Rhetorical Term Face Off: Anecdote Versus Pathos

Rhetorical Showdown copy


Ben Baptist was inspired by Dave Burgess, the writer of Teach like a Pirate who presented on waiver day, to use brackets in his classroom during March Madness to review rhetorical terms in his AP Language courses.

Filling Out Brackets

Every day his students voted on the rhetorical terms that would advance in the bracket, eventually resulting in the final four.  Although each class voted and created brackets independently, both classes eventually resulted in these four terms:

  • Ethos
  • Pathos
  • Logos
  • Anecdote

Here is a link to create bracket handouts for students.

Final Four-Corners Debate

On the day of the final four, Baptist had a “four corners” debate.  Students were instructed to choose one of the four terms of choice and go to that corner.  Then, after five minutes of preparation, they engaged in an informal debate over the merits of their term where students participated in the discussion by raising hands and each side could speak at any point.  At halftime, groups were given a second five minute planning period.

In one class, the groups were split fairly evenly on four sides, but students were allowed to change positions during the discussion, which eventually led to one side’s imminent demise.  The second class began the debate with almost all students on the side of pathos and anecdote and only two students each in ethos and logos.  However, the two small teams presented strong arguments and kept up the lively discussion.

At the end of class, each student voted on who they wanted to see in the final two.  The results in the classes were as follows:

  • Third period: ETHOS VERSUS PATHOS

Baptist texted students the winner after tallying the votes, and on the Monday following the four-corners debate, we introduced the final two debate.

Anecdote vs. Pathos and Ethos vs. Pathos Debates:

Rhetorical Term Showdown

Students were allowed to choose either side for the final debates.  Baptist had recruited administrators and teachers to come in as judges and choose the winner (thank you to Sam Bosse, Melissa Larisch, and Roshawn Parker).  He and I filled the roles of coaches, and during the planning breaks, we worked with our team to prepare for the next round.  Here is the mini-debate format we used:

10 minutes of planning time

3 minute opening speech for both sides

o   Use attention grabber

o   Present initial argument

o   Consider what opposition might say and refute

5 minute regroup for rebuttals

o   Teammates should have notes from opening speeches

o   Use these notes and research of your own to address the oppositions argument

3 minute refutations

o   Use specific evidence presented by the opposition and respond to it

5 minute regroup

o   Teammates should have notes from refutations to help guide closing arguments

2 minute closing argument

o   Summarize the opening argument

o   Summarize refutations of your opposition’s argument

o   End with a call to action

Each of the classes did a good job of thinking quickly, using examples to support their points, and making sure to refute the opposition’s side.  Keeping in mind that this was an improvisational activity, in most cases each round got better as students became more comfortable with the process.

However, the standout moment of the debates for me was when a student in third period on the anecdote side began the opening speeches with an anecdote about seeing Lightning Grader (Baptist’s superhero alter ego) on the announcements wishing another teacher happy birthday, and how the power of this anecdote would be what he would use to encourage other students to take AP Language and Composition next year.

  The Winners

At the end of the period, the teachers and Mr. Parker voted on the winners.  The results were as follows:

  • In Ethos versus Pathos the winner was: ETHOS
  • In Pathos versus Anecdote the winner was: ANECDOTE

This process and lesson were great examples of the energy brought to the classroom when teachers collaborate with one another and actively engage students in the learning process.  Baptist and I had as much fun participating as the students, and we are looking forward to another “March Madness Rhetorical Match Up” (my own phrasing) next year.

Additional Resources:

  • March Madness Meets AP Lit” a unit/lesson from Edutopia on using brackets to pick the best literature of the year in an AP class

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