Educating Tomorrow's Orators

byAdam Kubey


Public speaking is a required skill for all politicians. For many politicians, public speaking becomes as natural as conversation. In fact, many search for media attention to convey their message to as many people as possible. They are hoping to influence the audience to take action or to supply financial support. Political speeches can be very powerful. They can influence opinion, evoke emotion and incite action.

Effective public speaking is a skill that most middle and high school students do not have. Getting up in front of a class of their peers to give a speech is something they would rather not do. In my observation, when they do speak, their opinions are not supported by evidence. They are very vague and lack organization. Their speech is more a rambling of thoughts, which flow to their mind just before they say them. What I would like my students to gain from this unit, is not only an understanding of the many aspects of the art of spoken and written rhetoric, but the ability to use those tools to effectively use speech to persuade.

The students for whom this unit is designed are eighth grade gifted students almost all of minority status. They have varied backgrounds and varied educational achievement levels. They have all tested into a gifted middle school program that has created a homogenous grouping of high achieving and/or highly able students. This unit will also have modifications for a junior/senior advanced placement United States government class. These classes, though very different in student population and content, will be able to use aspects of this unit to reach the overall goal of getting its audience to understand strategies of persuasive rhetoric and apply them to their everyday lives.

This unit will include speeches from ancient Greece and Rome and other persuasive speeches throughout time. The unit will be taught by having students analyzing speeches and look at how these speeches were able to be successful in influencing their audience and what skills were used to persuade them into action. The goal of this unit will be to measure the effectiveness of rhetoric throughout history. It will include analysis of the time period in history that the speech took place, the targeted audience, the chosen language used, and the political environment. Certainly today, the use of the sound bite and spin techniques are effective tactics.

When completed, students will understand ethos, logos, pathos, or character, logic, emotions and how they play a part in spoken rhetoric. Students will perform a variety of speeches that include personal statements and a position speech that must include claims supported by evidence and presented to an audience of their peers.

Who am I?

A speaker's understanding of how to use speech must start in their understanding of themselves. Speaker's use of Ethos, or their character, to make themselves credible to their audience, is at the core of persuasive speech. Ethos is constructed with various parts, but derived from the audience's ability to answer the question, "Is this person someone I can trust?" The speaker can accomplish this task in many different ways, however this must be accomplished first, if the speaker will hope to persuade the audience.

Character is built in a number of ways. One can be the "story" of the speaker. Every person has a life story. Individuals will vary in experiences and origin, but everyone has an individual story made up of one's origin, prior to birth, and including the beginning of their life. A person might tell of his or her life from birth to the time of the speech, and one's goals and outlook of their future. No one part of one's ethos is less shaping than the next, however the audience may choose to concentrate on one part as particularly important for their judgment of the speaker's character. Speakers can choose to concentrate on one aspect of their character with which they think the audience will connect. A person's origin is something they have had no say in creating. From one's race, gender, national origin, to ones social status, each was bestowed on the individual without their choice. In the past, this area of one's character was most telling of ones ethos. People felt that if they could grasp their origin, that many stereotypes would hold true of the speaker that they did not know. They felt that they could define the speaker by this criteria and that each person that shared these characteristics must be the same, or at the least similar. Through a measurement of one's ethos, one can form a positive or negative impact on the speaker. The speaker might choose to accentuate certain aspects of this, and hide others to appeal to their audience. This is a skill and choice that a speaker must make.

One's life experiences from birth to the present are shaped by the speaker's life decisions. Each person follows a life path and makes decisions in their life that affect that path. These decisions formulate the person that we are, and the character we have. Though one cannot go back in time to change those decisions, to make a better character for themselves, one can recognize that their past actions and inaction do shape how others will see them. This part of ones ethos, in most contexts, weighs the most on how an audience will judge one's character. Today most recognize that one's origin was not chosen and must be weighed less then one's life decisions. These life choices not only give the audience a better understanding of ones character, but also a view of what character one will be in the future. An example of this can be seen in President Bill Clinton and various pro athletes. Their ethos is questioned by what they have done during their lives, but many people still admire them for character in their professions, or how they make mistakes like we all do.

A person's ethos is not only one's origin and how that molds one's character, but also who one hopes to become. Many persuasive speeches ask the audience to trust in the speaker, who will take on a certain responsibility for the future. This takes not only their origin and life character, but also who the speaker sees himself becoming, and conveying that to the audience. One does not trust with personal responsibilities one who does not inspire to respect that trust and have that on their mind when completing the task promised to do. The speaker might use examples or promises to build their future character with their audience. The audience will decide if they believe the speaker to be truthful in attempting to fulfill those promises, but also if they have the ability to be able to make good on them.

The strategy of understanding ethos can be used in analyzing President Obama's keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. At that time, State Senator Obama was running for United States Senate in Illinois. He was hardly known in Illinois let alone the entire United States. John Kerry, the Democratic Party's nominee for president asked Barack Obama to speak to the Democratic Party during the convention. It was unheard of that a person with so little seniority within the party would have such a prime speaking position. This would be his introduction to the Party and the country. He would have to establish himself as a character that his audience could trust; not only for Obama's own sake, but for the sake of the message he was carrying. This message was many different things; it was to introduce John Kerry and his support of his candidacy, but also the message of himself, as a member of the future of the Democratic Party. Obama would have to convince his audience of his character, his ethos, before his audience would hear any of these messages.

Obama would start his speech with an introduction of who he was, his origin. "Let's face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely. My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin-roof shack. His father, my grandfather, was a cook, a domestic servant. But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place." Obama starts out his speech stating his history, setting his origin. Then he states how his story is an unlikely one. This statement allows the audience to see Obama not as someone entitled, but one that has defied the odds. Right away, this made him seem of the common man, one striving for the American Dream. He even refers to his story as one of America, referring to one that most Americans relate, which was met with applause. Obama goes on to inform the audience of his immigrant roots, his working class grand parents, their participation in World War Two, and the struggles that they faced in their lives. This technique would strike a cord with his audience, them seeing him as one of them, sharing their story, to be worthy of their trust. Establishing this common link with his audience would allow him to transition to his message, and persuade them to support it.


A good place to start this unit is with a personal biography. Though writing one's story and presenting it to others might seem to be an easy task to do, it has many aspects that can be analyzed and critiqued to understand not only one as a speaker, but one's perception of an audience and how it shapes one's message.

Students will be asked to choose various facts about themselves that would be used to form an autobiographical speech about themselves to their audience. They will assume that everyone in the class does not know them and this will be their first introduction to them. Each student will have to choose which facts to include, facts that will portray either their true character or the one they want the audience to see. Many of my students have never been asked to think about their history, let alone write or speak about it to others. This can be a cause of concern for many of them. No one wants to admit that they don't know something, let alone something about one's self. Also, many feel that not knowing one's family – more specifically their father – shows to others lack of social status. However an analysis of this process, of choosing points, what order they are presented, what is said, what is not said and how one says it, is important to understanding how to use tools of persuasion in various ways.

Students will write these facts down, and then combine them together to form a brief speech answering the general question, "Who am I?" The lack of guidelines for what to include and the ambiguity of instructions on how to form this speech will allow students to formulate this creatively and to use their own specifications. After the writing process, students will form groups and present their speeches to each other. Each member of their group will write down observations and notes from each member's speech. After all are finished, they will use a venn diagram to compare and contrast the group's speeches, noting spoken and non-spoken differences, said and unsaid information. As a group they will reflect on why some members choose certain methods and others different ones to come up with a general understanding of various techniques of character. This will be followed by a discussion of what techniques worked best, and what ones caused the audience not to connect with the speaker. The class will discuss general observations of what was said and not said, and why speakers choose certain information to present and if they consciously or unconsciously analyzed the audience and catered their speech to them. The class will also discuss whether or not their speech would be different if presented to an audience of teachers, parents or college admittance counselors.

The class will then analyze President Obama's 2004 Democratic National Convention Speech. This speech was Barack Obama's introduction to the general public of the nation. Students will listen and watch the video of the speech taking notes to the facts about himself that Obama presents. Just as the students did with their speeches, they will analyze how Obama creates his ethos for his audience. They will analyze whether he talks about his origin, his past, or what he plans to do if elected. This activity will end the introductory part of this unit.

Aristotle's Rhetoric of Anger and Calm

Aristotle is known to many students as a philosopher and the student of Plato, who was the student of Socrates. Maybe they know that he started academies of learning and maybe they associate him with not believing in democratic government. But most students do not learn about Aristotle's teachings in the art of rhetoric. Aristotle understood that "the orator must not only try to make the argument of his speech demonstrative and worthy of belief; he must also make his own character look right and put his hearers, who are to decide, into the right frame of mind" (Aristotle). He understood that not only character, ethos, but also logic, logos and emotion of the audience, pathos held important roles in persuasion. Rhetoricians would study his teachings from then on, and strategies used to persuade. One famous use will be explored later in the Mytilenian Debate between Cleon and Diodotus.

Aristotle explored many aspects of the art of rhetoric, but two in particular will be analyzed by my students, Aristotle's Rhetoric, Book II chapters 2 and 3 on anger and it's opposite calm. He points out that anger is an impulse that is caused by a feeling of slight. There are three types of slighting, contempt, spite, and insolence (Aristotle). Contempt or anger to do something unimportant, spite or anger to prevent something from someone, and insolence, or saying things that cause shame (Aristotle). This anger can cause one to act in vengeance, which will bring the revenged pleasure.

One can only be angry through slight, and one can only be slighted by those they respect. "A max expects to be specially respected by his inferiors in birth, in goodness, and generally in anything in which he is much their superior." Slight can also be caused through disregard. "Thus a sick man is angered by disregard of his illness, a poor man by disregard of his poverty, a man aging war by disregard of the war he is waging, a lover by disregard of his love, and so throughout" (Aristotle). One can control their anger if they see the slighter as ones whose opinion or respect was not necessary. Only five classes of people can slight us, our rivals, those whom we admire, those whom we wish to admire us, those for whom we feel reverence, and those who feel reverence for us. Each of these comes from those one respects. Anger is felt as an individual feeling, not as a group. Though many can feel anger, it originates from each persons individual feelings.

Aristotle points out that the opposite of anger is one of calmness. It can define "as the settling down or quieting of anger" (Aristotle). He also says that one cannot get angry with people that they fear or respect. Calmness comes when one is amused, laughing, or even feasting which would bring pleasure, which is the opposite of pain, which causes anger. One can achieve calm do to a conviction of the offender of their anger, or when they see justice.

An orator can cause their audience to feel either anger or calm with persuasive rhetoric. Through the use of ethos, logos, and pathos especially, the speaker can guide his audience to a feeling of slight, anger, or a feeling of justice, calm. This approach of comprehending how to generate anger and calmness can be seen in many speeches from the past and today. Aristotle's approach can be seen in the Mytilenian Debate in which Cleon points out the in justice of the Mytilenians to Prime Minister Churchill's speeches to British citizens calming them of during the Nazi blitzkrieg, as well as many others through out history.

Students today are easily angered by inflammatory rhetoric. Though physical violence is prevalent, many times, verbal speech can be what set's off physical contact. As explained by Aristotle, slighting causes this anger that leads to violence. By getting to the root of the cause of this slight and having students understand why responding to the slight justifies the origin of the remark as credible, is important to stopping student violence. Students are quick to respond to a remark, as Aristotle would refer to as insolence. Though contempt and spite are causes for some anger to youths, insolence is the major cause of student anger. One student will make a comment that causes another student to feel shame and disrespected. Though if the student ignored the comment or saw its origin as one that was not respected, the issue would be dropped. However the student does not want to look weak, and his peers are sources of social status and respect, so he responds. Calmness could be achieved through some sort of justice on the offender, but because many students do not trust the school or societies legal system, they feel that justice will not be achieved through legal means, which leads them to street justice. Hopefully through an analysis of Aristotle's theory, students will understand that their actions lead more to justification of the wrongdoer, vs. vindication.


Students view violence as a means to justice. They are angry because another student has disrespected them and they want to feel better about themselves and show the perpetrator that their actions will not go without reprisal. However as students get older, many start to see hurtful comments as things to be ignored. Also they themselves choose to not make hurtful comments knowing that it makes them look like someone that should not be respected. Middle school students that have this concept reinforced, do better academically and socially.

To teach this concept to students and also to have them understand Aristotle's approach to anger and calmness, students will form groups and write a list of comments that they have heard that cause anger. These can be comments directed at them or directed at others. They will read Aristotle's Rhetoric Book II chapters two and three and write observations on what causes anger and calmness. As a class, we will discuss how anger is only caused by slightness from the groups Aristotle identified. That rhetoric used for negative purposes is inappropriate and can cause harmful actions. That students should practice Aristotle's approaches to calm vs. anger. Each group will convene again to form a list of things they could say that to calm a fellow student and defuse a potentially violent situation. We will share out as a class and use these ideas as a base for our public speaking activity.

Mytilenian Debate, Who persuaded better Cleon or Diodotus

Ancient Greek history is a topic loved by many of my students. Over the past years, they love the mythical imagery that it evokes. We discuss the stories of Athens and Sparta and most students are engaged in the stories of Persian and Peloponnesian Wars. However, using a specific story in Greek history that showed how one Athenian was able to persuade his fellow citizens to spare his traitorous allies vs. massacre them, will be harder. Mitylene was a Greek city-state that was allied with Athens. Many Mitylenians would favor supporting other Greek city-states, who were enemies of Athens because of how the Athenians would treat them. To punish the traitorous acts of the Mitylenians, Athens decided to kill all the male Mitylenians and enslave the women and children. After deliberation, the Athenian citizens voted this punishment upon their former allies. However after some citizens reconsidered, the group met again to debate the issue again. Two talented orators spoke for each side, Cleon for keeping the current punishment, and Diodotus to repeal. Both used various methods of Aristotle's Rhetoric to try to convince the audience of citizens to vote their way. In the end, Diodotus had convinced enough to change their vote, to over turn the previous result and spare the Mitylenians their lives.

An analysis of the Mitylenian Debate can give incite into the art of rhetoric and how it can be used for political decisions. It can also be used to show how those that are angry can be convinced to have pity on a group that has wronged them. Diodotus was able to use the art of persuasion to get Athenians to not kill the Mitylenians. If students can harness this power of persuasion, to get another student or group of students to not act in vengeance, but look to what is better for their group in the long run, then violence might be avoided.


Students in eighth have trouble reading complex speeches from text. However reading the Mytilenian debate between Cleon and Diodotus will not only measure students reading abilities, but their ability to see persuasive rhetoric in text. Students will read the text of the speech and summarize the debate. They will take careful note of the ways each orator uses various forms of persuasion to convince their audience. Students will analyze these speeches just as they have the other speeches, but from text. As a class we will discuss the techniques and through group analysis, look for parts of speech that were especially affective. This lesson will follow the one on Aristotle, and such should be a continuation of use of persuasion in anger and calm.

Cicero vs. Catilina

Cicero is one of the most famous rheticians of ancient Rome. His abilities to convey a message and persuade the Senators of Rome are well documented. By reading Cicero, The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician, one of many books written about Cicero's life, it can be seen how his abilities as a politician shaped the Roman republic.

Cicero started his political career like most others, running for local office. Cicero was not a wealthy man. When running for consulship, Cicero would have stiff, well-funded competition. The most formidable would be Catilina. Catilina from a wealthy aristocratic family was financially backed and supported by questionable people. Catilina said that he represented the populares or the people, and would fight for what was best for them. Cicero used his rhetorical abilities to point out the flaws in hit opponents, showing their questionable pasts and their conspiracies to help their backers for financial support. Cicero spoke to his audience, knowing that he was the lesser of the evils. He portrayed his opponents as untrustworthy and not able to represent the people. His abilities of persuasion were much better then his opponents despite their greater financial supports, and powerful backers. Cicero was able to win the consulship and start his rise to political prominence.

This would not be the end of Catilina; Cicero would use his abilities of persuasion and politics to turn his tough opponent, into a springboard to more political power. Catilina would be gutted by his political defeats and choose to represent those who had backed him still, those that were corrupt and those who did not find favorability with the republic. Catilina spoke up against the republic, and formed a coalition of people who wanted to rebel and bring about political change. Cicero, knowing his opponent and knowing the senate, knew that he must persuade his fellow senators to turn their back on Catilina. This was not an easy task. Many were not happy with the republic and others were too afraid to speak out. Cicero would speak in front of the senate and convince them to exile the conspirators including Catilina. Catilina, rather then accept exile, left to form an army to invade Rome and take power for himself. Cicero used this conspiracy to his advantage, gaining political power with the senate, and saving the republic from Catilina's conspiracy.


Cicero and his ability to use his rhetoric skills to promote his political power are best seen in his interaction with Catilina. It's a classic rivalry that students can relate with. By analysis of this story, students will be able to understand how rhetoric and persuasion could influence the republic. By looking at the story and analyzing how Cicero was able to use Catilina as a nemesis for democracy, students can see how persuasion can be used to gain political favor. Students will be able to understand better the roman republic and how it would change to an empire. After analysis of the story of Cicero and Catilina, students will look at today's politicians and how they use events and wars to gain political power.

Action vs. Inaction

Persuasion many times is the art of convincing the audience to do something, an action. However sometimes persuasion can take the part of convincing an audience to inaction. One such example is in the 1968 Robert Kennedy speech in Indianapolis following the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Robert Kennedy was running for president and was scheduled to make a campaign speech to supporters in an African-American neighborhood in Indianapolis. Kennedy had campaigned on civil rights and knew the assassination would enrage many of his supporters who Reverend King was a hero. Kennedy could either cancel his speech or allow for these supporters to vent their frustrations in various ways, many violent, or he could speak out against this assassination, but call for those angry to not take violent action, and instead morn the loss. A wrong decision could be detrimental to Kennedy's presidential hopes if handled incorrectly. He could measure the audience wrong or say the wrong thing and turn his supporters against him. They might think him to be weak or even sympathetic to those who were against the civil rights movement. Kennedy, in his mind, had to do something, and decided to speak.

Today many feel that this speech, by a prominent politician, in a time of crisis, unified the nation in mourning, and convinced many who would have used this event as a reason to turn protest into violence, to act peacefully. Kennedy spoke for just under two minutes and in that time convinced the audience to not resort to violence. Though this was not the case country wide, with people in many parts of the country expressing their grief and frustration with violence.

Kennedy was able to use his ethos, and pathos to change the crowd's anger to one of mourning. He was able to unite the crowd's emotions. This event in history could have been handled much differently, and could have had disastrous outcomes. Kennedy's speech made a huge affect on the civil rights movement and an immediate affect, which stopped some of the violence nationwide.


Students will watch Robert Kennedy's speech following the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. As a class, we will discuss the historical context of this speech. Through this we can come up with what it was like for the audience of this speech, but also for the speaker. By looking at not only what was said, but also how Robert Kennedy delivered his speech, students can see how speech can be used to inspire an audience to inaction. Then students will be put into groups to use speech for typical situations that they might come into contact with themselves in or outside of school. By using RFK's speech and what strategies, they can come up with speeches that would defuse a potentially violent situation.

"Just words"

This was what Candidate Obama said on his campaign trail in response to criticism from Candidate Clinton that Obama was more rhetoric then action. That he was not a realist did not have the experience and was leading American's to false hope through use of fancy rhetoric. Though whether his speeches were just rhetoric is still to be determined and could someday be true, but many see Obama's rhetorical word choice as even more important then the message itself. The specific use of words is nothing new. Wordsmiths, or people who understand meanings of words and how and when they should be used, has always been part of speech. Choosing the correct word for the topic, the time, the audience, the part in the speech is just as important as the overall message. Words are a part of the whole machine that drives the message.

The use of specific words and phrases to create a certain emotion, or pathos, has been one used since the beginning of speech. How one uses those words is a complex science. Some words are tested with targeted audiences, and others are chosen for their associations with ideas. Even though a word can mean the same thing as another, one might work better then another.


Students love mad libs, heck adults love it too. The action of filling a list of random nouns, adjectives, adverbs and verbs into a chart and then reading the a passage with these words inserted and seeing how the words made it sound is fun. Now taking that fun activity and using it explain a part of persuasion can also be fun. Taking a fun activity and making it a teaching moment can be achieved. Using a website designed by the Harvard Political Review, users can enter in various words into a web page which will then insert them into specific places in President Obama's 2004 Democratic National Convention speech. This activity will follow the past activity in which students understand the ethos of the speech, but this activity will have students measure the effectiveness of specific words in the speech itself.

Student will first do the mad libs portion of the web page, filling in adverbs, nouns, adjectives and verbs into the chart, which will then insert them into the speech. Students will not know what passage these words will be used in. Then after the seeing how their words fit or did not fit the passage, students will go back to the original speech and underline the words originally in the spots where they had placed theirs. The class will discuss how their words did not fit the context of the speech and Obama's words did. Students will define the original words and find synonyms for those words. The class will vote as to what word would work best in the context of the speech. Students will reflect on not only why certain words were chosen for this speech, but also why others were not. This lesson will have students understand the art of word use and also experiment in word use and actively shape a speech, as would a wordsmith.

It's not what you say but how you say it

What makes a credible speaker? How do we as an audience define credibility? Is this the same for all, or do we each have certain criteria that help us decide which characters are credible? Credibility falls under ethos, and in essence helps an audience decide whether a speaker is one to be trusted enough to be listened to. Much credibility can be linked to one's observation of one's visual and auditory senses, i.e. what the speaker looks like and how their voice sounds, but could one's credibility also be formed from what they say and how they say it? Both have an effect on one's creditability, but the written word taken by itself and the analysis of words, there organization, and their effect on audiences credibility can give much incite to how one forms ethos. This concept was referred to in ancient Romans times as decorum and describes the agreeable of a speaker and their audience (Heinrichs 46). This can take many forms, from hand gestures to clothing to image, all contributing to how agreeable they seem to their audience. A speaker should "act the way your audience expects you to act-not necessarily like your audience" (Heinrich 46). This is a different philosophy then what is common thought of as acting like your audience. In some instances one would act differently than what the audience is, but in lockstep with what they envisioned the speaker looking like. i.e. a group of medical salesman listening to a doctor. He would be more persuasive in a doctor's coat with a stethoscope on rather then the similar suit and tie the salesmen might be wearing. Other times it might be good for a speaker to match their audience to show how his is one with them. i.e. a businessman speaking to farmers might wear jeans and boots vs. his boardroom suit. This creates the image that he is just like his audience and understands their needs and concerns. A miss measurement of decorum could make the speaker's character in question and message not heard. If this is measured correctly, and you "get the group to identify with you, and you have won half the persuasion battle" (Heinrich 54).


Teaching the concept of decorum can be taught in a variety of ways. The two that I believe best gets students to understand the concept and the affect that its has is to one, have student visualize a situation with a speaker and an audience. They will have to describe what the speaker should wear and do to gain the audiences agreement before a word is spoken. Students will meet in groups to reflect on their choices and compare and contrast answers. They will summarize the group's thoughts for a class discussion.

The second way to measure understanding of this concept is to have students analyze famous speeches that used great understanding of decorum, or lousy use of it. Video and pictures will be used plus background information about the speech to best analyze the use of decorum. Famous politicians and speakers have used the art of decorum to persuade their audience. The class will look at various examples and discuss how they have effectively or ineffectively used this art. The class will also reflect why the choice was made to have that image. Through this, students will have a better understanding the process.

Examples of Lesson Plan Outlines

Day 1 – Who Am I?

Mission (Class Objective): To have students create a self stories and analyze how it creates ethos.

Bell Ringer: Using your note card, write as many things that answer this question, "Who am I?"

In-class activities: Students will write on their note card facts about themselves that are things that answer the question, "who am I?" This will not be shared with anyone. They will then take the facts on the card and create a one to two minute speech that answers the question.

Reflection: Why did you choose the things that you wrote on the note card? How do they define you?

Homework: Create a one to two minute who am I speech that you will be presenting to a group of your classmates tomorrow.

Day 2 – Who are they?

Mission: To have students give and analyze their groups who am I speeches to understand one's ethos.

Bell Ringer: Pick out first three things that you are going to tell your audience, why did you choose them? Why are they first?

In-class activities: Students will present their speeches to small groups. Students will fill out a set rubric that will have the audience writing down facts, and observations of the speaker. They will as a group compare speeches with a vinn diagram of said and unsaid. The class will meet to discuss the speeches and what ethos is and how it relates to the speeches.

Reflection: Do you think if you were giving this speech to a different audience, you would have changed the facts? Why or why not?

Day 3 – Who is Barack Obama?

Mission: To use President Obama's 2004 Democratic National Convention speech to understand how ethos is created.

Bell Ringer: Who is Barack Obama?

In-class activities: Class will discuss bell ringer. As a class, we will watch the 2004 DNC speech by then candidate for US Senate Barack Obama. Students will use the same rubric that they assessed their classmate's speeches, to assess Obama's. The class will discuss the speech and what made it effective as an introduction speech. I will then lecture on logos and pathos and how together with ethos, make up the parts of persuasive speech.

Reflection: Which parts of persuasive speech work best for you, ethos, logos, or pathos? Explain.

This half of the unit will take place weeks later, after finishing a unit on Greek and Roman history.

Day 4 – Aristotle's Rhetoric of Anger and Calm

Homework: Read and outline Aristotle's Rhetoric, Book II, Chapters 2 and 3

Mission: Using Aristotle's ideas of rhetoric, students will understand the emotions of anger and calm and their ties to persuasion.

Bell Ringer: What makes you angry and what makes you calm? Explain

In-class activities: As a class, we will discuss the bell ringer. This will generate a small list that each group can start with. Each group of students will come up with a list of events or things one can say that cause anger. The class will meet back and present and discuss these items. Then groups will meet and discuss things that they could say to a fellow classmate that will calm them down in the situations discussed prior, and stop a potentially violent situation.

Reflection: How can you take what you have learned about Aristotle's theories of anger and calm and use it for good?

Homework: Read Mytilenian Debate Readings.

Day 5 – Mytilenian Debate

Mission: For students to use Aristotle's theories of anger and calm to analyze the Mytilenian debates by Cleon and Diodotus.

Bell Ringer: Which argument persuaded you more, Cleon or Diodotus and why?

In-class activities: As a class, we will discuss the readings, with students summarizing the major points of each orator's argument. I will fill in missed facts and through questions; draw out their thoughts on the speech. Students will meet in groups to discuss the speeches and highlight key phrases and persuasive arguments. We will meet again as a class to discuss their observations and how theses speeches fall into Aristotle's theories.

Reflection: How does persuasion and rhetoric effect how government works? Explain.

Day 6 - Cicero

Mission: To have students understand the life of Cicero and how his abilities as a persuasive orator enabled him to gain political power in ancient Rome.

Bell Ringer: How might a politician use war or a disaster to their political gain? How would speech and persuasion play a part?

In-class activities: The class will discuss the bell ringer. Students will then read an abridged version of the Catilina section of the Cicero book. Students will discuss in groups how Cicero was able to be persuasive. They will then analyze how situations today allow for persuasion better then others. Students will come back together and share their results as a class.

Reflection: How do politicians abuse situations for political gain? How do they use rhetoric to aid in this endeavor?

Homework: Choose an event in history where a politician has used the situation and their ability to persuade to gain political power. Explain how they were able to be successful.

Day 7 – Action vs. Inaction

Mission: Students will analyze how speech and persuasion can be used for inaction and violence prevention.

Bell Ringer: Write down why this speech we are watching was effective in calming a crowd and group of people.

In-class activities: As a class, we will watch the RFK speech after the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. The class will discuss the bell ringer that is what the students saw as effective speech. Students will also discuss the climate that this speech was given, and why this was a necessary speech. The class will be asked what were this speeches ethos, logos, and pathos. Groups will be formed with a slip of paper with a conflict situation on it. Students will have to create a skit that shows how speech could be used to defuse the situation. Students will perform skits and will analyze each group's strategies.

Reflection: How will you use speech to promote peace and non-violence?

Day 8 – Just Words

Mission: To have students understand the significance of word choice in rhetoric.

Bell Ringer: Using your computer, enter the words in to the mad libs website.

In-class activities: Students will use the mad libs website to enter in words. Each will represent a key word in president Obama's 2004 speech. After students see what their words were, they will highlight the words in the speech that they had changed. The class will analyze those words and what they mean and were chosen. In groups students will define the worlds and find synonyms for each. As a class we will vote on which word would be best, and why.

Reflection: What words do you think are most commonly used in patriotic speeches? Why?

Day 9 – It's not what you say but how you say it.

Mission: To have students understand how politicians use the art of decorum.

Bell Ringer: If you were going to a job interview, what would you wear? Why?

In-class activities: Students will discuss the bell ringer as a class and understand how different jobs would need different clothing. Student will then form groups and look at situations of a speaker and an audience. They will have to come up with what the speaker should wear, what they should do, and how they should act in front of the audience. Students will present their scenario and how they come up with their speaker's image. Then students will look at famous speeches and speakers and how they also used decorum. As a class we will analyze these people and why it worked or didn't work with their audience.

Reflection: Is how you say it as important as what you say?


"American Rhetoric: Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century by Rank." American Rhetoric: The Power of Oratory in the United States. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2010.>.

"Aristotle's Rhetoric." ISU Public Homepage Server. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2010.>.

Everitt, Anthony. Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician. 2003. Reprint. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2003. Print. Against Catilina 87 and

Heinrichs, Jay. Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion. new york: Three Rivers Press, 2007. Print. Examples of Ethos, Logos and Pathos

Thucydides. The History of the Peloponnesian War: Revised Edition (Penguin Classics). Revised ed. London: Penguin Classics, 1954. Print.

Comments (0)

Be the first person to comment

When you are finished viewing curriculum units on this Web site, please take a few minutes to provide feedback and help us understand how these units, which were created by public school teachers, are useful to others.
THANK YOU — your feedback is very important to us! Give Feedback