ERWC (Expository Reading and Writing Course) is a college preparatory, rhetoric-based English language arts course for grade 12 designed to develop academic literacy (advanced proficiency in rhetorical and analytical reading, writing, and thinking).
The goal of the ERWC is to prepare college-bound seniors for the literacy demands of higher education. Through a sequence of eight to ten rigorous instructional modules, students in this yearlong, rhetoric-based course develop advanced proficiency in expository, analytical, and argumentative reading and writing. The cornerstone of the course—the ERWC Assignment Template—presents a scaffolded process for helping students read, comprehend, and respond to nonfiction and literary texts. Modules also provide instruction in research methods and documentation conventions. Students will be expected to increase their awareness of the rhetorical strategies employed by authors and to apply those strategies to their own writing. They will read closely to examine the relationship between an author’s argument or theme and his or her audience and purpose; to analyze the impact of structural and rhetorical strategies; and to examine the social, political, and philosophical assumptions that underlie the text. By the end of the course, students will be expected to use this process independently when reading unfamiliar texts and writing in response to them.
Module 1 (Mini): Introducing Ethos, Pathos, and Logos
The module introduces students to ethos, pathos, and logos, and it emphasizes the important interrelationships between them.
Module 2: Rhetoric of the Op-Ed Page
This assignment sequence introduces the Aristotelian concepts of ethos, logos, and pathos and applies them to a rhetorical analysis of an op-ed piece by Jeremy Rifkin on animals’ capacity for experiencing human emotions. The concepts of Aristotelian rhetoric will be used throughout the course by all of the modules. Students also have the opportunity to critically engage opposing views on the issue. Culminating writing assignments include a letter to the editor in response to the Rifkin article and an animal “Bill of Rights.”
Module 3 (Mini): Introducing Kairos
This mini-module offers an introduction to the concept of kairos, including the ways it can serve as both an inquiry strategy and a persuasive tool.
Module 4: Racial Profiling
This module has been designed to provoke students to take a stand on the controversial topic of racial profiling. Students identify, analyze, and evaluate the rhetorical moves Bob Herbert makes in his professional essay before determining the extent to which they will use similar strategies in their own essays.
Module 5: The Value of Life
This module asks students to synthesize their understanding of Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” soliloquy; an excerpt from Chris Jones’s interview of Roger Ebert; an article by Amanda Ripley on the aftermath of 9/11; and a life insurance tool, the Human Life Value Calculator. Students are asked to add their voices to the discussion by creating a well-developed response to the question engaged by these sources: How should human life be valued? The summative writing assignment is a reading-based essay of 750 to 1,500 words.
Novel Choice: Frankenstein, Heart of Darkness, Slaughterhouse Five, Into the Wild, or 1984
Module 6: Juvenile Justice
The module explores a legal issue and the way in which scientific evidence and personal observations and experience contribute to different strongly held points of view on the topic. Students practice analyzing different genres of text from a rhetorical perspective. The final on-demand assignment asks students to respond to a recent Supreme Court decision on the topic and to construct their own argument on one or the other side.
Module 7 (Mini): Introducing Exigence
This module deepens students’ understanding of rhetorical situations by focusing in on one key element, exigence. Students have engaged with the concepts of audience, purpose, and occasion throughout their work in ERWC. The concept of exigence expands rhetors’ consideration of occasion by focusing on the elements of occasion that motivate speech or writing.
Module 8: Language, Gender, and Culture
In this module, students interrogate gender norms and how those norms are enforced by social pressures. They begin by reflecting on their own experiences with gender-based social pressures, deepening their understandings of the relationships among language, gender, culture, and identity. They then read a transcript of and view a short talk by Judith Butler, which should help to prepare them to think more carefully about the concepts in the module. In addition to asking students to reflect on a range of topics including gender, identity, and race, the module readings ask students to consider how norms of behavior are enforced through language and social interaction and to analyze the ways they may have been silenced or witnessed others being silenced. The final writing assignment provides students with an opportunity to transform their own silence into language and social action.
Novel Choice: Brave New World and/or 1984