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Lesson Plan

Developing Citizenship Through Rhetorical Analysis

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Developing Citizenship Through Rhetorical Analysis

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Six 50-Minute Sessions
Lesson Author

Marcea K. Seible

Marcea K. Seible

Waterloo, Iowa


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



In this lesson, students learn basic principles of rhetorical situations. Using online editorials featuring opinions about local and national issues, they learn to recognize the issue, the intended audience, and the author's purpose. Students explore to the rich source material from online editorials, identifying and explaining what devices writers use and how effectively they use them. Moving from analyzing editorials to writing their own develops students' rhetorical skills and at the same time, prepares them to be informed citizens.

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  • Sample Editorials Handout: Students analyze these editorials for effective use of rhetorical devices.

  • Rhetorical Situation online video: Show this video as part of a discussion of how speaker, topic, and audience work together in the rhetorical stituation.

  • Rhetorical Devices Handout: Use this list of devices to introduce students to the strategies of rhetoric and as a tool for analyzing the effectiveness of a persuasive piece.

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To become informed citizens, students must learn to think critically and “read” the world around them. Non-fiction texts such as news editorials can aid students’ abilities to break down and understand real-life rhetorical situations.  Stephen B. Heller writes: “A natural byproduct of reading rhetorically is that students become enabled to enter into contemporary conversations about relevant issues” (14). Once students understand the strategies writers use to address an audience and the subject, they can better situate themselves as participants in that dialogue and prepare to engage in civic-minded conversations with their peers. As Heller contends, “Understanding the how enables students to apply the skills of reading rhetorically to their own arguments” (15).

Heller, Stephen B. “Timely or Timeless? The Merits of Teaching Nonfiction.” English Journal 105.4 (2016): 13-16.

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