So I begin composition courses with a lesson on argumentation. I argue that everything can be viewed rhetorically. In these courses I demonstrate rhetorical strategies that pull out the argumentation within texts— through rhetorical analysis, close reading, genre awareness, and the sort. The artifact attached is my first day lesson on argumentation.
I want students to understand that arguments are complex; they hold more than just the words we see on the page. With this lesson, I go through a series of activities to help them understand rhetoric, and what all that entails. First, I lecture about how everything can be perceived as a rhetorical situation, which (as I teach it) is a context wherein rhetorical strategies are being used to an end. Rhetorical strategies, I tell them, are techniques composers use to convey a message, meaning and/ or a strong argument, among other ends. They are vehicles, so to speak. And this course will be recognizing, analyzing, using, and making different rhetorical strategies to achieve a particular goal. And I am sure to be clear when I tell that this is a form of power, and we will use that power ethically.
This lecture is brief because I want to move into more concrete situations. First, just to gauged what they are coming in with, I had them get into groups and list what makes an argument and what isn’t an argument. This was also an opportunity to collaborate and exchange ideas. After we work together to have a better understanding of rhetorical situations, I give them some time to reflect on two excerpts on positionality, intersectionality, and rhetoric. We discussed how rhetorical strategies can be manipulating and texts are easily circulated and thus influencing others. It’s vital to understand that when we are creating and analyzing rhetorical situations, we are aware of the particular lens through which we view that situation. This leads into an critical analysis of an argumentative excerpt from a Chicago Tribune article, where we discuss the gaps in the argument and the violence this person does with their argument. Last, we watch a video, “Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable” by Luvvie Ajayi, and I have them discuss what that thought the claim is in this talk and how she arrives there.
Overall, this was a great way to get them thinking about one of the many goals of the class. They often seem engaged. I think this also helped set the tone in class. For the most part, they are hard workers who like to be challenged.