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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|
- analyze a speech for rhetorical devices and their purpose.
- identify an author’s purposeful manipulation of language.
- identify elements of argument within a speech.
- write an analysis of a speech with in-text documentation.
- Begin the lesson by asking students what needs to be present in order for a speech to occur. Though the question may seem puzzling—too hard, or too simple—at first, students will eventually identify, as Aristotle did, the need for a speaker, a message, and an audience.
- The class should discuss audience and the importance of identifying the audience for speeches, since they occur in particular moments in time and are delivered to specific audiences. This is a good time to discuss the Rhetorical Triangle (Aristotelian Triad) or discuss a chapter on audience from an argumentative textbook. You may wish to share information from the ReadWriteThink.org lesson Persuasive Techniques in Advertising and The Rhetorical Triangle from The University of Oklahoma.
- Next distribute Queen Elizabeth’s speech to the troops at Tilbury and use the speech and its historical context as a model for the processes students will use on the speech they select. Provide a bit of background information on the moment in history.
- Then, as a class, go over Queen Elizabeth’s speech and discuss the rhetorical devices in the speech and the purpose for each one. Adjust the level of guidance you provide, depending on your students' experiences with this type of analysis. The questions provide a place to start, but there are many other stylistic devices to discuss in this selection.
Discuss the audience and the author’s manipulation of the audience. Consider posing questions such as
- This is a successful speech. Why?
- Elizabeth uses all of the appeals – logos, pathos, and ethos – to convince all of her listeners to fight for her from the loyal follower to the greedy mercenary. How?
- The tone shifts throughout the selection. Where? But more importantly, why?
- If time permits, discuss how politicians and speech writers employ rhetorical strategies to influence the opinions of their audience members. Refer to recent elections, if possible, and/or bring in flyers and/or brochures. Here’s one example from the past you could use:
Martin Luther King, Jr. uses an appeal to pathos in his “I Have a Dream” speech through his historical allusion to Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.” This is particularly effective for his audience of people sympathetic to the cause of African American men and women who would have been especially moved by this particular reference since it had such a significant impact on the lives of African Americans.
- Continue the work from the previous session by distributing the Analyzing Famous Speeches as Arguments handout and discussing the assignment and what it requires. See the background and information sheet for teachers for more details.
- Tell students they will be getting additional practice with analyzing a speech as an argument by showing a short 10-minute clip of a presidential speech. Ask students to think about how the particular moment in history and the national audience contribute to the rhetorical choices made by the speaker.
- Lead a discussion of the speech as an argument with regard to purpose and intent. Work with students to identify warrants, claims, and appeals.
- Ask students to consider how the author manipulates the audience using tone, diction, and stylistic devices. What rhetorical devices aided the author’s manipulation of his audience? Discuss a particular rhetorical device that the President used and the purpose it served.
- Share the Essay Rubric and explain to students the expectations for success on this assignment.
- Allow students to select a speech from the List of Speeches for Students. If they wish to preview any of the speeches, they can type the speaker's name and the title of the speech into a search engine and should have little difficulty finding it.
- Take the students to the library and allow them to research their speeches. They should locate their speech and print a copy for them to begin annotating for argumentative structure and rhetorical devices.
- Ask students to research the history of the speech. Provide a copy of the Historical Speech Research Questions to give students a place to start:
- What was the speaker up against? What is the occasion for the speech?
- What did the author have to keep in mind when composing the text?
- What were his or her goals?
- What was his or her ultimate purpose?
- What was his or her intent?
- What was the speaker up against? What is the occasion for the speech?
- Remind students that the writer of the speech is sometimes not the person who delivered the speech, for example, and this will surprise some students. Many people assume that the speaker (president, senator, etc.) is always the writer, and that’s not always the case, so ask your students to check to see who wrote the speech. (They might be surprised at the answer. There’s always a story behind the composition of the speech.)
- Help students find the author of the speech because this will challenge some students. Oftentimes, students assume the speaker is the author, and that’s sometimes not the case. Once the speechwriter is identified, it is easier to find information on the speech. Help students find the history behind the speech without getting too bogged down in the details. They need to understand the climate, but they do not need to be complete experts on the historical details in order to understand the elements of the speech.
- If they wish, students can use the ReadThinkWrite Interactive Notetaker to help them track their notes for their essays. Remind them that their work cannot be saved on this tool and should be printed by the end of the session so they can use it in future work.
- For Session Four, students must bring a thesis, an outline, and all of their research materials to class for a workday. Remind them to refer to the Analyzing Famous Speeches as Arguments, the Essay Rubric, and any notes they may have taken during the first two sessions as they begin their work.
- The thesis statement should answer the following question: What makes this speech an effective argument and worthy of making this list?
- Set up students in heterogenous groups of four. Ask students to share their outlines and thesis statements.
- Go around to check and to monitor as students share their ideas and progress. The students will discuss their speeches and their research thus far.
- Have students discuss the elements of an argument that they plan on addressing.
- Finally, have students work on writing their papers by writing their introductions with an enticing “grab” or “hook.” It time permits, have students share their work.
- For Session Five, students should bring in their papers. This session whould happen in about a week.
- In this session, students will respond each other's drafts using the Peer Response Handout.
- Determine and discuss the final due date with your students. Direct students to Diana Hacker’s MLA site for assistance with their citations if necessary.
- Remind students that their work will be evaluate using the essay rubric. They should use the criteria along with the comments from their peer to revise and polish their work.
- During the process of analyzing Queen Elizabeth I’s Speech, consider showing the related scene from the film Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Though the text of the speech is drastically cut and altered, seeing one filmmaker's vision for the scene may help reinforce the notion of historical context and the importance of audience.
- Allow students to read and/or perform parts of the speeches out loud. Then, they can share some of their thinking about the argumentative structure and rhetorical devices used to make the speech effective. This activity could happen as part of the prewriting process or after essays have been completed.
- Require students to write a graduation speech or a speech on another topic. They can peruse print or online news sources to select a current event that interests them. Have them choose an audience to whom they would deliver an argumentative speech.
- After peer response has taken place, use the essay rubric to provide feedback on student work. You may change the values of the different categories/requirements to better suit the learning goals for your classroom.