Study of rhetoric boosts media literacy, critical thinking
California-based high school English teacher Jori Krulder uses advertising to help her students understand the idea of rhetoric and the art of persuasive writing, beginning with Aristotle's three elements of pathos, ethos and logos before having students examine and deconstruct video ads with these tools in mind, she writes in Edutopia.
Students are sent to find ads on their own, and they also work together to construct their own print advertisement using different techniques they’ve discussed in class.
Using the lessons they learn — how to identify what may be an unhealthy message, for example — the students also examine speeches and other kinds of communication, which helps them be “more conscious consumers” of what they read and see around them, writes Krulder.
The study of rhetoric can be easily folded into myriad subjects across K-12 curriculum, whether it's middle school English or even critical thinking. Students who learn how to break down messaging can then put these methods to work in their own writing, from a journalism class to drafting their college essay. And many lesson plans around rhetoric can be easily found online.
PBS offers a simple study guide showcasing historic speeches to understand how orators influence others through their arguments. Stanford University suggests an assignment where students craft a light-hearted piece of writing to make a point. They have to use elements of rhetoric, but do so in a way that makes writing seem more fun and enjoyable. Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” of course, is a classic piece of writing students can use to examine the basics of Aristotle’s three triangles of rhetoric, which the British Library outlines on its web site.
Administrators should encourage educators to arm students with the tools to interpret what they read, hear and watch on a daily basis. As pupils grow more critical of language, they can be more astute on how to wield these methods themselves.
- Edutopia ‘Bad Ads’ and the Study of Rhetoric