The Rhetorical Triangle

The Rhetorical Triangle allows you to effectively analyze different texts and arguments for their rhetorical strategies and devices. The aim is to breakdown the text to understand it in small, manageable parts. Remember, just because the author says something, it does not make it true or even valid. Use critical thinking to understand why!

The rhetorical triangle: made up of three components which are present in any persuasive process:

  • Author: the person who generates text
  • Audience: the person/people who receive/s text
  • Text:the message being conveyed from the author to the audience


Use the rhetorical triangle to read, understand, and analyze challenging texts. The level of your writing should be a direct reflection of your critical thinking.


Check out our rhetorical triangle worksheet on TpT!


AP Language and Composition Readings

Here is a sampling of my Advanced Placement (AP) Language and Composition curricula. I only have students for one semester, so I vary the focus; however, from the moment that they enter my classroom, students read, synthesize, and analyze works from a variety of different time periods and genres.

Per the College Board, I emphasize nonfiction, though I embed poetry and fiction to not only to jazz up the readings but also to show that even fantasy can be truer of human nature than a historical document.

Selected Readings

Unit One

Writer’s Focus: Narration and Argumentation; Rhetorical Triangle

Themes:  History of America from Different Sociohistorical Perspectives

  1. The U.S. Constitution
  2. Common Sense” by Thomas Paine (Abridged)
  3. “That Word Black” by Langston Hughes
  4. “The Word Police” by Michiko Kakutani
  5. “What’s Your Name, Girl” by Maya Angelou
  6. “Tragedy and the Common Man” by Arthur Miller
  7. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards
  8. “Good Readers and Writers” by Vladimir Nabokov
  9. “For You, O Democracy” by Walt Whitman
  10. “The Knife” by Richard Selzer
  11. “The Politics of the English Language” by George Orwell
  12. “Education by Poetry” by Robert Frost
  13. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
  14. “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” by Anzaldua Gloria

Unit Two

Writer’s Focus: Characterization, Syntax/Structure, Style, Tone

Themes:  Romanticism and Transcendentalism

  1. “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe
  2. “Because I could not stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson
  3. “Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving
  4. “Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving
  5. “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe
  6. “Philosophy of Composition” by Edgar Allan Poe
  7. “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell
  8. “Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau
  9. “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson
  10. “Reflections on Ghandi” by George Orwell
  11. “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” by Ernest Hemingway
  12. “Save the Whales, Screw the Shrimp” by
  13. “The Land Ethic” by Leopold Aldo
  14. “What Do Students Need to Know About Rhetoric?” by Hepzibah Roskelly
  15. “The Stranger in the Photo Is Me” by Donald M. Murray

Unit Three

Writer’s Focus: Imagery and Diction; Visual Analysis

Themes: Modernism, The American Dream and A New Identity

  1. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot
  2. “Notes on a Native Son” by James Baldwin
  3. “On Self-Respect” by Joan Didion
  4. “Happy Endings” by Margaret Atwood
  5. “The Myth of the Latin Woman:  I Just Met a Girl Named Maria” by Judith Ortiz Coffer
  6. “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris
  7. “What I think and Feel at 25” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  8. Read “The Libido for the Ugly” H.L. Mencken
  9. “The Nature of Liberty” by H.L. Mencken
  10. “Waste” by Wendell Berry
  11. “Getting In” by Malcolm Gladwell
  12. “How to Detect Propaganda” by The Institute for Propaganda Analysis
  13. “The Four Freedoms” by Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Unit Four

Writer’s Focus: Occasion; Context; Purpose; Point-of-View

Themes: Gender

  1. “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath
  2. “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens” by Alive Walker
  3. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  4. Excerpt “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” by Mary Wollstonecraft
  5. “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift
  6. “The Ways We Lie” by Stephanie Ericsson
  7. “Nobel Lecture” by Wangari Maathai
  8. “Allegory of the Cave” by Plato
  9. “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions” by Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  10. “The Vietnam Syndrome” by Christopher Hitchens
  11. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates
  12. “Once More to the Lake” by E.B. White
  13. “Agent Orange” by Christopher Hitchens
  14. “A Few Words About Breasts” by Nora Ephron
  15. “Mind over Muscle” by David Brooks
  16. Malboro Man, Visual Analysis
  17. “Being a Man” by Paul Theroux


Shea, Renée, Lawrence Scanlon, and Robin Dissin Aufses. The Language of Composition.

Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Strunk, William, Jr., and E. B. White. Elements of Style. New York: Longman.

Grammar: Clauses versus Phrases

Focus: Phrases and Clauses

What is a clause?

It is a complete sentence, meaning it has a subject and predicate.


What’s the formula for a clause?

Subject + Verb + Object


Can you give me an example of a clause?

Grammar Chimp smiles with his eyes. Grammar Chimp is my subject, smiles is my verb, and with his eyes is the object (the receiver of the message).


What is a phrase?

It is an incomplete sentence, meaning it has only a predicate.


Can you give me an example of a phrase?

Smiles with his eyes. Notice there is no subject, so it is an incomplete sentence.

Using Psychology in Teaching

Teaching has often been described as a “Sink or Swim” environment. Using psychology to manage a classroom is a great way to stay afloat when a sea of doubt pulls you under.

The purpose of education is to further develop the process of inquiry by fostering within each student an innate desire to learn. However, unconsciously teachers may be too far disconnected from their students in their pedagogical leanings.

The role of the teacher is to lead, not with ego, but with wisdom. In turn, it falls upon every teacher to familiarize him- or herself with pedagogical strategies to effectively communicate with students in a manner that promotes co-ownership over learning.

One of the first core principals I learned about teaching is modeling, either through my own examples or student work. Originally, this concept was presented by renowned psychologist Albert Bandura who posited that learning is social. Akin to a mirror, what is seen is what is reflected.

In my class, I demonstrate respect, cooperation, and active listening. If the students do not respect my rules, then I rely on Ivan Pavlov’s theory of operant conditioning. There is a reward for expected behavior (e.g., praise, approval) and a consequence for negative behavior (e.g., detention, parent contact).

Yet these are tools taken from a teacher’s perspective and used to reinforce learning and behavior. They are, in effect, limited in their capacity to motivate. Without student motivation, then growth is not possible neither inside nor outside the classroom.

Referring back to Bandura, who is known for his Bobo doll experiment, he posited the necessity of self-efficacy− a central tenant of my classroom philosophy. It empowers students not only academically but also personally. It fosters growth by allowing students to speak for themselves without fear of reprisal, thus encouraging ownership over their grades and work ethic. In turn, students to have higher amount of self-efficacy, and thus persist longer and try harder to accomplish difficult tasks.

Parallel to John Dewey’s theory of democratization encouraging plurality of voice, within my classroom, I am hyper-cognizant that I am not the only one in it. Students’ voices must be heard and taken into account, which gives them ownership over their learning. It is a two-way process with reflexive roles of the sender and receiver, whom often times share information promoting clarity of understanding and intellectual thought.

My classroom then becomes not only a place to learn, but a place where my students can reach their full potential.

Original Publication Source: Edutopia, Using Psychology in Teaching by Jennifer M. Kenneally

Op-ed: The New FAFSA

I was perusing The Chronicle of Higher Education and found an article relaying the changes that are being implemented this year for FAFSA applications. In “A New Financial-Aid Timeline Could Reshape Admissions. Here’s How Colleges Are Preparing” by Beckie Supiano, she elucidates on the potential impacts the “early FAFSA” may bring from both an institutional perspective and student focus. She concisely states that the particular advantages would be the extra time students and parents have to weigh their financial aid packages and alludes to the disadvantages institutions face by possibly having to revise their policies and timelines for incoming students.There was no main question per say but rather a list of subsidiary questions revolving around the anxiety of instituting new federal policy. Uncertain of the potential ramifications, she asks how it will affect admissions deadlines, financial aid policies, and communications with families. Although limited, her conceptual framework would then be the socioeconomic implications of the new FAFSA.

However, excluded from her narrative is the direct mention of the change:  the new FAFSA will use financial aid information from the past two years and why this move was made. For instance, if there are major financial adjustment (for example, a divorce) then this would affect the estimated award; whereas, previously, the last year was only used. Supiano casually avoids the specific details and ramifications of the FAFSA changes. Instead, she is nebulous and refers to how different universities may or may not respond to the new FAFSA.

This article piqued my interest because of my background as a college advisor for high school students. If FAFSA truly wanted to save money (as the award has not increased relative to college costs, another fact Supiano avoids mentioning), then it should institute a GPA restriction as well as a residency requirement of at least two years. Working with different demographics, I have seen students barely passing high school, who came over from Cuba and who have lived only three months in the States, receive full awards; however, the lower middle-class student with perfect grades often times gets zilch. Another issue: some families circumvent the system by placing only one parent on the IRS tax form with that parent claiming the child(ren). This is a way some middle-class families (who are generally seen as too wealthy by the federal government) get some aid. Families may still try to “work” the system knowing the two-year rule, but nonetheless, this well-known loophole was one of the reasons that FAFSA wanted to redress and again another Supiano oversight.

This political undertone was entirely ignored in the Chronicle’s piece, yet it is essential to the background of FAFSA and its history. As a result, the article primarily falls on the change category, but it should fall under the conflict category as well. It does not, because the author was myopic in her assessment of the changes FAFSA brings and entirely ignored the debate ensconcing it.

The alterations to FAFSA affect higher education in that the advisors and recruiters who are the direct lines will have to alter their “pitches” to elucidate parents on the impact of financial aid. It affects the entire university who may have to reevaluate deadlines, offers of admissions, and revise how financial aid is doled out. It affects the families of these students who do not understand the “true” cost of college but see it as the automatic next step following high school. There will be much discussion about FAFSA included within the larger debate of the price of college, as many answers are unknown and will not be known till the new process is rolled out. Although, the article was balanced, it was too narrow and did not fully delineate the current issues with federal aid from either a student or institutional perspective.

lifestyle: mobile apps in a snap

“We’ve arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology.” –Carl Sagan

Life itself is mobile, so why be static in an age of constant change? Here is a list of my must-have mobile apps to keep life mentally clutter-free.

(1) Camscanner

Imagine playing operation with the terrifying fear of dropping the bone in the femur. You need a steady hand for this one and good lighting, but Camscanner does an good job of editing the image to be acceptable. It also allows you to save the documents in several formats and quickly send them where they need to go. The only hangup is the Camscanner logo on the bottom of your pics, in bold, mind you. If you really need to have a professional looking document, then upgrade to premium- but for personal use, it’s not necessary.

Android // iPhone

(2) Photoscan

Long gone are the days of pharmacy drop-off and pick-up photos. With the advancement in photo-technology comes Photoscan. Easily save those 90s memories into a digital profile and share with all your family and friends.

Android // iPhone

(3) Tab

There is always one George Castanza in a group of friends; don’t be him. Tab allow users to easily scan a receipt to determine  who should pay for which items. Tax and tip are calculated accordingly, so you don’t have to break out the calculator or conduct some mathematical wizardry in your head.

Android // iPhone

(4) If (If This, Then, That)

I heard God’s choir when I found this savior. It’s true- just believe. If connects almost 300 other apps in one central hub, including Spotify, Instagram, and Google Drive. You can sync your platforms, organize your life, and track your lifestyle in one click.

Android // iPhone

(5) Pocket

Sometimes I just want to browse the internet but not read anything requiring much focus, or I may want to save something to check out later, when I can devote my full attention to it. Slide in Pocket. You can save articles, videos, or links to Pocket and revisit them when it best suits you.  Pocket is tailored to you. It is based on your reading style and preferences, and if you elect, will send you notifications about items that may be of interest to you. For the millennial multi-tasker, its text-to-speech feature is great to listen to when you’re just plain tired.

Android // iPhone


5 Novel Ways to Use Color to Teach Students

As an eleventh grade English teacher, it can be a challenging task to engage students who already have a fixed-mindset about learning. It is even more difficult when I have to teach students to analyze and synthesize information from a variety of sources to craft a cogent argument explaining their own views, and not someone else’s. For this reason, I employ the use of the arts, technology, and writing to help students develop a growth-mindset about education through color.

Total Physical Response Activities. My first unit is about the formation of America. I have students read an abridged version of Common Sense, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence. Thereafter, in a presentation, I use statistics to show how inequality stills exists in America. I then count off students by color− black, blue, and white. In suit, I provide students with random objects around the classroom such as paperclips, ribbons, post-it notes− whatever I can find and do not mind losing.

I then ask the students to create a community based on the resources that I give to them. What the students do not know is that the colors represent the different socioeconomic classes in America− lower class, middle class, and upper class. Consistently, and every time I do this activity, those who are assigned to the lower class use all their resources wisely by creating schools, fire stations, and police stations. Those who are assigned to the middle class create the same infrastructures, but they space out their community to include lawns and suburban homes. Finally, those who were assigned to the upper class tend to use their resources frivolously by creating all the necessary civil structures, but they tack on movie theatre complexes, high rises, and toss aside any excess materials.

Highlighting. When I am teaching the structure of a paragraph, I use different colors to break down the elements of sentence. In addition to the main idea, students are expected to address the following in the first paragraph of any essay that they are to write in my class− Who (the author), What (the assigned reading), How (imagery, tone, diction, syntax/structure), and Why (author’s purpose).

Example: In Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she elucidates on the racial discrimination limiting African-Americans in present day society. Through the use of imagery, she delineates between the caged bird, representing the Black man, and the free bird, representing the white man. In turn, the caged bird is still shackled not by slavery but by prejudice.

Construction Paper. For argumentative essays, pass out sheets of red and green construction paper to the students. Assign students a topic where they are to agree or disagree with the prompt. Randomly, hand out the green and red sheets to students. Those who are given the green paper must agree with the stated prompt and those who are given the red paper must disagree. This exercise challenges students to see an argument from multiple perspectives, because they may be given a color (‘side’) that they may be at odds with.

If you want to get really fancy, download lined printable paper, and print it out on top of the construction paper.

Photographs. When teaching visual analysis, I use OPTIC (Overview, Parts of the Picture, Title, Interrelationships, and Conclusion). After I use guided instruction to help students analyze the picture, I upload it into a photography program on my computer. I then apply a filter such as black and white or sepia and ask the students to reevaluate the photo. You can also adjust the clarity, focus, and cut of the pictures, if you want to be more advanced. Students are surprised how the adjustment of an image can be easily manipulated and affect the way they perceive it.

Although you can use hard copy photos, I recommend using a digital photography program that allows you to edit on the spot, or at least apply filters.

Paint Chips. Check out your local paint store and pick-up paint chips. Use these as a visual form of analysis to grade student papers: the deeper the color, the deeper the analysis. Besides being free, this resource is excellent for rhetorical analysis. It provides a visual for students to distinguish between ‘surface-level’ analysis and ‘deeper’ analysis. This tool can be applied to both prose and poetry. I also attach a rubric to further define the areas where students can improve:  analysis of reasoning, flow and structure, insightfulness, and originality of thought.

Hue knew color can be so helpful?

My post was originally featured on Edutopia: 5 Novel Ways to Use Color to Teach Students


op-ed: the early fafsa

“Failure is the tuition you pay for success.” – Walter Brunel

The early FAFSA has brought forth a litany of questions about how it will affect admissions deadlines, financial aid policies, and recruitment efforts.

The Change: The new FAFSA will use financial aid information from the past two years instead of only using the a family’s tax information from the preceding year.

New Submission Date:  Students can now submit the FAFSA earlier−on October 1st and continue to file until the next year.

Presently, the only qualification to obtain the grant is to be a citizen or an eligible non-citizen. In each case, a student must also have a high financial need, as determined by a family’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

However, excluded from this narrative, is how a student could barely pass high school and receive a full Pell grant. For the 2016–17 award year (July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017), the maximum award is $5,815, which is to divided between fall and spring semesters.

Working with different demographics, I have seen students who barely pass high school or who have recently emigrated to the United States, as an eligible non-citizen, receive full awards. In contrast, the lower middle-class student, with perfect grades, often times gets zilch.

FAFSA states that it has implemented the change to put “less pressure” on families who “won’t need to estimate” tax information. However, working in college admissions, the real reason may be to redress loopholes in the system.

For example, some families may list only one parent on the IRS tax form, with that specific parent claiming all the dependents in the family. In this manner, those who are generally seen as “too wealthy” by the federal government, which is determined by the family’s needs analysis, will get some aid.

Nonetheless, the implementation of the two-year rule may not fully curtail abuses. Families may still try to work the system, because the federal government has yet to solve the rising cost of education and the crippling student debt crisis.

Ultimately, the socioeconomic implications of the new FAFSA have yet to be foreseen. From an institutional perspective, universities may have to reevaluate deadlines, offers of admissions, and recruitment practices. From a student perspective, families are still not being informed about the true cost of college nor is the middle-class receiving the full scope of financial aid that they should be entitled to have.

If FAFSA truly wanted to rectify its policies and procedures, as the award has not increased relative to college costs, then it should institute a GPA restriction as well as a residency requirement of at least two years.

There will be much discussion about FAFSA, included within the larger debate about the high cost of college, as many answers are still unknown and will not be known till the early FAFSA has been fully instituted.


lifestyle: quasi-relationships and singledom

“Love is so short, forgetting is so long.” –Pablo Neruda

Relationships, or quasi-relationships, are the norm these days. And with the impending Valentine’s Day holiday, it is easy to get wrapped up in your singledom. It is also just as easy to sit on a throne of lies and believe your relationship is healthy, and not just comfortable.

Here are a few reminders for those in relationships:

  1. No one owns you.
  2. Do not disrespect your partner. Do not cheat, lie, or betray one another. Once trust is gone, so is any chance of a strong relationship.
  3. If you are confused or frustrated, move on. The other person is playing you either intentionally or as a result of his insecurities. Boy, bye!
  4. Every relationship will teach you something:  what you want, what you do not want, and what you should never tolerate. Learn from your past.
  5. Love will make you stupid. Truly, completely, and utterly stoopid. Hopefully, the person who you are in love with will not abuse that love.
  6. You may fall out of love, or realize after years of being in a relationship that you were never in love to begin with. It’s okay.
  7. Do not speak ill of your exes, even if it is true. Harping on the negative will make you come off as angry and bitter. It’s emotional self-sabotage. Find the beauty in peace.
  8. Only talk to your closest friends about your relationship issues; this allows you to maintain your privacy but still get an outsider’s perspective on the relationship. Sometimes you are too close to a person to realize who he really is.
  9. Speak your truth. Do not just say, “I’m fine.” Address the issue and come to a solution.
  10. If he cares, then he will change. If not, he has just revealed his true face. Choose yourself before you give to another.

For all those single gals waiting to finally find a good man, wait till mid-March. This is peak season for break-ups and fresh beginnings.