For homework yesterday students had to write a rhetorical analysis of the "Halftime in America" commercial, paying close attention to how visuals were working in the advertisement. After listening to their "final word" conversations, and more importantly reading their written responses, I realized that they needed more practice and instruction on using evidence from a visual text.
The majority of responses, and even the strongest ones, lacked specific reference to visuals for evidence in their rhetorical analysis. And even the ones that did refer to visuals focused more on general patterns rather than specifics. In their "final word' discussions I heard some more specific references to visual moments, but I think these were more inspired by the structured conversation, since they were not evident in their writing.
Since it is critical that they are able write rhetorical analyses effectively, I want to build on the lessons of the last couple days with a similarly structured ad in order to practice effective writing and to more clearly assess their ability to analyze a video. This Dodge ad that uses Paul Harvey's speech "So God Made a Farmer" is well suited for this because it is has many similarities to the Clint Eastwood piece--it is an American car commercial making a largely emotional appeal to a Superbowl halftime audience. By using a piece with all these similarities, I can get a clear assessment of their understanding regarding rhetorical analysis of video, and also of the ability to use evidence in writing.
Since I want to get a strong individual assessment of their understanding and to emphasize use of specific details, this lesson will be not utilize group work. Rather, I will provide more direct instruction on use of evidence, followed by some whole-class work with the new text. This, ultimately, will lead them to at least start writing a rhetorical analysis in class.
Before beginning our lessons for the day, I will introduce a long-term assignment (Reading logs for ShopClass as Soulcraft.docx) that I plan on experimenting with throughout the year. To give students a more authentic introduction to college expectations, and to provide more time in class to read a wider range of texts with a variety of complexity, students will read all full-length books independently and complete a set of "logs" regarding the text as part of their assessment. These logs will help students build central ideas in a longer work, and also serve as preparation for Socratic Seminars. My plan is to have students to complete their reading of the book for the beginning of the unit they are connected to, so the book will serve as an introduction to the unit, and a point of reference for central ideas as we read other works on the same topic. Their first book is Shop Class as Soul Craft by Matthew B. Crawford as entry into our unit on Education. The book, even though contemporary, is probably the most complex of the full-length books they will read, because it is at times very philosophical, and he has an elevated vocabulary. However, how he questions our culture's emphasis on academia versus an ability to do hands-on things is poignant to thinking about the state of education. Additionally, the fact that he talks a lot about motorcycles and economics will allow us to go back to this text in our gender unit as well as our economics unit later in the year.
So, the first few minutes of today will be to explain the assignment, the reasoning behind this method (I think this is important so students understand that this method is meaningful, and not just to give them more work to do), and the expectation regarding the logs through my model (Log example.docx). This will be all me talking and explaining, and to take any questions afterward.
As a transition from the Eastwood ad, and also to show students an example of writing about a video, we will look at examples from their responses to the ad, as well as a Forbes Magazine editorial piece about the ad titled Clint Eastwood's 'Halftime in America' Ad a New Ballgame. I like to use student examples to make the writing lesson a little more real, and also to show that these writing assignments aren't merely a dialogue between teacher and student. I don't use any that are particularly weak from the class, though; I don't want to embarrass anyone. I only use ones that would fall at least in a "proficient" level on our rubrics. Additionally, I will use ones from students I feel will be okay with it, and I will check in with them at the beginning of class so they aren't surprised.
With regard to the Correa piece, even though it isn't an academic rhetorical analysis, he makes direct references to the ad in the third paragraph, as well as references to other texts, so I can use it to show students how evidence could look in polished form in their own writing, and how diction in visual descriptions can add depth to their analysis.
To begin the lesson, and before I show the students models of how to write with visual evidence, I am going to have a little conversation about my expectations for their writing. Last night I read their Halftime in America responses, as well as one other rhetorical analysis assignment, and found them to be severely lacking in use of evidence. This is something I know they can do well, because I taught them all last year, so this is more of a kick in the butt than anything. I'm not sure how I will approach this yet; I will share later in my reflection how it goes! The gist will be, "hey, you're in an AP class, and to write well you need to work at it all the time!"
After the writing expectations conversation, I will transition to the skill I noticed they had trouble with--using visuals as evidence. I took two examples from the few who did use evidence (so the examples are actually from those who did the best job!) to show a generalized use and a more specific use. As you can see in the resource (Using visual examples in analysis.pptx), the first one states a general pattern of images in the first line and explains the influence of the pattern, while the second example specifically points to a visual moment--the engine being put together--and writes about the appeal of that in conjunction with the words. The third example is from the Correa piece, and I'll show here how his description of Clint Eastwood in the alley, with such phrases as "tired grace" help make his argument. I also emphasize that this is an edited piece, but it isn't that difficult to work on adding depth to their writing in any form, particularly since their AP exam will consist of three timed essays, meaning they won't have time to edit much. If that is the first time their trying to write well in a short time frame, they won't be very successful!
From here I will take questions before moving on to the main part of the lesson with "So God Made a Farmer."
In this part of the lesson I will familiarize students first with the complete So God Made a Farmer Speech made by Paul Harvey in 1978 at the Future Farmers of America convention. The commercial cuts part of the original speech out, so besides setting the rhetorical situation and appeals of the original speech, the full text (which they will also have a copy of) will help them as they analyze the commercial and consider why the creators cut parts out to use it for their own rhetorical purpose.
To begin, I will give students a copy of the speech so they can read along as they listen and annotate (the video included here in the resources includes the whole speech (Farmer Harvey_full_So God Made A Farmer.mov); I don't show the video, I just play the audio to the students). I will instruct them to consider and highlight passages and words that provide evidence in establishing the rhetorical situation (SOAPStone), evidence of appeals to the audience, and passages that provoke questions for them, as they continue to practice close reading and having an active conversation with a text. I thought about having them read only and analyze, and then listen, but felt that would take too long--my main focus is about multi-modal texts, so I don't want to stray from that. Additionally, hearing Harvey say the whole speech will make it easier for students to hear what they cut out in the commercial, and see how the delivery itself can have a strong rhetorical impact.
After we've heard the speech (we may listen twice so they can focus on language the second time) I will go around the room and ask each student to state one thing they highlighted with a brief explanation of why. The main purpose of today's lesson is to have students practice writing an analysis with evidence and to assess their understanding of rhetorical analysis. However, this isn't a final summative assessment; I'd rather have everyone have a strong understanding of the text before writing so the writing practice can be worthwhile, so going around the room allows for students to get a variety of viewpoints and clarifications from each other.
Students will now watch the Ram advertisement featuring the Paul Harvey speech using the same "eyes and ears" protocol (Eyes and Ears Protocol Eastwood.docx) from our work with the Clint Eastwood halftime advertisement for consistency and to emphasize the multi-modal texts, and how they have to pay attention to many things at the same time. To build on previous skills, the students will work independently rather than doing joint construction. They will first all do the "eyes" portion of the "eyes and ears" activity, and then watch again and do the "ears" part. A challenge of analyzing video is that you can't stare at it or easily isolate a segment because its moving, so I will play it multiple times to make sure students have a chance to absorb the rhetoric.
to begin, I will instruct the students to make two columns in their notebook for eyes and ears (this is like the worksheet I gave them the last time we did this). As they watch, they will make a list of items they see (eyes only!). I want to emphasize to them that this should be an extensive list, noting lots of details rather than just ones they feel is evidence of rhetoric--they can decide that part afterwards (I will emphasize this throughout the year, that there isn't any magic in identifying evidence; it is learning to closely read like an investigator, collecting things that might be evidence and seeing what is there). I felt that two days ago they miss-understood this part of the eyes and ears activity and were looking only for strong rhetoric. This could be one of the reasons why they struggled to provide strong evidence; they aren't skilled enough yet in rhetoric or analyzing video to do that on the first run-through.
After they've done the "eyes" part, they will watch the video again, this time paying close attention to how the words and speech are working with the visuals. I will tell them to take notes next to the visuals they already noted so they can make direct connections to the visual evidence when that is appropriate. This will build on the skills practiced previously, since they will now be connecting visual and aural/language-based evidence to the visuals.
As in the previous section, we will then go around the room and say one interesting thing they noticed about a specific visual or how a visual worked with words (if I have time I will have them do a free-write on this first, so they all have a chance to collect their thoughts--I think that will be the better choice for learning, but time may be an issue).
Finally, I will explain their homework, where they will write a rhetorical analysis of the commercial, emphasizing that they focus on use of evidence.