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!


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.

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