The Rhetorical Triangle

This year I’m going to start my College in the High School class (American Literature) with the rhetorical triangle. We will focus on creating solid arguments which use all three appeals: emotional, logical, and ethical. Each time the students construct an essay, they will be required to map out their support (sometimes known as warrants) using these three appeals.

Lesson Idea!

Sometimes I put the intended audience in the middle of the triangle to make sure the students understand that their arguments must be focused towards the intended audience. This becomes very useful when tackling a controversial or broad issue and allowing the students to see that a change in audience results in a change in arguments.

For example, after drawing this triangle on the board, I tell the students that we are going to formulate arguments within each type of appeal with the purpose of explaining why year-round school is a good idea, and local parents are the intended audience. Once we come up with valid arguments covering pathos, logos, and ethos, we stop and I draw a second triangle next to the first.

Now, the audience is the student body. As we formulate arguments for this new audience, the students will see how they must tailor their ideas for this new audience. The purpose is the same, the appeals are the same, but the arguments begin to change.

Do you use the rhetorical triangle? How do you use it? What else do you use?

5 thoughts on “The Rhetorical Triangle

  1. Jim Van Pelt

    For kiddos who have trouble identifying their audience and the types of arguments they can make, I use the five-fingered approach. I’ll trace my hand on the board and then say they need to consider how their argument effects themselves, their family, their friends, their community and their country or the world. Each audience is one of the fingers. So, students who are arguing that we should lower the driving age can argue how it impacts themselves, how their family will benefit, what their friends would do with the privilege, how it would change the town or state, and finally how it would change the country.

    The five-fingered approach gives them a broader scope and different perspectives to consider.

    The district is emphasizing argument in the newly adopted curriculum (which, among other things, asks all the teachers to be in the same place, doing the same thing, on about the same day), so we’ve been talking a lot about common language, including naming the parts of the argument, like “claim,” “warrant,” etc.

  2. Pingback: Argumentation and the School « The Doc Is In

  3. Pingback: Argumentation and the School « The Doc Is In

  4. Pingback: Speaking at Conferences – the Art of Persuasion | | distilled

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