Failure and Imagination: How does J.K.Rowling get us to shift our thinking?

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SWBAT explain Rowling's rhetorical techniques in her message by identifying rhetorical techniques in her speech and taking online notes using their 1:1 Chromebooks.

Big Idea

We begin to examine rhetorical techniques in contemporary speeches in order to compare them to Antony's speech in a later lesson.

Lesson Introduction

Contemporary speeches can be a treasure trove for guiding students to ideas that MATTER today and for giving them a somewhat more accessible platform to explore some of the rhetorical choices that various speakers use in their messages. does a fantastic job of cataloging both the full text and video of several important speeches from recent years, and I have chosen to use one by J.K. Rowling  (in this lesson) and Bono from U2 (in a subsequent lesson). The purpose of this analysis activity is to prepare students to rhetorically analyze Marc Antony's speech in Julius Caesar.


lesson image attribution[image by: Daniel Ogren - Flickr: 100405_EasterEggRoll_683]

Listening to J.K. Rowling

30 minutes

Since I will be absent this day, I have chosen to slot into the lesson a longer listening section as this is a great way to use class but one that doesn't require my attendance as much as the previous and following lessons.  Also, it is always good to listen to speeches aloud in order to hear the speaker's tone and inflections. The students will listen to the speech in full and fill in responses to the key questions asking them to analyze the rhetorical choices she makes in the next section (RI.9-10.6). They will also have the text (Failure and Imagination) as a resource as they answer the questions in the next section. This handout contains only an excerpt of the text for reference plus some interpretive questions.  For the full text, refer students to this great website for commencement speeches,  We are building towards Antony's key speech, the funeral oration in Act 3.

I plan to focus the students on a couple of key areas by having them answer the guiding questions in the following section:

1.) Her ability to use humor to set up a rapport with her audience.

2.) Her use of rhetorical questions to promote a light touch when she wants to stir the listeners' thinking.

3.) Her use of personal anecdotes and examples to build both credibility (ethos) and to draw in the audience emotionally (pathos). 

My thought questions address these concerns, but I am sure that I will need to circle back on them in the next lesson as I will be absent for the first go-around here. 

Student Writing

20 minutes

The students will so some thought writing on key questions that I selected to highlight Rowling's use of rhetoric.  In doing this kind of analysis, they are also adding to their body of knowledge and understanding about speaking and listening, how to address particular purposes and audiences in their own speaking, as well as biases and logic that a writer uses (SL.9-10.3).  

Using frequent, informal writing like this is a great way to help students solidify their ideas (W.9-10.10) as well as to gain some practice, and it helps me to get some additional diagnostic work on how well they are tracking with our new topic (rhetoric).  

The handout, Failure and Imagination has just the opening of Rowling's speech, as this will be our main focus, but you can go to to find the full text--or better yet, encourage your students to visit the site, as there are a number of strong examples of rhetoric used.  I will have the students spend the remainder of the class period exploring the ideas in this handout by writing responses that I will then have the sub collect for me.  I am sure that we will need to revisit all of this on the next lesson!