Some More Rhetorical Devices In MLK Speech

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SWBAT gain better understanding of the rhetorical devices we have been studying by looking at additional speeches and identifying how these authors use these devices.

Big Idea

Some additional examples of strong speeches to help students solidify their understanding of rhetorical devices authors use.


5 minutes

In the previous lesson, I spent the last part of class explaining diction and allusion to students. They were asked to identify examples of diction and allusion in MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech for homework. We only had a little bit of time to talk about these two devices so we start class by checking what they were able to do for homework. There are several misunderstandings I have to clarify. 

Direct Instruction

15 minutes

One misunderstanding has to do with diction. For instance, students have selected entire sentences as examples of diction. I clarify that diction refers to specific words an author chooses so that when we examine an author’s diction we are focusing on single words or very short phrases. To illustrate, we work with one of the complete sentences students identified for homework and I ask which particular words caught their attention and made them take note of this sentence. Students identify particular words. I tell them that these particular words were thoughtfully selected by the author and that this is known as the author’s diction.

Allusion was more difficult for students to identify. The difficulty has to do with the fact that in order to recognize allusions one needs to have background knowledge of a historical and literary figures, events, places, etc. If a student has no knowledge of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, they will not be able to identify MLK’s line “five score years ago” as an allusion. I decide that students can do their best to identify any allusions in the speech, but if they are not able to I will be helping them.

I give students time to talk to their partner and decide on the examples of diction and allusion they want to add to their booklet. I now begin to see much better examples of diction, such as in this sample booklet(jasmine). I suggest to students that they all include “five score years ago” in their Allusion page and do their best to identify any other examples.


Additional Sample Speeches

30 minutes

I now want students to expand their search and look at additional powerful speeches to see additional examples of these devices. I have selected this set of 4 speeches. I distribute these sets of speeches and take a few minutes to give them some background information about each speech. Students will only work with these speeches today, and a short period of time tomorrow, as I intend for these speeches to be used as models of these devices and not to do an in depth analysis of them.

I do not expect every student to read all four speeches (we don’t have time) so I ask them to select one of the four and I give them time to read it. Students are to keep an eye out for good examples of the devices we have been working with.

I then give students time to work with their partner and select one or two more examples of each device to include in their booklet. I have clarified each device as students became confused. At this point, I have a list of quick descriptions to help students clarify confusion they have encountered as they work with these devices. Students were getting confused with some of these devices, not all of them. I make a list on the board of the devices that are confusing and I write notes to clarify the confusion, like I explain in this video. I leave these notes on the board and instruct students to keep it in mind as they move on to identify more examples from this set of speeches.

By the end of the period, they have a few additional devices. They will finish adding more tomorrow for a total of at least one additional example of each device from this set of 4 speeches.