Common Core Standards: ELA
SL.11-12.3. Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis and tone used.
Listening to speeches can be a real pleasure. They might be informative or persuasive or entertaining or descriptive. And, just like a good essay, a good speech is easy to follow because of its connections to the past, transitions between passages, and memorable word choice. The use of logos, ethos, and pathos form the argument for the speaker’s position on a topic. As listeners, students must be able to recognize these strategies, and how they are effective in developing and strengthening the message, moving us to action. The ability to synthesize information is a very liberating skill.
Here’s an assignment that will help your students practice this. They will realize that effective speeches rely on a combination of reasoning strategies, logos, ethos, and pathos. Also important is the speaker’s use of a variety of literary devices, such as allusion and metaphor, to connect and compare the past to the present. Tone is a window into the attitude of the speaker toward his subject. Understanding the fusion of these elements is key in students’ ability to evaluate the effectiveness of a speech.
Teach With Shmoop
Tag! You're it.
The links in this section will take you straight to the standard-aligned assignments tagged in Shmoop's teaching guides.
That's right, we've done the work. You just do the clickin...
Using this Standard
- 1984 Teacher Pass
- A Rose For Emily Teacher Pass
- Animal Farm Teacher Pass
- Antigone Teacher Pass
- Fences Teacher Pass
- Great Expectations Teacher Pass
- Hamlet Teacher Pass
- Heart of Darkness Teacher Pass
- Julius Caesar Teacher Pass
- Lord of the Flies Teacher Pass
- Moby Dick Teacher Pass
- Narrative of Frederick Douglass Teacher Pass
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Teacher Pass
- The Aeneid Teacher Pass
- The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale Teacher Pass
- The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue Teacher Pass
- The Cask of Amontillado Teacher Pass
- The Catcher in the Rye Teacher Pass
- The Crucible Teacher Pass
- The Odyssey Teacher Pass
Sample Assignment: Have your students read or listen to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and ask them to analyze its effectiveness.
The speech was given to attendees at the March on Washington in August 1963. This was a demonstration of about 200-300,000 people, of whom about 75-80% were African Americans. The purpose of the speech was to call attention to the discrimination experienced by black Americans. A call to action was made, asking that all Americans be afforded their Constitutional rights -- that is, to pursue “life, liberty and happiness.” The speech? The famous “I Have a Dream” address given by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Written from an African American viewpoint, the speech often uses allusion; that is, King refers to people, documents, and events of the past that connect with his present argument. These include “five score years ago, a great American…” in reference to Abraham Lincoln; “ “the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence” in reference to founding ideals; and “old Negro spiritual” in reference to freedom from slavery.
The speech often uses metaphor: King compares the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation as a “great beacon of hope”; “this sweltering summer” as a time of great discontent; “an invigorating autumn” as a time marking freedom; and “beautiful symphony of brotherhood” as the splendor of all men working together as one. King also uses an extended analogy as he compares the promises of freedom to a bank check. He uses the following phrases: promissory note, heir, insufficient funds, bank of justice is bankrupt, and security of justice in his comparisons. These words imply that something is owed. A debt must be paid.
King uses repetition effectively. In this order, he repeats the words and phrases: one hundred years later, now, we can never be satisfied, I have a dream, and Let freedom ring. You’ll notice that, when put together, it forms the theme of the speech itself. King’s word choice contains key messages. References to freedom are described as: joyous, riches, security, sunlit path, lift, solid, warm, rolls, righteousness. Restraints are described as: seared, crippled, lonely, languishing, exile, shameful, dark and desolate, quick sands. Through these words, he creates tone, or speaker’s attitude toward the subject. It’s clear that King places a high value on freedom but discredits discrimination and racism. Right on!
The speech contains solid proof of King’s claim, or premise, that blacks are subject to discrimination. He lists several harsh and unfair realities: police brutality, discrimination at businesses, restricted mobility, lack of voting privileges, and unheard voice. He points to the South, to states such as Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina, as particularly prohibitive. Thus, he uses logic in his argument. He also uses pathos when he describes “Negro slaves who had been seared in flames of withering injustice,” and ethos when he says white America is responsible for a “shameful condition.”
King offers convincing evidence to support his stance. You’re a believer!
Quiz QuestionsHere's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.
True or False
- Teaching The Scarlet Letter: Shmoop Amongst Yourselves
- Teaching To Kill a Mockingbird: Sketch It: Making a Maycomb Map
- Teaching To Kill a Mockingbird: Shmoop Amongst Yourselves
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Southern and Proud!
- Utopia: Utopia in the 21st Century: Online or Offline?
- Teaching Wuthering Heights: Shmoop Amongst Yourselves
- Cyrano de Bergerac: Love Letters from Strangers
- Cyrano de Bergerac: Romanticism: What's Love Got To Do With It?
- Teaching Death of a Salesman: Shmoop Amongst Yourselves
- Teaching Inferno: Letters to the Future
- Teaching Inferno: Words, Words
- Teaching Inferno: Designing Hell
- Teaching Jane Eyre: Shmoop Amongst Yourselves
- Teaching Julius Caesar: John Wilkes Booth: An "American Brutus"?
- Kaffir Boy: To Ban or Not to Ban?
- Teaching Life of Pi: Reading about Writing about Writing (And then: Writing, of course)
- Teaching Life of Pi: Cast Away
- Teaching Romeo and Juliet: Speaking Shakespeare's Language
- Teaching Romeo and Juliet: Shmoop Amongst Yourselves
- Speak: Shmoop Amongst Yourselves
- Teaching The Aeneid: Aeneas on Trial
- Emma: Persuasion in Emma
- Teaching Fahrenheit 451: Shmoop Amongst Yourselves
- Teaching Fences: Write an Omitted Scene and a Critical Review
- Teaching Fences: Making a Collage – Bearden Style
- Teaching Great Expectations: Ups and Downs: Graphing Pip's Tumultuous Life
- Teaching Hamlet: Inspired by “Hamlet Goes to the Supreme Court”
- Teaching Heart of Darkness: (come on shake your body, baby) Map the Congo
- Teaching Of Mice and Men: Shmoop Amongst Yourselves
- On the Road: Mapping Sal's Journey
- On the Road: Who you calling a Beatnik?
- On the Road: Beat-for-Beat
- Teaching One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest: Law and Order in the Cuckoo’s Nest
- Teaching Othello: Shmoop Amongst Yourselves
- Our Town: Shmoop Amongst Yourselves