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The third canon of rhetoric is style, and in my opinion this is the most difficult to teach. That is partly because it is something that, as I see it, must be done as a K-12 effort, not merely a topic to cover in a class or two. It's partly a set of rules to follow, but also much more.

How do you teach style at your school?

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On 5/31/2019 at 3:30 PM, Patrick Halbrook said:

The third canon of rhetoric is style, and in my opinion this is the most difficult to teach. That is partly because it is something that, as I see it, must be done as a K-12 effort, not merely a topic to cover in a class or two. It's partly a set of rules to follow, but also much more.

How do you teach style at your school?

Some aspects of teaching style vary depending upon the age of the student, but one constant is imitation. Whether in writing or in speaking, the most palpable and long-lasting agent for student development comes through the imitation of good examples and the recognition of error through observing and analyzing bad examples. Above any other methods, I'd say imitation is the only failsafe.

I like to use Corbett's method of writing imitation, which he lays out in Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student. I've also taken the Four Categories of Change and collected the figures of speech associated with them and had students insert figures of speech into samples of prose, or write their own prose using the figures. It makes for some clunky and bad style in many cases, but it does force them to think about what the figures look like, mean, and how they get used. I've also had student find certain figures of speech in Shakespeare plays (usually Julius Caesar, but I've also used Merchant of Venice). Familiarity with the figures doesn't necessarily improve style, but does help them recognize it a bit. As resources on the figures, I've also found Ward Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric and Classical English Metaphor indispensable aides. 

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