I have taken ideas from several previous posts about the Roman six-part speech and descriptive outlining and created an article and mini-module combo that helps students think about essay organization. The module overview says:
This module is designed to introduce students to a pattern of essay and speech organization based on ancient Roman practices as described in Cicero’s On Invention and On Oratory. This pattern is based on persuasive strategies directed toward the rhetorical needs of the audience so it is both more effective and more flexible than the essay formulas that are often taught to high school students. Although the pattern is more than 2,000 years old, it is still in common use today, as can be seen from using descriptive outlining to analyze the structure of current editorials and op-ed pieces. It can be used both to organize student writing and to analyze other persuasive texts. The writing assignment asks students to write an essay about a problem they see in social media, using the Classical pattern.
It has the following learning goals:
Students will be able
- To articulate the strategies that they use in organizing essays
- To compare the effectiveness of different modes of organization
- To analyze the organizational patterns used in editorials and op-ed pieces
- To write an essay utilizing the Classical pattern.
It begins with a quickwrite about how they currently organize essays and ends with a reflection on that quickwrite. The main activities involve a lot of descriptive outlining of sample articles and other articles about problems in social media that they find online. It discourages the five-paragraph essay, but does not forbid it or demonize it. It presents the Classical pattern as a chart, as a series of questions for the writer, and as a series of questions for a critical reader. It includes the Latin terms, but quickly moves to using English adaptations: Introduction, Background, Possible Positions, Support, Counter-arguments, and Conclusion.
I hope readers of this blog will find it useful. As always, comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.