Campaigning in the English Classroom

Earlier this month, juniors in some 3AP English classes had a project to create a campaign for a fictional teacher who the students were trying to convince the school board to hire. They created backstories for their candidate as well as specific credentials. They then had to create a logo and a campaign video. On the last day of the project, the students watched each video and then voted for their favorite, which was followed by a reflection.

The project was based on the unit concerning rhetoric, in particular ethos, pathos, and logos: methods actually used by Aristotle. Ethos focuses on credibility; for example, a college diploma proves reputation. Pathos focuses on emotions; for example, those animal shelter videos try to “tug on your heartstrings,” so to speak. Finally, logos focuses on logic.

The project was created by Mrs. Slowinski, English 3AP teacher, who stated it began when she “was collaborating with a teacher from Glenbard East that did a variation of it in his classroom and [she] was trying to look for a way to make rhetorical analysis more applicable to students and a way to embed technology into that. [It was] a more authentic kind of assessment of the components of rhetoric, SOAPS.”  SOAPS stands for the subject, occasion, audience, purpose, and speaker of a given piece of rhetoric. 

There were various goals for the project. The main one, according to Ms. Gwizdala, English 3AP teacher, is “to make sure students had the chance to apply a lot of those concepts [SOAPS and rhetoric devices] and actually test them out and see what they would look like in action.” One of the secondary goals was to “have students thinking in a more abstract way about their world and how people communicate and getting to know their peers” by being able to “collaborate.” 

The campaign format was chosen because, according to Mrs. Slowinski, “The medium of a campaign video I think really forces students to get at the nuances of SOAPS like multiple audiences. There’s a particular occasion, what [students] want to reveal about their candidate over the course of the video.”

 The reaction was very positive. Mrs. Slowinski stated that she “did a self-assessment after the project and all [her] students said it was a 4 or a 5 on a 5 point scale in terms of ‘I loved this project or, this project wasn’t for me.’ The feedback was really positive. The students liked that they could pick their own groups in [her] class and [she] thought that went well.”  

Ms. Gwizdala felt the project was a success as well and stated that she will “be doing something like this every year. The placement of it [she’ll] kind of modify. In this class, doing something like this can be kind of powerful.”

The teachers aren’t the only ones who feel the project was a success. English 3AP student Peter Blatchford stated, “I really enjoyed this project because it gave us a lot of creative freedom and was lots of fun to work on with friends.” He also added, “I would definitely want others to do the project as well because not only did it help me gain a better understanding of rhetoric, but I also really enjoyed the project and thought it was a good practical way to assess knowledge of the topic in the real world.” So all in all, the project was a success.