Organizing Information in a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

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SWBAT write a strong introduction to their topic and develop their topic so that each idea builds on the next with relevant evidence.

Big Idea

A good introduction in a rhetorical analysis references the SOAPStone elements of the text in question, and how the author makes the appeal.


Elements of an Introduction

25 minutes

To give students an accessible way to edit their own introductions in order to clearly introduce their claim of what rhetorical strategies a writer uses, I will show them how a good introduction of a rhetorical analysis essay essentially references all the elements of the rhetorical situation (SOAPStone) in some way, suggests how the speaker, audience, and message interact (rhetorical triangle), and suggests how the writer does this (appeals, and the analyst’s claim/answer to the prompt).  As a demonstration, I will put the introduction of our model from the textbook (The Language of Composition, pg. 62) that analyzes Groucho Marx's letter to Warner Brothers on the Smartboard and together we will identify the segments of text that refer to all parts of the rhetorical situation and how the writer of this essay claims Marx accomplishes his purpose (appeals), as seen in this video:  rhetorical analysis essay intro.mp4.  This resource (SOAPStone Introduction Model.pdf) is the first paragraph, annotated with highlights and underlines for the different portions of the text that address SOAPStone elements and appeals, with explanations of each.

I will also talk about the tone the writer establishes, and how it matches the tone of the piece the writer is analyzing.  It is important for the students to understand that in an explanatory essay they must maintain objectivity, so writing with a tone that doesn’t closely mirror that of the original makes their claim more subjective.  As emphasis, we will discuss the fact that this somewhat comical tone would not be appropriate for their analysis of “Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture” because the topic Ariel Levy writes about is not light-hearted enough for that.

I'm doing this in a full-class format because I suspect I will be doing a lot of the talking--that it will be more of an interactive lecture than a discussion.  This is due to the fact that all of this is new to the students.  Doing it as a questioning type of lecture gives it the feel of student inquiry, even though I will ultimately be explaining most of it!

From this point I will move to the next part of the lesson regarding organization of their body before letting them work independently on their drafts.

Organizing the Body of the Essay

15 minutes

This segment of the lesson is really a continuation of the last part, transitioning from looking at how to organize the introduction to looking at how to organize their evidence and ideas to clearly build a strong claim of how a writer uses rhetoric, both within a paragraph and from paragraph to paragraph.  We will continue to look at the model essay, this time focusing on how the author structures the analysis chronologically, developing the argument about the Groucho Marx letter by breaking it into three main parts and explaining the rhetorical strategies of each segment with relevant details from the text. 

Because this is a continuation of the last part of the lesson, we will continue to look at the text on the Smartboard.  Because the students are still on their introductions, I don’t want to spend too much time here; I want to simply show them how this model is organized, and suggest this as a good way for them to attack their assignment.  So I will point specifically to the first sentences and the claims they make, and how each paragraph builds the topic chronologically.  I will also recommend that they break down “Women and Rise of Raunch Culture” into three or four segments and write themselves a chronological outline, with evidence, before writing.  This is one of those times where I want to provide students with as many tools as I can, but also acknowledge that they have developed their own process of writing to some extent—that some students like graphic organizers, others like outlines, and still others like to just start writing (I personally prefer the free-write approach). 

After fielding questions, students will work on their introductions, breaking down the Levy essay, and gathering evidence, while I work individually with students.

Writing Workshop

35 minutes

Students will work on their essays for the remainder of the class, and I will work independently with them on their introductions.  I will give them the option of working together on outlining the Levy essay and gathering evidence, since I want them to have all the information they need so they can focus on organizing a strong draft.

Next Steps:  by the end of class students should have a relatively strong introduction to their essay, as well as an understanding of how Levy presents her argument and some supporting evidence.  The homework for the weekend will be to write a complete rough draft of the essay (I’ve held their hand a bit to get started, but now it is time to put some pressure on and get them writing!).