The Benefits of Reteaching: Writing Rhetorical Precis and Appeals

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SWABT identify and evaluate how an author uses rhetoric to advance an argument by evaluating the documentary Youssou N'Dour I Bring What I Love. SWBAT write an objective summary of a text by following the steps required to write a rhetorical precis.

Big Idea

Gaps, misunderstandings, and frustration. We take a pause to reteach and review the principles of rhetorical precis and appeals.

Let's Get Started: Returning Percis for Revison

5 minutes

As the students walk in the room, I have placed their rhetorical precis of the movie reviews that they wrote for home work for the first lesson of this unit at specific tables. They have to find their precis and sit at that table. It is time to mix it up a bit.  The students were getting a little too comfortable and complacent in their groups. 

I ask them to take a close look at their two paragraphs: the precis paragraph and the evaluation of the rhetorical appeals.  I ask them, "Why am I returning this work without grading it?"

Responses will vary.  The primary reason is the quality of the work.  We wrote two precis in class and they had to write a third for homework.   I think more than a few of them rushed through the assignment, did not review their notes to make sure their paragraphs were accurate, and/or perhaps they forgot all together and wrote it on the bus on the way to school. Regardless of the reason, the majority of the students turned in work that did not meet the expectation of the class. It is time to reteach.  

The last time we went over the definitions of the rhetorical appeals and how to write a precis, I gave them a handout with the basics on it and they added to it.  This time, they are going to teach each other.  


Building Knowledge: A Closer Look and Objective Summaries and Appeals

30 minutes

To begin, I write the following words on the board.  I advise the students to go through their notes to define each word. I give them a heads up that the next class we will read an essay and I expect them to use the vocabulary of the discipline to discuss the essay (L 9-10 6). 

  • Claim
  • Argument
  • Bias
  • Rhetoric
  • Organization of Argument
  • Evidence

As students find the definitions, they will raise their hands to share the definition with the class. I write them on the board. 

Next, I ask students what are the rhetorical appeals (ethos, pathos, and logos)? As they respond, I write them on the board.  At this point, I just want to make a list to refresh their memory as we have devoted previous class time to discussing these appeals and applying them.

Now, I ask them to explain what "objective summary" means (RI 9-10.2). I am looking for a response that includes the words "precis" and "without judgement".  

Now that we have reviewed these basic vocabulary terms, the rest of the reteach/review is the students' responsibility. 

My students sit at tables, so I assign each table a topic and board space to use to teach the class.  

The topics are:

  • Ethos
  • Pathos
  • Logos
  • 1st sentence of a rhetorical precis
  • 2nd sentence of a rhetorical precis
  • 3rd sentence of a rhetorical precis 
  • 4th sentence of a rhetorical precis

I give them 10 minutes to prepare their presentations. Students have to create some type of visual on the board for their presentations. I also tell them to be prepared to answer questions. They have to create a logically sequenced presentation on the assigned topic (SL 9-10 4).

For the rhetorical appeals, I am looking for students to define the appeal, state questions readers can use to identify the appeal in a text, and why the appeal is relevant in a rhetorical analysis. 

As for the four sentences, I want students to explain what is in the sentence, how to find the information in a text, and why it is relevant to an objective summary. 

After the presentations, I let students ask questions.  If there is any relevant information that is not in the presentation and is not addressed by another student, then I ask. 

With the appeals, I want them to know that it is necessary to have textual evidence and/or word patterns that demonstrate the appeal in an essay. It is not enough to say that Humane Society commercials make them cry, they have to be able to exactly what in the commercials brings about that reaction.

Once all the questions are answered and I am satisfied that they covered  all the information, it is time to move on to revision. 


Applying Knowledge: Reviewing and Revising Precis

20 minutes

One of the techniques for determining what to put into a precis is to turn the sentence descriptors into questions. I put the questions for each sentence on the smart-board. I number each one of the individual questions.

Sentence 1:    1. Who is the author?  2. What is the genre? 3. What is the title and when was it published? 4. What is the claim? (RI.9-10.8)

Sentence 2:  5. How does the author support his/her claim? (RI.9-10.8)

Sentence 3:   6. What is the purpose? 7. How does s/he accomplish this purpose? (RI.9-10.6)

Sentence 4:  8. Who is the target audience? 9.How does the author connect to the audience? (RI.9-10.6)

I show them that the paragraph breaks down into these nine questions.  Unfortunately I am not looking for the voice of the individual student to shine in this paragraph.  I just want them to have the necessary information with stating a personal position. Voice will come after they master the necessary content. 

Now, I want them to go to their precis. Read it and number the answers to each one of the questions.  If there is no answer or an incomplete answer, write the number of the missing/incomplete question below the paragraph. This revision technique will help them determine what is missing when they rewrite their precis (W 9-10. 5).

Next I tell them to look at their response paragraph, do they address all three appeals with evidence to support appeal?  If not, write what is missing at the bottom of the paragraph.  

I also warn them to avoid phrases like "I think, believe, feel etc." They have the bad habit of making themselves the subject of their essays. 

I walk around the room answering questions and checking their work. 

Applying Knowledge: Finding Voice in Objective Summary

25 minutes

OK, let's put it all together.  With their problems identified, I tell them to rewrite their precis adding the missing elements (W 9-10 4).  If necessary, it can be more than four sentences.  I don't want them to exceed six sentences. They have a tendency to get carried away with summary (sentence 2). I don't want to create opportunity for opinions or allow them to stray off-topic. 

After they have finished their precis, it is time to rework the response paragraph. The response paragraph examines how the writer uses the rhetorical appeals. They need evidence to support their response to the review (RI 9-10.1).  

Some students need more revision than others. Some students just want to be done regardless of the quality of their work. As students finish, I partner them up to read each others paragraphs and give feedback.  Some of the stronger writers can jump to the aid of struggling friends.  

I have them write, share, revise for about 25 minutes.  The more precis and responses they read, the better the opportunity to internalize the pattern.  When they become more comfortable with the formula, they will begin to develop their voice and style. 

Wrap Up: Lingering Questions

10 minutes

As the focus dwindles, I want to bring my students back to the focus on argument. So, I tell the students to keep their work and that I will just give them an arbitrary grade without looking at their work. I am sure I will get a few "That's not fair's" and a lot of angry stares. But my choice has a purpose -- I tell them they have to make an argument using the rhetorical appeals to convince me to grade their papers (this will serve as a formative assessment without them even knowing it).  The students have to use logos, ethos, and pathos.  They can also building off an ethical appeal or use a mixed appeal to earn the right for me to grade their paragraphs.

With a few minutes left in class, I have students turn their work into the tray and I congratulate them on their thoughtful application of the rhetorical appeals.