Teaching Ethos, Pathos & Logos

Instructor: Derek Hughes
Teaching the different rhetorical appeals (ethos, pathos, and logos) can sometimes be a challenge. This lesson will provide you with some activities you can use to help students master these concepts.

Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

Aristotle defined three modes of persuasion that he called ethos, pathos, and logos. These are also known as rhetorical appeals because each is used to appeal to different aspects of an audience's thought processes in order to make an argument. Ethos is also referred to as an appeal to authority, pathos is an appeal to emotion, and logos is an appeal to logic.

This lesson will contain several activities and strategies you can use to teach this topic to your students. I will also mention examples to help you see the activities in practice.

Real World Examples

After you have introduced your students to the ideas behind ethos, pathos, and logos, students can develop a better understanding of the concepts by finding real world examples of each. Tell your students that, even though they may not be aware of it, they probably see these concepts at work many times throughout the day.

The clearest example of the use of ethos, pathos, and logos is in advertisements. When teaching these concepts, you can have students find different examples of each type of appeal in advertisements. This can be an activity completed in class or independently at home. After choosing the ads, students can write a short paragraph about why they think they're an example of one of the appeals. For example, an advertisement featuring a doctor endorsing a product would be an example of 'ethos', or an appeal to authority.

Creating Their Own Advertisements

This activity can be done either in conjunction with the previous activity or entirely separate. Assign students one (or all) of the appeals and ask them to create their own advertisement using that appeal. An example of this would be a student creating a commercial that explains the benefits of a product very logically to their audience.

Students should be given the option to create whatever kind of advertisement they want (print, radio, video, etc.). By giving them several different ways to complete this assignment, students will be able to use their creativity to gain a deeper understanding of the concepts.

Class Debate

Using debates in the classroom is a common way to help students understand and use different styles of rhetoric. When teaching ethos, pathos, and logos, you can assign students certain topics along with one of the appeals. Students will then construct an argument about a topic after being assigned one of the three rhetorical appeals.

Another way to do this activity would be to let students pick which rhetorical appeal they would like to use and have the rest of the class try to figure out which they are using. For example, a student might argue for a longer lunch period by delivering a passionate speech while trying to get the audience on their side through raw emotion. The rest of the class would then try to figure out that the student was using pathos to argue their point.

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