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Lesson Plan

Analyzing Famous Speeches as Arguments

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Analyzing Famous Speeches as Arguments

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

National Council of Teachers of English


Materials and Technology

Student Interactives






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ReadWriteThink Notetaker

Grades   3 – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Organizing & Summarizing

ReadWriteThink Notetaker

Useful for a wide variety of reading and writing activities, this outlining tool allows students to organize up to five levels of information.


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  • American Rhetoric

    This website contains audio of the Top 100 speeches of all time.

  • Guardian Unlimited

    Included on this site is audio of famous speeches of the 20th century, as well as information about the speeches and background information on the writers.

  • The History Place

    The "Great Speeches Collection" from The History Place are available here in print and in audio.

  • MLA Help

    This website includes information on finding and documenting sources in the MLA format.

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  1. Review the background and information sheet for teachers to familiarize yourself with the assignment and expectations.  Consider your students' background with necessary rhetorical terms such as claims, warrants, the appeals (logos, pathos, ethos), and fallacies; and rhetorical devices such as tone, diction, figurative language, repetition, hyperbole, and understatement. The lesson provides some guidance for direct instruction on these terms, but there are multiple opportunities for building or activating student knowledge through modeling on the two speeches done as a class.
  2. Check the links to the online resources (in Websites section) make sure that they are still working prior to giving out this assignment.
  3. Decide whether you want to allow more than one student to analyze and write about the same speech in each class.
  4. Look over the List of Speeches for Students to decide if there are any that you would like to add.
  5. Look over the suggested Essay Rubric and determine the weights you would like to assign to each category.  For example, you might tell students that Support and Research may be worth three times the value of Style. Customize the Essay Rubric to meet the learning goals for your students.
  6. Reserve the library for Session Three so the students can do research on their speeches.
  7. Find a 10-minute clip of a contemporary presidential speech to discuss in class on Session Two. You may want to provide hard copies of the text of the speech as well. Possible choices include
    • President Obama’s Inauguration Speech.
    • Former President Bush’s Defends War in Iraq Speech.
    • Former President Bush’s 9/11 Speech.
    • Former President Clinton’s “I Have Sinned” Speech.
    • Additional clips and choices can be found on news sites and The White House homepage.

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