A Year of Rhetoric: An Overview

Over the past year and a half, I’ve been fascinated with Rhetoric. When I first began reading about persuasion–how it was shaped and formalized over time, how it was hotly contested throughout history, and how it’s being diluted in modern society–it quickly became clear that I, as well as my students, need to be trained in the art of persuasion.

I constantly tell my classes: “I want you to play defense and offense.” In other words, I want us to realize when persuasion is being used on us so that we can combat it, and I want us to have the ability to persuade the people around us. In any given situation, there is a chance to influence another person. Ideally, the powers of persuasion would be used for good rather than for ill.

So, I scrapped my old curriculum for my Sophomore English classes and made Rhetoric the main focus. It should also be noted that Rhetoric is a topic that genuinely excites me, so fellow teachers may or may not want to focus an entire year on it. Still, I think it’s certainly worth teaching the younger generation how to speak with style and power.

Here’s what I’ve come up with. It’s a work in progress, and I welcome any feedback.

  • Wk 1 // Class Introduction (including frameworks used throughout the year)
  • Wks 2-3 // The Rhetorical Situation
  • Wks 4-5 // The Toulmin Method
  • Wks 6-7 // The Research Process
  • Wks 8-9 // Text-Based Analysis
  • Wks 10-11 // Logical Fallacies
  • Wks 12-13 // The Three Appeals
  • Wks 14-15 // Text Structures
  • Wks 16-18 // The Classical Argument
  • Wks 19-22 // The Five Virtues of Style
  • Wks 23-25 // Propaganda & Advertising
  • Wks 26-28 // Practical Persuasion
  • Wks 29-38 // Impact Project

Even while typing out this Overview, I can see where there are large gaps in what I’m teaching. However, here’s what I like: I like that basics of Rhetoric are covered over the course of the year, and they are applied to things like a Text-Based Analysis, Propaganda, Advertising, Practical Persuasion, and, finally, an Impact Project. (I’ll be writing more in depth about each of these units in future posts).

Persuasion is everywhere, and we’ve got to be prepared to take it on. Again, as you look over this progression, any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

Some Writing Advice For Students

don’t think just write spill it out for once just let go it doesn’t matter how many words or how long how do you feel are you being real with me are you being real with yourself just put the words down don’t ask questions just write who cares what I think what do you think how many pages you ask who cares just write for yourself you have to write you can’t keep it inside anymore be honest be genuine be vulnerable like this poem here no punctuation no capitalization no sentence structure just words on this page talking to you and you only do it for yourself don’t do it for anyone else you can make a difference if you put truth into your writing you don’t like this poem I don’t care I’m writing it anyway it’s done