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

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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.

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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and fiction to not only to jazz up the readings but also to show that even fantasy can be truer of human nature than a historical document.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

Textbooks

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