English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Grade 12 ELA
  • Jonathan Swift
  • Satire
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Creating A Response From An Audience

    Creating A Response From An Audience


    In this lesson, students will look at how a writer discusses poverty. Everyone knows poverty is devastating, but how can a writer most effectively create a response from his or her audience so people want to take action? And what kinds of evidence are most persuasive?


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.

    Poverty's Poster Child

    • Kristof’s article is aimed at an adult audience, but his points are easily pulled out.
    • It’s good to begin with a basic summary of the article before you move on to talk about its strategies.
    • This would be a good time to ask students why this is not satire. You can talk about how it does not use either irony or humor to make its point.
      • ELL: Spend some time explaining basic facts about Native Americans in the United States, as most ELLs who have recently arrived in this country might not have any knowledge about these populations.


    Discuss “Poverty’s Poster Child” with your classmates.

    • What’s Kristof’s column saying about poverty on Native American reservations?
    • What does life on the reservation look like as a result of the poverty?
    • According to Kristof, what are some of the causes of the poverty?

    What Is Most Persuasive?

    • Again, you’re asking students to zero in on the moment of greatest intensity, to look at it more closely.
    • As seniors, your students should be able to pinpoint important sections of literature. This is the first step toward really effective analysis.
    • More adept students might find sentences or a paragraph for each question in the previous task.
    • Students who struggle might be directed to find the paragraph or line that creates the most sympathy for those on the reservation. A more defined task sometimes really helps struggling students.
    • Working with a partner is a good way to make students comfortable enough to move forward with this analysis.
      • SWD: In forming pairs, be aware of your SWDs and ensure that they will have a learning environment where they can be productive. Sometimes, pair them up with students who are at the same level of language skills, so they can take a more active role and they can work things out together. Yet, other times, pair them up with students whose proficiency level is lower, so they play the role of the “supporter.”
    • Stronger students should definitely be able to tackle the second piece of this task.

    Work Time

    Write a response to the following question.

    • What aspect or paragraph of Kristof’s column is most persuasive to you? Or, which part has the greatest impact on you?

    Open Notebook

    Share your thinking with a partner.

    • Working together, can you find any reasons why the paragraphs or sentences you chose were persuasive or affecting?

    Rhetorical Triangle

    • The rhetorical triangle depicts appeals to ethos, logos, and pathos.
      • ELL: Check that all ELLs are able to understand the meaning of these words as well as to pronounce them accurately.
    • An annotation of “Poverty’s Poster Child” is available to help you with examples of the rhetorical triangle in the article.
    • The appeal to logos, or logic/statistics, is strongest in this column because it includes so many statistics and facts. Towards its end, when it discusses the causes of poverty, it especially focuses on logic.
    • Appeal to pathos is second: descriptions of the young man who began drinking at 12, for example, are certainly an appeal to emotion.
    • There really is no strong or defined appeal to ethos in the column since Kristof does not try to convince us of his credentials or appeal to a particular audience.
    • Struggling students might be pointed in the direction of appeal to logos: how many appeals to logos can you find?
    • Stronger students might look for photographs or a video that makes the same point about American Indian reservations.
    • In addition to the rhetorical triangle, this would be a good time to talk about the anecdote and its role in the column.
    • In talking about the tone, you’ll likely discuss the absence of irony or humor.
      • ✓ Is this effective? Why or why not?

    Work Time

    The “rhetorical triangle” is a way of looking at strategies that writers use to try to persuade people.

    Reread “Poverty’s Poster Child” and annotate to identify rhetorical appeals to ethos, logos, and pathos.

    Then discuss the following with your classmates.

    • What rhetorical appeals are strongest in this column?
    • What would you say the tone is?
    • Why is this not satire?

    Favorite Side of Rhetorical Triangle

    • Have students work with three other classmates of their own choosing.
    • Circle around the room listening in on conversations. Clear up any misconceptions.
    • Have each small group share with the whole class.


    In small groups, discuss this question.

    • Which aspect of the rhetorical triangle do you find the most convincing and effective? Explain why.

    A Modest Proposal

    • Note that students can find a chronology of Jonathan Swift’s life in More to Explore.


    Read “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift. Annotate as you go, and try to answer these questions.

    • What was your response as you read the essay?
    • What was your response two hours (or more) later?

    Open Notebook