As students engage in a rhetorical analysis of a text, it is essential that they identify the intended purpose of the writer and his/her text. When students consider purpose (i.e. intended consequences on the reader), they are forced to consider the process or the act of producing the text. Since the focus here is on the action of producing the text, I have found it helpful to push my students to attach to any given text a clear and precise verb. Weak and generic verbs such as “says” or “states” are hardly helpful because they give little indication as to what they writer actually tried to accomplish in writing the text. (A writer who criticizes someone is saying something, but so is a writer who praises someone). This activity will help students to acquire the vocabulary that will allow them to more vividly and precisely identify a writer’s purpose.
To begin, give students the table that lists 80 verbs. Their first task is to try and categorize these words into 20 4-verb groups. As a class, go over the groups that the students have created and compare them to the answer list. There may be some disagreement, but ultimately, all students will need to be working from the same list so that student groups can complete their posters. Next, place students into groups and tell them to create a resource poster for their assigned verb group. Each poster should:
*prominently display the four verbs (and any other synonym(s) that they feel belongs in this group)
*a brief definition that is inclusive enough to address all four verbs
*several adjectives that might likely describe the tone of this type of text (no participles allowed)
*pictures, images, and/or symbols that serve to visualize the verbs
*a published piece of writing that exemplifies this type of writing
*an original sample text written by the students that also exemplifies this type of writing
When the student groups have completed the posters, have them share their work with the class. I display these posters on my walls throughout the semester so that we can refer to them during our reading analyses/discussions.
You may not want to use all 20 groups. When I first created the lesson, I started with 12 groups because I only taught three sections of a rhetoric class (4 student groups in each class). Now that I have 5 sections, I have created 20 groups so that I can still divide each class into 4 student groups.