State of the Union and Analyzing Speeches

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TSWBAT analyze real life speeches to determine persuasive techniques used.

Big Idea

Presenting facts to change people's minds

Warm Up

15 minutes

Whenever there's an occasion to relate the real world with skills the kids are mastering, I jump on it. I do this because their ability to make connections between what they're learning, and how it's applied in life, is an opportunity that shouldn't be wasted. 

In this case, the State of the Union Address is in a few days, and it's the perfect time to discuss types of writing with the kids.  For example, the art of speech writing and persuasive techniques within.  I begin by showing them an example of the SOTU Invitation to President Obama from Speaker of the House John Boehner. He's inviting President Barack Obama to the Capitol to give his address in front of the Joint Session of Congress.  I ask the class, "Is Speaker Boehner using any persuasive techniques in his letter?"  It's an invitation, not a persuasive letter, but the kids will notice some persuasion as well. (Looking for persuasion in the invitation)

After I show them the letter on the Smart Board, I give them each a copy so, they can highlight examples of persuasion.


30 minutes

We begin by watching a short video introducing the State of the Union Address to the students.  It's broad in its approach, and easy to listen to. (Students watching the Short Overview Video). Although the actual State of the Union, that evening, may be a little difficult to grasp, I ask that all students tune in for a few minutes to see what it's all about.  It conveniently takes place during our Government Simulation each year, so it's also a chance for them to see Congress, the Supreme Court Justices who attend, and any identified members of the Cabinet (most notably the Vice President sitting behind the President.)

I also play a small section of a former State of the Union Address (Watching an earlier State of the Union) and discuss in general the purpose of such a speech.  I ask the students, "Is this speech supposed to persuade the citizens of the United States? If so, in what way?"  My objective is for my 5th graders to recognize that persuasion is all around us.  When they have the opportunity to look at real life events in relation to the techniques and skills they're learning in class, everything takes on significant relevance.

Next we move to two speeches that are written at their level.  One by Susan B. Anthony, who fought for the right to vote for women, and another by Young Adult Novelist, Veronica Roth- author of Divergent and others in the trilogy.

The students will first listen to the speeches- I read the first page of the Susan B. Anthony speech.  They watch part of a video of Veronica Roth speaking and transcribed to print.  I then pass out copies of both (*Susan B. Anthony is sixteen pages long, so I only give them the first and last page) as they look for persuasive techniques (Looking for Ethos on pg. 16) and complete the Speech Analysis Worksheet.  They select which speech they would like to analyze.  (Looking for persuasive evidence in author speech)  After they are finished, we discuss what persuasive techniques they could identify with each speech.


15 minutes

I'm ready to hear my students determine how they interpreted the two speeches, and to see their support of where the persuasive techniques ETHOS, LOGOS, PATHOS belong in what they read. Surprisingly, no one volunteers to share, indicating the challenge of the assignment.  (As I monitored their progress, more students than usual had questions, but I still saw kids making connections.) To verify, I ask why they're reluctant to share, and as I suspect, they're not confident in their answers.  I collect all of the papers, select correct examples, and use those to go over with the large group. 

A few of the student papers had the three persuasive technique categories mixed up, and some were on target in at least two of the areas. Most had their evidence of the persuasive technique correct in each instance. The biggest difference, possibly in the students' perception, was the video. The interaction of watching a speaker firsthand - the power of her words, and nuances as she spoke made a difference to some of the kids, and how they did with the Speech Analysis Worksheet

This student begins with showing Roth as an expert because she's a successful author. Next, decides that it's logical to be persuaded by this because no one wants to be made fun of.  Finally, the emotional part is that she shows how she lost her love for reading because others thought it was unimportant.

This student writes a clue word for each of the three techniques alongside of the work.