class that students may think they know, but may not be as clear on (these will come from listening to their conversations, as well as from my own list of items I want to make sure they got).

  • The first thing I address is a quote from the text that says "rhetoric is always situational."  This is a nice tweet-size statement to remember that context is extremely important.  This also helps transition to the SOAPStone discussion that comes next.
  • The second thing is the term persona.  This is a word they've probably heard before and have an idea of, but don't realize the importance--that the author is taking on a persona within a specific text.

When it seems that all of the concepts have been clarified, I will move to the next part of the class regarding the Bush speech.

Rhetorical Triangle and Jolliffe's Rhetorical framework

20 minutes

The basic rhetorical triangle structure is a review for the students, since I introduced it in their 10th grade honors class the previous year.  So going over it again is to bring it to the forefront and as a lead in to introduce Jolliffe's rhetorical design, which, while more complicated, is in some ways easier to understand because it is in a flowchart design--it outlines the stages one goes through in rhetorical analysis.  I'm not so interested in having them memorize this flow chart at this point as I am in having students understand the process and stages for analyzing a piece of writing--that it takes conscious effort and precise, close reading of the text.

I have a hand out for students to keep as a resource that has both the rhetorical triangle and Jolliffe's framework.  The triangle is from the AP institute instructor (John Brassil), which is slightly different than the textbook's version because it has the words "intent, aim, purpose" in the middle rather than just "text."  I like this better because it shows how the audience has a distinct intent in how they address their audience with the message (I think he published this in a book, but a search on the internet will likely yield lots of different versions of this--the different versions shows how the emphasis is on the conceptual framework more than the specific words in the triangle).  

This section will be a lot of direct instruction, as I put the document on the projector with my ELMO document camera and essentially explain the concepts of the triangle--that the author takes on a persona with their text to convey a message to their audience with a particular aim in mind--that they all work together, and for it to be effective, the tools have to be used well.    As I go through these steps, I will ask students to give examples of the triangle points via Lou Gehrig's speech at Yankee stadium, as well as a letter from Einstein (they read both of these in the textbook).

After we've gone through these as a class, I will shift to Jolliffe's model, also on the handout.  I explain the word "exigence," again using Gehrig as an example, before using a Prezi I found on-line to walk through the rest of the model.  I particularly like how the presentation uses the word "filter," so I emphasize this word, and that this model really just outlines the thought process for analyzing a text.  Once we've gone through this model, we will shift our attention to George W. Bush.

SOAPStone Analysis of 9/11 Speech

40 minutes

Students were asked to complete a S.O.A.P.S. analysis of the 9/11 Bush speech as part of their homework.  This lesson is to assess their understanding of constructing the context of a text using this method, as well as expand their analysis by adding "tone" to the mix.  The homework assignment was meant to have them apply their initial understanding of rhetorical analysis as they read for a learning tool, but not as an assessment.  After going over the concepts earlier in this lesson, students should be able to expand on their initial understanding.

Before talking about this, tough, I want to show them the 9/11 speech.  I will ask to have the text out so they can check in with it as they listen to George W. Bush deliver the speech to the nation, seeing the words as they hear them to compare their responses.  

After watching the speech, I will ask students to share their responses to each of the SOAPS elements:  Subject, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, and Speaker.   Within this discussion, we will also talk about how their perceptions may have changed when hearing and seeing the speech, as apposed to reading it.  This while we won't spend a lot of time on this part, it will introduce rhetorical analysis of multi-media texts (that we will do soon). While the first three elements don't really require textual evidence because of the context here, when we get to "purpose," I will also ask students to point to passages that suggest their answer.  Similarly, with "speaker," I ask them to consider what persona Bush takes on as he speaks.

Once we've established these and discussed passages, I will then ask students what they thought the tone of the speech was, as I write these words on the board to collect the data and refer to them as a collection.

After we have a list, I will then have students to read the text again and annotate, highlighting words and passages that suggest the tones on the board.  This portion moves the students to the next stage of analysis--going from establishing context to looking at the moves the author/speaker uses to get there, and citing specific evidence to show their analysis.  I also tell them they can consider the audio in establishing tone, explaining how the specific passages were said.

Finally, students will share their responses in an open discussion format, and as we talk about tonal shifts, I will ask about the effect these shifts have when next to each other, also introducing the idea of looking at organization and structure in a text as part of a rhetorical analysis.

Next Steps:  Students will apply their knowledge of analyzing a rhetorical situation to a more complex text--Elizabeth Cady Stanton's speech to the First Women's Rights Convention.  While this is a more complex text, it is also a text they read in tenth grade, so it is a good way to practice rhetorical strategies with a complex text in a way that is manageable for them.