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Teacher Resources by Grade
|1st - 2nd||3rd - 4th|
|5th - 6th||7th - 8th|
|9th - 10th||11th - 12th|
Analyzing Famous Speeches as Arguments
|Grades||9 – 12|
|Lesson Plan Type||Standard Lesson|
|Estimated Time||Five 50-minute sessions|
Traditionally, teachers have encouraged students to engage with and interpret literature—novels, poems, short stories, and plays. Too often, however, the spoken word is left unanalyzed, even though the spoken word has the potential to alter our space just as much than the written. After gaining skill through analyzing a historic and contemporary speech as a class, students will select a famous speech from a list compiled from several resources and write an essay that identifies and explains the rhetorical strategies that the author deliberately chose while crafting the text to make an effective argument. Their analysis will consider questions such as What makes the speech an argument?, How did the author's rhetoric evoke a response from the audience?, and Why are the words still venerated today?
ReadWriteThink Notetaker: Students use this interactive tool to help them track their notes they take in preparation for their essay.
Peer Response Handout: Students use this worksheet to examine and answer questions regarding their peer's essay.
Essay Rubric: This rubric is used as a guide for students as they are writing their essay, and for teachers to use as a grading tool.
Nearly everything we read and hear is an argument. Speeches are special kinds of arguments and should be analyzed as such. Listeners should keep in mind the context of the situation involving the delivery and the audience-but a keen observer should also pay close attention to the elements of argument within the text. This assignment requires students to look for those elements.
"Since rhetoric is the art of effective communication, its principles can be applied to many facets of everyday life" (Lamb 109). It's through this lesson that students are allowed to see how politicians and leaders manipulate and influence their audiences using specific rhetorical devices in a manner that's so effective that the speeches are revered even today. It's important that we keep showing our students how powerful language can be when it's carefully crafted and arranged.
Lamb, Brenda. "Coming to Terms: Rhetoric." English Journal. 87.1 (January 1998): 108-109.