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Rhetorical Analysis of Popular Media

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Keywords: Speech, English, Analysis, Rhetoric, Presentation, Multimedia, Popular Media
Subject(s): Writing, Reading, English/Language Arts, Spelling, Grammar, Speech and Language
Grades 9 through 12
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Amador Valley High School, Pleasanton, CA
Planned By: Sam Weaver
Original Author: Sam Weaver, Pleasanton
Students will analyze a sample from the American media—focusing especially on the use of rhetoric within the sample. In other words, how do the advertisers, or authors, use rhetorical devices to persuade the viewer, listener, or reader? Students should remain unbiased or objective. The students will not sell a product or convince the class to use something. Don’t tell us that Peet’s Coffee is the best coffee ever. It is our job as consumers to make that decision.
Some possible topics:
• Analyze an advertising campaign in a magazine. (You could find, for example, four different magazine advertisements for the same product, display them on a poster, and discuss the different elements used in the advertisements to persuade us to buy this particular product).
• Bring in transcripts of commercials recorded from the radio and discuss the different ways the commercials attempt to persuade us to do or to buy something.
• Bring in two or three television commercials (for the same product) and discuss the specific tools the commercials use to persuade us to do something.
• Bring in a collection of political advertisements and analyze them for their persuasive strategies and methods.
• Bring in clips (5 minutes or shorter) of television shows (a newscast, for example) and analyze the various ways they persuade us to “stay tuned.”
• “Compare and contrast the ways in which media genres (e.g., televised news, news magazines, documentaries, online information) cover the same event.”
• Students are free to come up with something totally different and run it by the teacher.

On the day of the presentation, the student will bring in a sample from the media, verbally make a thesis statement about how the media operates, and use your sample (image, transcript, video clip, etc.) to prove that the thesis is true. Students will demonstrate that they have carefully analyzed their samples. Students will offer commentary on evidence, explaining how the evidence proves the thesis. Finally, students will conclude the presentation with a creative restatement of the thesis.

Students must have a visual aid. Due to technological limitations, this will usually be a poster or handouts. The teacher may have access to an LCD projector, a TV, a DVD player, or a VHS player. Your visual aid should be professional; the better the visual aid, the more points you’ll earn. NOTE: STUDENTS CANNOT USE MATERIAL STREAMING LIVE FROM THE NET FOR YOUR VISUAL (yes, this means YouTube). Here are two reasons: (1) the Internet occasionally goes down occasionally, and (2), material from the net is ever changing and beyond our control and may contain inappropriate material that did not exist yesterday.

Once a student is finished delivering his or her presentation, the class will critique his or her delivery. Grading will be holistic. A’s go to very well-argued, closely analyzed, and visually-supported arguments—with a clear focus on rhetoric. B’s go to well-argued, fairly analyzed, and somewhat visually-supported arguments—with a focus on rhetoric. C’s go to presentations with a fundamental flaw, such as weak analysis, poor preparation, a lack of focus on rhetoric, or an absence of visual aids.

My students complete a lot of interactive media presentations. I currently have to schedule student presentations around availability of the projector. In addition to limited availability, the projector is dim and does not fully capture the presentations. Students have trouble seeing video, and colors are distorted. Having a permanent projector that fully captures student work will be a huge boost to student learning and achievement.
Materials: Portable, CDs and DVDs
Other Items: 1 Portable Ultra Bright Projector CP-X401, $1295.00 each, total of $1295.00