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The Rhetoric of Performance: Teaching Logos through Disney Movies

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Brief Assignment Overview: 

This assignment uses clips and text from Disney movies to teach students to analyze logos as part of a unit on rhetorical analysis.

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

Every student needs a copy of each of the two worksheets attached to this lesson plan (MLK I Have a Dream Logos and Disney Logos Worksheet.)

Timeline for Optimal Use: 
Full Assignment Description: 

The first step in the lesson is to define logos and provide basic examples of inductive and deductive reasoning. It's useful to provide an example that is specific to the class or the class's interests. For example, my class was Rhetoric of Performance, which depends on the basic contention that every performance has an argument. I started by making an inductive proof of that claim based on the performances that we had discussed in class so far, in all of which we'd been able to find arguments. Then, taking the conclusion of this inductive proof, "every performance has an argument," as a premise for the deductive proof, I added "X student will bring in a performance next time," and concluded "X student will bring in an argument next time." You could use any example of inductive and deductive reasoning relevant to your class.

The next step teaches students to pull out examples of logos in text that is not attached to performance. I gave the students the first worksheet attached here (MLK I Have a Dream Logos,) which has examples of deductive and inductive reasoning from the I Have a Dream speech. I had them go around, read the examples line by line, and pull out premises and a conclusion, which I wrote up on the board in the form of a logical argument. 

At this point, it was time to introduce the Disney movies. I provided the students with the second worksheet attached here (Disney Logos Worksheet.) I played the clip from Aladdin containing the song "One Jump Ahead," which is excerpted on the worksheet. The worksheet also includes a sequence of premises and conclusions (it will be helpful for the reader to look at the worksheet at this time) leading to what I believe to be one of the major arguments of the movie. I put the students in groups and had them fill out the worksheet by finding the conclusion from each set of premises on the sheet and then introducing the conclusion they had discovered as a premise in a new stage of the argument (combined with a new premise from the song that I put on the sheet.) After the students had completed the Aladdin side of the worksheet, we reconvened as a class and went through the argument from initial premises to the final conclusion. Next, we watched the clip from The Lion King quoted on the sheet. We followed the same procedure of group work and then class discussion.

Finally, since the plan of the class includes teaching rhetoric through looking at the genres around performance as well as performance itself, students examined a review of a local production. I asked them to work individually to find one logical argument, with premises and conclusion, in the review. After they had some time to work, I called on a few students to share the arguments they'd found. This final step doesn't have to involve a review, though -- it could make use of any genre of rhetoric relevant to the course you are teaching.

Suggestions for Instructor Preparation: 

Familiarize yourself with the clips of the performances. Go through both worksheets and pull out premises and conclusions for yourself, so that you have an idea of what the arguments your students find will probably look like.

Instructions For Students: 

Go around the classroom reading a line each from the MLK worksheet. Each student should stop after reading one line and suggest a premise or conclusion that might come out of it.

Get into groups and work through the premises and conclusions in the Disney Logos Worksheet.

Read the review by yourself and pull out one example of a logical argument with premises and conclusion. Be prepared to share your example with the class.

Evaluation Suggestions: 

This assignment was not evaluated or graded.

Notes on Reception, Execution, etc.: 

Students responded well to the methodical progression of this lesson plan. I asked them for an evaluation at the end of class, and they specifically mentioned appreciating the clarity of the individual pieces of the plan and the way they fit together.

Course Description: 

This course will explore the rhetoric within and around artistic performance, including theatre, music, dance, and performance art. Students will engage with performance as argument, including visual rhetoric and other forms of non-verbal argumentation. The course will also investigate the rhetorical techniques that artists, advertisers, critics, and audiences use when speaking about performance. You will select a specific performance that interests you and engage in an in-depth written exploration of its rhetorical situation: the performer, the audience, the time and place, the arguments made by the piece itself, and the discussion surrounding it. After examining the arguments of and around the piece, you will select a rhetorical aspect of the performance or an argument about it to analyze in detail, showing how it makes and supports a claim. Having thoroughly investigated the rhetoric of this performance, you will make your own argument about it, in both performative and written form. In this way, you will gain a thorough understanding of how performance makes arguments, how we speak about performances, and what we mean when we use the word “performance.”

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