Analyzing Rhetoric in a Video

Have students work in groups to analyze the rhetorical elements of a persuasive speech. As a group, discuss how the parts work together to influence an audience.


S&L3: Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.


Estimated timeframe:

Activity steps

  1. Select the persuasive speech and video that students will spend time analyzing. This could be a historic speech, political address or excerpt form a debate, or a pro/con video. Depending on the length and complexity, you may want to print transcripts for student use. Resources:
  2. If students are not familiar with the opens in a new window rhetorical triangle, introduce it. Review the three main components (author/speaker, audience, message/reasoning) and appeals (ethos, pathos, logos). If you choose a historical speech,
  3. Time permitting show the complete video to the whole class.
  4. Have students form groups, and assign each group a section of the speech (this could be a certain number of paragraphs from the transcript or minutes [start and stop time] from the video recording). Ask groups to work together to complete the Analyzing Rhetoric graphic organizer [r3eH1AnalyzingRhetoric]. Monitor groups to ensure students are on task and including specific details on the chart and to answer any questions.
  5. Bring the class together as a whole to report on their findings and discuss the speech. (All groups will not have time to share their notes for all categories, but be sure each group gets to share at least one example.) Discuss:
    • Did anything surprise students as they filled in the Analyzing Rhetoric chart?
    • How does the speaker transition between ideas/sections and organize the speech?
    • Overall, what is the speaker’s message and point of view?
  6. Extensions:
    • Ask students to write about the subject from a different point of view, or ask them to write as if they were the original speaker but were addressing a different audience.
    • Have students analyze a reading or speech that takes a different stance on the same issue.
    • After analyzing this video and other speeches or written texts on the same topics, have students write an essay arguing which position is best supported.
    • Hold a formal class debate in which students use evidence to support their own opinions on the issue.

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