I started the rhetorical analysis unit a couple of weeks ago. It’s my favorite to teach. I mean, it makes sense because that is what I’m getting my PhD in, after all. I wanted to wait to post in my journal though until before rough drafts were due so that I could reflect on the first part of the unit as a whole. This is going to be a long one!
I started the unit by discussing exigence, Kairos, and audience/constraints. I had them read about and define the terms prior to our class discussion. I use an activity that I love that I call “The Situation.” My students in the past have always had fun with. I put them in the situation that while driving to their mid-term biology exam they are texting their friend, run a red light, and get in a car crash while driving their grandma’s car. No one is hurt, but both vehicles are towed away, they are cited for the accident, and they miss their mid-term. They then have to create an email to their professor asking for a chance to re-take the mid-term (knowing their professor is old and cranky and probably won’t allow it). They also have to create a text message to the friend they were texting at the time of the accident and ask for a ride. Lastly, they create a script of what they are going to say to Grandma when they Facetime her after they get home. I have them do this as a discussion post, so everyone can see each other’s writing. We then read through them as a class, discussing exigence, Kairos, and audience along the way.
This is always a fun way for them to realize the rhetorical situations they find themselves in on a day-to-day basis. It’s also a cool way to show how audience affects rhetorical choices.
The next class, we looked at the rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos. After a short lecture/discussion, I had 5 stations set up around the room (I’m in a huge computer lab and have been really wanting to use the space to my advantage). At each station, I had different types of advertisements. Station 1 was a video Snickers ad with Betty White from a past Super Bowl; Station 2 was two activism ads (one from Moms Demand Action, the other from the ACLU); Station 3 was 2 cigarette ads from the 1930s; Station 4 was a political ad from a local primary election in Toledo; and Station 5 was a movie poster from the film Titanic. The students were in groups and had to work together to find one example each of logos, pathos, and ethos at each station. Afterward, they wrote their results on the whiteboards. This activity went long, so we ended up having to save the discussion for the next class. At first, I was happy about it because it gave me more time to review everything they had found. But the next class was a Tuesday, so there was a long break between the activity itself and discussion of it. That was not so great because many of them forgot or weren’t as excited about it after 5 days. Next time, I would either only have 4 stations, or limit the time they spend at each station, so we could cover it all in one class.
We then moved on to style, arrangement, and delivery. There was a short lecture, then I had them go back to their car accident discussion board and do 2 things. First, comment on their own post about how they used ethos, pathos, and logos in their email, text, and Facetime with Grandma. Second, discuss how aspects like appeals, style, and arrangement might change if the delivery method was different for each person. What if it had to be a phone call to the professor? What if they had to send an email to Grandma?
After this, they had time to brainstorm about their own project. I am having them do a rhetorical remix. They need to find a prior piece of writing, analyze it rhetorically, then pick at least 2 major aspects and remix them. After the remix, they are to write a reflection about what they remixed, why, how, etc.
As always, I wondered if my students were understanding the concepts of this unit. I would often get blank stares or a few head nods in response to what we discussed. But after reading what they wrote in their brainstorming session, I was so happy! Not only were they understanding the concepts, they came up with such unique and interesting ways to remix their old writing! Most are taking some piece of prior academic writing, but turning it into videos, presentations, social media posts, poems, short stories, so many creative things! I’m so excited to see the finished pieces!