This is my fifth year teaching AP Language and Composition to Juniors, and every year I implement new strategies to support all my students with the rigors of reading and writing in a college level course. This year has been the most challenging thus far because of COVID-19 and distance learning.
For semester one, I start with the Rhetorical Analysis Essay as it is the most complicated of all three essays on the exam. The conundrum is always where and how to begin without spewing vocabulary left and right. Teaching how to analyze rhetorical strategies is tricky because the default for some students seems to be to list devices or use the words ethos, logos, or pathos as part of their analysis. In both cases, it hinders students from writing college level essays. As an AP Reader this year, that’s exactly what I saw in some of the essays I read, which scored significantly lower than the essays that focused on the writer’s moves, effect on audience, and rhetorical situation. For the reasons mentioned above, I decided to start the unit with focusing on one rhetorical appeal at a time and analyzing them in one paragraph.
My first lesson was a slide on the Introduction to Rhetoric, which introduced two frameworks to my students: the AP Lang Framework (substitutes SOAPS) and Aristotle’s Rhetorical Triangle. We used these two frameworks religiously throughout the semester. This allowed me to set a strong foundation for all our readings, discussions, and writings.
I then begin to teach one appeal per week with the purpose of using retrieval practice, focusing on effect, and writing about the appeals without using the words ethos, logos, and pathos. After my students took notes on our first appeal, ethos, they worked on reading assignments from the The Language of Composition Reading Writing Rhetoric textbook and other supplementary texts. Students were instructed to write one short paragraph on how the writer appeals to the audience using proper phrases found in this doc. The next day, we had a class discussion, and I gave them my annotations, which highlight the writer’s moves and the targeted appeal. I also gave them a very low stakes formative at the end of the week using a Google Form. I repeated this process for all three appeals including the last one where I show them how to analyze all three appeals together.
Finally, we began to read The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass, and my focus was on the three appeals. Students analyzed the appeals through discussion and writing one paragraph for the first two months of the semester. I was getting anxious, but it all paid off in the end.
Far too many times, we assume that our students have the knowledge to write about rhetoric. The worse thing that can happen is that they pass this unit with flying colors. However, my experience is that students don’t know how to efficiently analyze rhetoric, so why not show them how to do it. Adieu!