Rhetoric and Advertising: Clint Eastwood at Halftime

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SWBAT use rhetorical analysis tools to analyze a video advertisement, and learn how visual tools can be used for rhetorical effect.

Big Idea

Visuals juxtaposed with language can create compelling rhetorical appeals

Lesson Overview

Today I want to move students beyond written text to evaluating the rhetorical situation and appeals in a visual text.  In our 21st century world, "texts" more often include words with other media (sound, picture, video, etc.), and the ubiquitous nature of multimedia texts on the internet has made learning to analyze these forms ever more important, so this activity begins what will be frequent lessons analyzing texts other than solely written form (though because the AP exam is all about written texts, we can't cover it too much!).

To help students separate and analyze the different media, and how they are working together to develop central ideas, I will use an "eyes and ears protocol" (described in the "eyes and ears protocol" section of this lesson).   With this protocol, students focus in on citing evidence in specific forms that are not necessarily words, then add the variety of analysis tools together to see how a director can sequence events in different forms to make a rhetorical argument.

This halftime video with Clint Eastwood was used at the AP Summer seminar, so doing my own analysis of it in that setting showed just how rich a piece it was, and therefore how it could be a strong model for joint analysis.

Tomorrow I will have students bring other examples of advertisements in and do their own analysis of a new text to practice these skills.

Analysis of Text Only

20 minutes

I want to familiarize students with the words of the commercial first so they can better focus on the delivery of the text by Clint Eastwood and the visuals that accompany the script (I have found that analyzing a video the first time you see it is often more complex than text only, because there are so many things coming at you at once, and there is not the benefit of glancing back at the previous word or sentence; it really is analysis in real time).  Also, by analyzing the text only first, they will be able to recognize the influence of sound and visuals to the rhetorical impact because they already know some of what the words are doing.  They will also have this as a reference later when they are doing a rhetorical analysis of the commercial through the eyes and ears protocol.

To begin, I will ask students to read the text and annotate for any word choices, syntax, etc., that they feel are representative of rhetorical strategies and appeals.

Since today we are working to jointly learn how to analyze a video--to learn the steps and why they are important, we will establish the rhetorical situation (SOAPS) as a class, with me writing each element on the Smartboard for visual emphasis.

Once we've established this, then we'll look at unique moments in the text via a Ping Pong activity.  I will ask someone to start by offering one interesting language move and explaining why they chose it--how it influences the audience.  As the students share, I will ask clarifying questions, etc., and will also establish the kinds of appeals the writer makes (these questions will not be too probing, because I'm asking students to "volunteer" to go next rather than me selecting someone to practice participating--I would make it too intimidating if my questions sounded too much like "grilling" them).  After all the students have had a chance to share and we've talked some about what the the central idea seems to be from the text only, we'll move to watching the video to see how the central idea is enhanced or changed with the addition of sound and visual.

Written Text Vs. Video: Available Tools for Rhetoric

15 minutes

In order to get students thinking more specifically about how video can create rhetorical arguments, I decided to show students the "tools" available for creating rhetoric with video as compared to written texts so they can visualize how many more tools a video creator has at his or her disposal, and therefore how many more things there are to look at when analyzing video. Students often think video is easier than text only because they are so used to passively watching for entertainment (and too often video is used as a reward in classes rather than as a learning tool).  This part will hopefully begin to dispel that notion.   It will also prime them for looking more specifically at the commercial when they are asked to identify visual and audio examples for creating meaning, since we will have named so many different strategies.

This part is a basic brainstorm--on the board I have two columns, one for written texts and one for video.   I will start with written texts, and also point them to the Joliffe reference sheet, where the last filter states some of the basic devices for writing rhetoric, such as diction, imagery, style, etc., to get them started (mostly for time sake) and brainstorm a few more of these.  

Once we've got a good list, we will establish that all the text-only devices all can be used in video (I will simply ask the question!), and then draw an arrow from them to the video column.  Then we will add the video-specific ones.  This comparison will hopefully emphasize just how complex video can be, and how much they have to look at when analyzing video carefully. Additionally, I will also emphasize the point that in video specifically, many happen at once, in one frame, as compared to a words-only text where the details are rolled out one word at a time.  Once we've established the complexity of video and all the elements there are too analyze, we will go to the eyes and ears protocol.

Eyes and Ears Protocol

40 minutes

Analyzing video can be a challenge for students because so many tools are being used at once to reach an audience--color, sound, movement, words, camera angles, depth, etc.  This protocol separates the visuals from the audio, allowing students to closely look at how the individual tools work in a text.  

The procedures are rather simple and outlined on the eyes and ears protocol Eyes and Ears Protocol Eastwood.docx.  As noted in the protocol, students will work in pairs (in a group of 3, two students take eyes and one takes ears or vice versa), with one as the "ears" and the other "eyes."  They will watch the video and take notes regarding rhetorical appeal only through the lens they've been assigned.Eastwood Chrysler Halftime America.mov

 After we watch, the pairs share what the saw and heard, and talk some about the specific effect on the viewer.  Then we will watch again, this time taking notes on how the visual, audio, and words are all working together (since they will not pick up on lots of things the first time; to help them understand why it is important to look at a text multiple times, I will ask how many have seen a movie a second time and noticed lots of things they missed the first time.  This question has the potential to get us off track for a few minutes by students wanting to share examples, but this sharing can also help emphasize the point because they are engaging in the idea).  Because they've already done some analysis through these individual lenses, the can now do a more thorough analysis of the piece as a whole.  It is a short video, so we may watch it a couple more times if it seems it will help in understanding the process.

Hopefully we'll have time at the end for each pair to share ideas; however, we may end up processing--establishing how the central idea is enhanced/changed with the addition of sound and video--tomorrow.