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and fiction to not only to jazz up the readings but also to show that even fantasy can be truer of human nature than a historical document.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

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

x-Jennifer