Reading Rhetorical Analysis: Models to Set the Tone

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SWBAT recognize the most effective techniques of analysis in published examples and (hopefully) apply these to their own analysis.

Big Idea

... students need models in order to write well ...

Introduction and Context

8 minutes

The transfer from reading "on the lookout" for rhetorical appeals to actually writing about the appeals, as well as a host of other claims, is rocky.  The writing here is one of the most sophisticated things high school kids do, and, thus, it is super hard to teach.  It requires 100s of examples at the ready of how words and style work.  I'm only adequate at it. 

The issue stems from the difference between having a solid word for the concept of each rhetorical appeal and having only a limited way of explaining the function of these parts -- it's really a vocabulary/literacy issue of the highest order.  If you have a student who is good at this assignment then he/she is, generally, a very bright student.

For this unit, I only glossed this in order to produce a piece to grade, and this is an area for improvement next year.  I relied on teaching two models of this essay form, written by college students and published in Bedford St. Matin's Everything's an Argument (6th ed.), which is one of the best (hands down) college comp. books.  The sources for these two students's writing, the articles they parsed, are newspapers (The Boston Globe, and The New York Times).  

Whole-Class Discussion: Looking Closely at Two "Expert" Models

38 minutes

As to models of this form there are many avail. on the internet.  Try using Google Advanced Search and limit the domain to .edu; then, search "rhetorical analysis examples."  One example that appears a great deal across many .edus is a piece analyzing Anne Roiphe's "Confessions of a Female Chauvinist Sow" which first appeared in New York in 1972.  I also found many examples analyzing an Atlantic Monthly cover piece on tech., written during the second Clinton administration.  While these are certainly notable models, I felt the sources were too dated to serve my exact purposes. 

I decided to use the examples from Everything's an Argument both the 5th ed. (for example #1) and the 6th ed. (for example #2).  The original sources for these two pieces are both on the net, and both authors -- Derek Bok and David Brooks -- speak to more contemporary concerns.  However, due to copyright concerns, I cannot post the published, college student examples.

Yet, there are many possibilities for models for all tastes, and I, of course, fully encourage you to conduct your own research.


As a way of grounding the upcoming "whip around" discussion, I used a set of questions for each of the published columns (Bok and Brooks).  I've attached these questions as a .pdf.

(Students will apply these same questions to the pieces of THEIR OWN RA piece in the next lesson.)  Basically, students answered these questions to one another -- with respect to the published columns -- and then we had a whole-class discussion of the college-students' analytical pieces.  During this discussion, we sought to evaluate how well each of the college-student-writers answered our questions AND analyzed these original columns (Bok and Brooks). 

I conducted a "whip around" discussion (a technique in other of my lessons), as I made a Google Doc (for projecting and sharing) of the pairs' comments.  Per normal, we circulated around the room until we exhausted all remarks.