Category Archives: American Lit.

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?

Take A Trip And Go Further

For those of you who teach about Ken Kesey or use One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in the classroom, a new film about Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and Further arrives in theaters in August. It might be worth checking out. The trailer is below.

I know that my students are fascinated by my introduction to this novel, and many run out to buy The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. The local bookseller knows when I start teaching One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest when the kids come in asking for Wolfe’s book.

A Great Debate

I’m in the middle of teaching John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath today, and I presented the students with the following question:

If the economic system used in our society guarantees winners and losers, does this mean society has an obligation to take care of the losers?

Wow! What a lively debate! It may have been one of the best moments of the school year as the students brought up salient points from their experiences, observations, and from The Grapes of Wrath and The Great Gatsby (which we read previously).

What struck me, though, as I watched the students argue their ideas was that the students of the upper middle class families argued most strenuously for less assistance (because they believed everybody could get what they want by working hard enough and some will cheat the system) while my middle and lower class students argued for more assistance (because they believed opportunities are fewer for them and hard work may not be enough to be a “winner”).

This class divide in economic home lives came out quite clearly, but the students eventually reached an understanding that assistance is needed, and they decided that some will cheat the system and that’s just the way it goes.

Tomorrow I’m going to present ideas to them to see how they feel about them, and then I’ll reveal these ideas to be from Steinbeck (and hint at some of his socialist slants). I’m curious how they’ll react.

Pre-Writing or Pre-Procrastinating

Last semester my juniors composed a thesis paper, and it was a rousing success. I had a series of three editing days where students worked in groups editing papers using a process I created, and then the students completed an editing session with me leading the class. The papers were fantastic, and I felt like a very successful teacher.

Then, I gave the same two classes a personal reflection assignment two weeks ago. We went over the expectations as a class, created a list of non-negotiables, and formulated some topics the students could use. I assessed them over the weekend, and now I wonder what kind of teaching I did (or didn’t do).

I couldn’t tell what I had taught and felt like I didn’t know these kids. We had:

  • practiced vocabulary, grammar, and punctuation weekly,
  • used pre-writing practices repeatedly,
  • composed multiple pieces of prose and poetry,
  • used three different editing processes, and
  • reviewed the writing process numerous times.

Still, it looked to me as if the students had simply written something the night before the due date. I think we’re going to have a conversation Tuesday about what happened.

In the meantime, I think the diagram below (from here) sums up my suspicions.

This Week In Censorship

The author of this article and I thought of the same Mark Twain line when seeing the insanity of replacing the n-word with “slave:”

The difference between the almost-right word & the right word is . . . the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

How could anyone think substituting an author’s words, intent, and meaning is acceptable?

There has to be a limit to the political correctness and perceived comfort levels of the public. No one learns anything of value in complete comfort; challenging ideas is at the heart of becoming educated.

As this article writer stated: “The one consolation is that somewhere, Mark Twain is laughing his head off.” Alan Gribben of Auburn University, in my opinion, should be ashamed of himself for sponsoring the censorship of art, the art of America’s most renowned author, and the alteration of America’s (arguably) most American novel.