Reflection: Standards Alignment Rhetorical Analysis: "Letter From Birmingham Jail" Day 3 - Section 4: Rhetoric of a Single Paragraph


What started out as a rough set of lessons turned into a very valuable close reading practice and review of rhetorical strategies.   The “what if it was this way?” questions I thought really pushed the students to consider what the order of information can do in building not only the argument, but the specific appeals a writer is trying to make—it allows the writer to control the audience (I ended up referencing an Edgar Allan Poe piece called “The Tale and Its Effect” [The Tale and Its Effect.doc] that they read last year, which emphasizes the idea of having a single overall effect in mind from beginning to end to better control the reader).   I thought finding a number of rhetorical strategies in a single paragraph also worked well—they weren’t distracted by the wealth of information of a whole essay and were able to really see all of the things going on.  I think this will be a strategy I take on earlier in the year next time I teach the course.

Finally, I had some time at the end of class, so I took the time to address the part of CCSS standard 4 that refers to how an author refines the meaning of key words.  Within the first 10 paragraphs of the letter King uses the word “community” at least five times in different contexts, so I asked the students to look back at those moments and consider how he is using the term.  What they determined is that his definition changes—at some points he considers it to be closely related to physical proximity—where people live.  However, he seems to consider this type of community to be not as important as a community that shares an emotional or conceptual space, such as a “black community” that is all over the United States.  While this was only a fifteen minute discussion, it gave me some ideas for how to spend more time looking at vocabulary in the context of close reading.

  Standards Alignment: Breakthroughs
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Rhetorical Analysis: "Letter From Birmingham Jail" Day 3

Unit 10: Deepening Rhetorical Analysis
Lesson 4 of 10

Objective: SWBAT recognize the rhetorical strategies used by a writer and how these strategies build on one another to influence a reader's perceptions of central ideas.

Big Idea: Writers organize words and ideas to influence the audience's views on the central idea.

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