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JTB_5

Rhetoric with Substance

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I've taught Rhetoric in some capacity for about a dozen years, and ten of those in classical education. One of the enduring difficulties of teaching students to speak well has been helping them have beautiful style that isn't just fluffy nonsense or pandering to a like-minded crowd. Admittedly, I find my own writing often lacks the sort of substance I want for it, so perhaps it is a problem in the teacher as much as in the students, yet it is frustrating to try to give good feedback when students are technically doing fine, but don't really have anything meaningful to say. Am I alone in this difficulty?

In recent years I've been trying to draw upon some specific sources to help me get more out of students than their maturity and my own limitations afford. I've turned to Shakespeare mostly, but even this year I'm doing more imitation exercises of substantial speeches rather than prompts that draw more heavily upon student reserves. I have been pleased with how the students gain facility with the style and delivery of Shakespeare, though I don't know to what extent their own writing or speaking has been influenced by the bard.

What are some strategies you use to help students speak with substance and not just with shimmer or shine?

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