Teaching Rhetorical Appeals

Hello teachers. As promised, here’s the second installment of lessons I’ll be posting weekly this fall. Nonfiction seems to be the big topic, so I thought I’d provide a lesson on rhetorical appeals in persuasion.

What  follows is everything you need to write an effective lesson plan on the impact of rhetorical appeals, which will include the content objective, language objective, the standards covered (both CCLS for my New York friends and TEKS for my Texas friends), along with a detailed description of the full lesson cycle. At the end of the lesson, I’ve also included all the resources.

This lesson would come after an introductory to the rhetorical appeals, so students must have a working definition of the appeals before they can start “Engage and Connect.” While I have it listed in the standards as a 9-10 grade level, it could easily be used for other grade levels depending on the depth of analysis. I’ve also included my notes on the “Organization Pattern” of the piece and “Sentence Stems Addressing Authors Purpose (Informative/Persuasive)” (both below), which can be used to help students with comprehension and expanding on the standards covered, as well as using academic language effectively.

Don’t forget to email me with topics or standards that you’d like to see covered in a lesson and I’ll post one on ETP@B. My email is mmconn@binghamton.edu

Essential Understanding:
How do specific appeals impact an audience?

Content Objective: Today we will analyze a persuasive text by explaining the impact specific appeals have on the audience. (CCLS: RI.9-10.6 (this is the central CCLS covered, but you could list more depending on how you tweak the lesson) TEKS: 19B, 10.B

Language Objective: Today we will utilize academic language effectively by using given sentence stems to discuss impact on the audience. (Academic Language: Appeal to logos/pathos/ethos, impact, audience, purpose.) CCLS: SL.9-10.1; ELPS: C.3j

Engage and Connect ( 10 min):The following can be found in an ad for toothpaste. Identify which appeal is created in the following sentences:

  1. I have been a dentist for 20 years, so I know clean teeth when I see them.
  2. Four out of five dentists recommend…
  3. Think of the children! (Image of children brushing their teeth)
Monitor student responses. Randomize and have a student share their responses (sentence stem). Ask if students missed any and help clarify any confusion.Use the following sentence stem: This sentence creates an appeal to ________ because/by…
Introduce New Learning (10 min): (Note: Students need to have an understanding of rhetorical appeals before the begin this lesson.)
Impact on audience – How do these appeals impact the audience and how does it relate to the author’s purpose? Have students answer the following questions as they relate to the warm-up. (appeals have been introduced prior to this lesson, but the word impact might be new)
Ethos – How does credibility help an argument?
Logos – How does the author present evidence in a way that leads or misleads you into a certain way of thinking?
Pathos – What are some common emotions that are created through certain words and images?
Think/Pair/ShareGive students a couple of minutes to think about the questions as they relate to the warm up. Have the students pair up and share their answers. Randomize and have students share their thoughts.



Lead Guided and Independent Practice ( 30 min):
Guided Practice ( 15 min):Introduce the three column journal with examples using the warm-up. (resource below)
Discuss the aspects of the journal.

Think aloud pre-reading strategies for the persuasive text “Abolishing the Penny Makes Good Sense” by Alan Blinder.

  • Look at pictures, headings
  • Make predictions

Read the selection aloud, checking for comprehension periodically.

After reading, have students think/pair/share purpose statement

Have groups share purpose statements and write one that the class thinks is the best on an anchor chart.

Start from the beginning of the piece, and choose a quote to think aloud as you complete a journal entry (see example below). Be sure to incorporate the purpose statement decided on by the class.

Depending on your students, you can continue to think aloud, or have them work in groups with various levels of scaffolding.

  • Give groups quotes to complete the journal entries; OR
  • Allow groups to choose quotes within certain sections of the piece; OR
  • Assign different appeals to groups and have them write journal entries that cover assigned appeal

Have groups share their journal entries and discuss with the class.



Independent Practice (15 min):

Have students choose a quote and discuss the impact with a partner. Again, you can:

  • Assign a quote; OR
  • Allow students to pick from various quotes; OR
  • Allow students to pick a quote from a specific part of the text.








While reading aloud, randomize as you question students about the text to ensure comprehension and engagement.



Monitor group work as students complete their entries.

Asses the group work as they are being presented. Ask students to contribute to the groups entries to make them stronger.




Have students share their analyses.


Close the Lesson and Assess Mastery (10 min):

  1. Review the lesson and remind students of the connection between impact and purpose.
  2. Have students write a journal entry for their chosen/assigned quote that they discussed with their partner.




This will be there ticket out.


DIFFERENTIATION: How will I scaffold and/or accelerate learning? For whom? How will I group my students?

SCAFFOLD: Students who struggle with finding quotes can choose from teacher-preselected quotes. Students who need help writing/discussing about purpose/appeal can use the sentence stem.

ACCELERATE: Students who feel they can write a journal entry about their own quotes can choose their own.

What materials, resources, and technology will I need to prepare and arrange? (All are included below.)

Quote/Device Impact – (leads/misleads thinking; makes you feel; gives credibility) Purpose
I have been a dentist for 20 years, so I know clean teeth…  The ad creates an appeal to ethos because he is showing his experience as a dentist. By claiming that he has been practicing dentistry for 20 years, it makes the audience more open to accepting his preference. This is intended to get people to buy the suggested toothpaste since that is the preferred toothpaste of an experienced dentist.
Four out of five dentists recommend…  The ad creates an appeal to logos by citing a statistic. This leads the audience to think that a majority of experts in the field agree with using the toothpaste; therefore, the audience should come to the same conclusion. This is intended to get the audience to logically conclude that the toothpaste is the best and that they should buy what the majority of experts would choose.
Think of the children! (Image of children brushing their teeth)  The ad creates an appeal to pathos by showing/mentioning children. Referring to children instills a sense of fear and urgency in the audience because we want the best for our children, which means we don’t want them to have issues with their teeth. This is intended to appeal to our protective nature of children. We want our children to be safe and grow up with strong teeth; therefore, the ad attempts to convince the audience that the toothpaste is best for kids.

Sentence Stems Addressing Authors Purpose (Informative/Persuasive)

  • The author includes paragraph [X] to explain ______.
  • What is the primary purpose of [detail from the passage] in paragraph [X]?
  • What is the primary purpose of paragraph [X]?
  • What purpose does the reference to ______ in paragraph [X] serve?
  • By addressing [detail from the selection] as _____, [the author] ______.
  • In paragraph [X], [the author] refers to [detail from the selection] to support his/her argument that ______.
  • To make his/her case, [the author] relies mainly on ______.
  • In paragraph [X], [the author] refers to [detail from the selection] to support his/her argument that ______.
  • To make his/her case, [the author] relies mainly on ______.
  • Why does the author conclude ______ with a [rhetorical device]?
  • Why does the author list ______?
  • In paragraph [X], the author writes [detail from the text] to suggest ______.
  • Which of the following best summarizes the author’s argument?
  • In this selection, the author uses the example of [detail from the text] to ______.
  • In this selection, the author poses questions in order to ______.

Examples for “Abolishing the Penny Makes Good Sense”


Quote/Device Impact – (leads/misleads thinking; makes you feel; gives credibility) Purpose
“An economist rarely has the opportunity to recommend a policy change that benefits 200 million people, imposes costs on virtually no one, and saves the government money to boot.” (p. 648, para 1) The author, Blinder, is an economist, and sets up the beginning of the essay by referencing his profession.   This creates an appeal to ethos because as an economist, the author is knowledgeable on the subject. Moreover, since he follows up his profession with a suggestion that promises to help most of the population in America, the reader is left with a sense of trust in the author’s thoughts that follow. This allows the reader to be more accepting of Binder’s position that the penny should be abolished.
“Pennies get in the way when we make change. They add unwanted weight to our pockets and purses. Few people nowadays even bend down to pick a penny off the sidewalk. Doesn’t that prove that mining and minting copper into pennies is wasteful?” (p. 648, para 2) listing issues – rhetorical question By listing issues with the penny and ending in a rhetorical question, the author leads the reader into thinking about how “the penny has outlived its usefulness.” The details are included as a series to set the reader up for a forced conclusion that comes from the question. This leads the reader to a better understanding of how wasteful the penny is and, therefore, needs to be taken out of circulation.
“Today, if it rained pennies from heaven, only a fool would turn his umbrella upside down: The money caught would be worth less than the ruined umbrella.” (p. 648, para 2) figurative language, imagery, word choice. The author creates a humorous image that is intended to shame those who still think the penny is worth keeping. The very idea of raining money is usually associated with a fantastical wish come true. However, Blinder calls those who would take advantage of “raining pennies” a fool, and even further insults them by pointing out the cost. This humor is intended to place shame onto those who still feel the penny is worth having in circulation, and to convince them that it is not worth what they might think it is.


Organization Pattern

Paragraphs 1: Sets up the reader with an understanding of who he is and why his argument is important. The author ends the paragraph with a clear call to action.

Paragraphs 2-3: These paragraphs are intended to show the ridiculousness of the penny. The author uses humor to instill a sense of shame into those who do not share his position.

Paragraphs 4-7: These paragraphs address the “numbers” of the argument. Each paragraph takes on the following different counterargument and uses factual statistics to refute each claim: para 4 = amount of time wasted; para 5 = cost to tax payers; para 6 = inflation; para 7 = sales tax.

Paragraph 8-9: These paragraphs take on the biggest argument for keeping the penny: sentimental value. However, the author cites nations with more tradition than the US have gone the way of abolishing their smallest unit of money.

Paragraphs 10-11: The author concedes to the sentimental value, but also offers up solutions for keeping the “sentiment” somewhat valuable. He then closes with an overstatement that is intended to shame those who have the power to abolish the penny.




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