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Rhetoric: Persuasion in Reading, Writing, and Critical Thinking
In this course for 7th through 9th graders, students become rhetorical masters of persuasion and argumentation. By the end of the year, students will have debated Socrates, pitched a Super Bowl commercial, solved a mystery through rational evidence-building, and devised a plan for sharing a limited global resource. By tackling these challenging, engaging projects, students develop a deep understanding of how they can wield the tools of rhetoric to persuade others---and how they can recognize the rhetorical strategies at work in the world around them.
The course is divided into four project-based units.
In the first unit, students study a classic philosophical text written by Plato, the grandfather of Western thought. Using techniques originally developed in ancient Greece, students build a strong foundation for rhetorical mastery as they write and present their own philosophical dialogues.
In the second unit, students learn how classical rhetoric applies in the world of business and marketing. Students deepen their understanding of persuasive techniques by studying successful marketing strategies, all while preparing to pitch a commercial for a fictional business.
In the third unit, students are immersed in a fictional mystery as they learn how to build a strong body of evidence and solve the case through advanced literary and rhetorical analysis. Students finish the unit by putting pen to paper to write their own resolution to the mystery.
In the final unit, students develop their rhetorical skills on a global stage as they convene in a simulated United Nations to argue for the best way to distribute a limited natural resource.
What happens in class?
Each unit is grounded in a challenging project that requires students to build and apply their skills as rhetoricians to solve an engaging problem. In each day of class, students engage in lessons and activities that help them advance their project work, including a blend of the following types of activities:
- a review of the skills learned in the previous lesson
- a full-class discussion in which students practice their critical thinking and public speaking skills
- a writing assignment that includes either smaller writing prompts to help students build writing stamina or allows them to focus on developing their unit project
- a reading assignment in which students read a text and develop close reading skills with the teacher’s guidance and support
Students should expect to spend about 1-2 hours on homework every week. Homework will include: practicing skills learned in class through questions in the course homepage, long-term writing assignments connected to the unit project, and assigned reading in one of the four quarterly textbooks.
During class, the teacher will give students direct, oral feedback on skills and projects. This in-person feedback is key in helping students revise and improve their writing while they are working on the unit projects. At the end of each writing project, students can expect to receive evaluative written feedback from their teacher.
- Quarter 1: Five Dialogues
- Quarter 2: Contagious: Why Things Catch On
- Quarter 3: Murder Is Bad Manners
- Quarter 4: Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In