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Identifying Reasons and Evidence with Friends

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Image Credit: 

his"File:Friends (letras brancas, fundo preto.svg." Wikimedia Commons. Last modified 24 Dec 2014. Web. 5 Mar 2015. <,_fundo_preto).svg>.

Brief Assignment Overview: 

This lesson uses the popular sitcom Friends and the classic public debate of "Faith Vs. Reason" to create a fun, accessible way of understanding the relationship between claims, reasons, and evidence.

Type of Assignment: 
Assignment Length: 
Pedagogical Goals - Rhetoric: 
Pedagogical Goals - Literature: 
Pedagogical Goals - Digital Literacy: 
Media Requirements: 
Required Materials: 

1. A media console/projector

2. A computer

3. A whiteboard or chalkboard

4. Access to Friends "The One Where Heckles Dies" (Season Two, Episode Three).

Timeline for Optimal Use: 
Full Assignment Description: 

In this lesson, students will watch a few brief clips between two characters, Phoebe and Ross, on the sitcom Friends. In these clips, Phoebe and Ross argue about whether or not evolution is real, but not in the way that this argument tends to be portrayed. Ross, a paleontologist, insists that evolution is real, but Phoebe is unconvinced that it is absolutely better than any other possible theories. In teams, students will locate the reasons and evidence that their character gives in support of his/her claims, and they will look at how these components contribute to the most convincing argument, as identified by them, the show's audience.

This lesson is intended to be a fun, fast-paced, and engaging way to illustrate the differences between and significance of reasons and evidence in an argument. Because the argument featured in this assignment is an inoffensive play off of a common, longstanding public debate ("Faith vs. Reason"), this lesson also reminds students that looking at the parts of an argument from a rhetorical standpoint can be done without letting personal opinions affect the process. The "Faith vs. Reason" debate is one that students will likely have encountered before this lesson, but its comical, unusual, and lighthearted treatment in this episode will allow the students to easily respond from an analytical perspective, rather than an emotional one.

Suggestions for Instructor Preparation: 

Instructors must have a way of playing the episode of Friends called "The One Where Heckles Dies" (1995). This can be viewed on DVD, online rentals (e.g., iTunes, Amazon), or through a paid streaming service (e.g., Netflix).

If the instructor does not have a chalkboard or whiteboard on which to write, they should prepare a chart that clearly separates the following: Ross's reasons, Ross's evidence, Ross's claims, Phoebe's reasons, Phoebe's evidence, and Phoebe's claims.

Instructions For Students: 

Instructor should divide the room into two teams: Team Ross and Team Phoebe. From there, half of each team should be responsible for reasons and the other half for evidence. For example, in a room of twenty students, there should be ten Ross students and ten Phoebe students. There should be five students looking for reasons from Ross, five for reasons from Phoebe, five for evidence from Ross, and five for evidence from Phoebe. Everyone is responsible for recording any claims that they hear. This should make the task feel more manageable to the students, and it increases the chances that the students will capture a wide variety of points from the clips. 

1. On your computer or tablet, or on a piece of paper, record any claims that you hear from your Team Leader (Ross or Phoebe) as you watch this debate. Also, write down all of the reasons or evidence that you hear he/she give. You may hear multiple claims, and you may hear reasons/evidence that support different claims. Do not worry about putting those pieces together yet. Just write down the reasons or evidence that you hear (depending upon your assignment), and write down all of the claims that you hear from your Team Leader.

The instructor should play clips at the following minutes: 4:10-6:00, 7:00-8:00, 9:00-10:00, and 15:00-17:10 (6 minutes total).*

2. Share all of the reasons, evidence, and claims that you identified.

Instructor should record these on a visible chart for the class. As the discussion progresses, students can see (1) who provided more reasons and/or more evidence  (2) and which pieces of reasons and evidence affected them more as an audience. Have the class vote on who they believed won the argument, and have them discuss why that is based on the reasons, evidence, and claims that they heard and the ways in which all of those components were presented.

*Note: A bonus round can be the female characters vs. Chandler at the end of the episode (beginning at 17:10). If time permits, students really enjoy this round, and it ought to be worthwhile because it reinforces the lesson. Watching the show from 4:10 through the end may be helpful because it contextualizes the content a bit more, but it is not necessary.

Notes on Reception, Execution, etc.: 

Students loved this episode, and later in the semester I received praise for it from a student.

Course Description: 

This lesson was designed for "RHE 306: Rhetoric & Writing," an introductory writing and research course.

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