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What Are the Best Tips for Teaching Rhetoric?

By Lee Johnson
Updated May 23, 2024
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The best tips for teaching rhetoric are to use analogies to get concepts across, to let students compose their own rhetoric, to analyze classic pieces of rhetoric, and to link rhetoric to something students can relate to. Analogies and the use of things students can relate to are useful for basic rhetoric lessons, and enable teachers to explain key concepts or techniques in understandable language. Analysis and composition of rhetoric can be useful tips for students who already have a basic grasp of rhetorical concepts and ideas. Any discussions that arise during class should be encouraged, because rhetoric is the art of argumentation. Teachers should point out logical or rhetorical errors in any argument students present to help show common mistakes.

Analogies are useful for teaching rhetoric because they relate complicated concepts to things that are simpler. For example, the general idea of analyzing rhetoric can be conveyed through a discussion about a piece of clothing. Besides looking at the effect created by a piece of clothing, a fashion designer might look at how it achieves that effect by examining its stitches and material. In like manner, a piece of writing or speech has an overall effect, but is made up of constituent parts. In addition, rhetorical devices can be thought of as jewelry worn to accentuate certain linguistic effects with a sparkling brilliance.

Another technique useful for teaching rhetoric is to relate rhetoric to something students can understand easily. This is particularly useful for young learners who may not understand the ways in which rhetoric is used. For example, a teacher could write an unfairly weighted rhetorical piece on the merits of nightly homework and ask students if they agree or disagree and why. Arguments raised can be evaluated rhetorically, and any responses that hit on a rhetorical technique or device can be elaborated on by the teacher. Likewise, rhetoric can even be related to familiar television programs or other media.

Once learners grasp the basic concepts of rhetoric, one of the best tips for teaching rhetoric is to analyze famous speeches. For example, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is awash with rhetorical devices and techniques that can be examined for the effectiveness. Using a famous piece of rhetoric can show the effect that rhetorical devices can have on an audience and how rhetoric is used in the world. Additionally, it is a method of getting students to perform a rhetorical analysis on something that they are likely to be interested in.

Composition of rhetorical speeches is another useful tip for teaching rhetoric. Students can create an argument on an issue that is important to them. Teachers can encourage students to use any rhetorical techniques they have learned so far. The relation of rhetoric to any issue they find important can encourage students to learn new techniques and devices used by rhetors.

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