Standards and Objective
Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study.
- Chart Paper
- You are There!: Philadelphia – Declaration of Independence – 1776 produced by the Columbia Broadcasting System
Students are probably already aware that the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia on July 4th, 1776. At the time, there was no Internet, no radio, and of great importance to those debating the fine points of the agreement, no air conditioning! In the 1970s, CBS decided to create a series that is akin to historical-fiction podcasts. Modern news reporters go “back in time” to visit the Continental Congress and cover events with actors voicing famous historians, such as John Dickinson (delegate to the Continental Congress from Pennsylvania), John Adams (an advocate for the Declaration of Independence from Massachusetts, known for his dislike of those who opposed his viewpoint), and Thomas Jefferson (author of the Declaration of Independence from Virginia) to discuss independence from England. Several “men and women on the street” are also interviewed.
Remind students that while the accounts by the patriots they will hear are not actual recordings, they are based on quotes from the historical figures. The voices of the common people are also actors representing citizens at the time. Think about the tone of the speakers. Listen specifically for what Aristotle called the three proofs, ethos (a call to rely on the speaker’s credibility), pathos (an appeal to emotions, values or even prejudices) and logos (an appeal to use logic or reasoning to validate a point).
You are There!: Philadelphia – Declaration of Independence – 1776
Divide the class into three sections, and assign each one as ethos, pathos, or logos. Ask the class to list examples – outside the recording – of each when persuading people to act, whether making a purchase, casting a vote, or changing a behavior. Some examples could be:
- Texting and driving
- Adopting a pet from a shelter
- Buying a safe vehicle
- Graduating from high school
- Joining the military
- Supporting wounded soldiers
- Donating to victims of a natural disaster
- Being on time for school
- Eating fruits and vegetables
- Not eating animal products
- Recycling/reusing products
Under which heading (ethos, pathos, logos) do these and others volunteered by students fall? Keep in mind that one cause may use more than one approach to persuade for the same issue. For example, someone may become a vegetarian for health reasons (logos), because a celebrity or person they respect has made this choice (ethos) or because they are against raising animals for the purpose of food producton (pathos).
Ask each student to re-listen to a segment of the recording based on a person who they feel uses the strategy to which they have been assigned.
Have each student generate a list of quotations for their person that uses this technique. The woman whose husband was killed, for example, speaks from an emotional place. The vendor looks at the debate from an economic perspective. Be sure students pull out specific “lines” that are said and not paraphrase or just list the characters or main ideas presented. The words chosen are critical to the time and the story.
Summary: Ask students in each group to share what they had noted, one “proof” at a time. Were any patriots or witnesses in more than one group? Can any line be categorized in more than one way? Look for patterns in the way someone said a quoted line (their delivery) vs. the words they chose to say what they wanted to say. The expression, “It isn’t what they said, but how they said it,” comes into play.
Extensions and Variations
Why do you think CBS News chose to use this format, some 200 years after an event took place? Since these recordings are being used in a new format, audio books, about 40 years after they were produced, does the educational value still endure? Think about how they could be further updated with modern technology, or provide an opportunity to do so for students who learn best with technology.
You Are There! is a series, with many titles available on Tales2go, including topics such as The Women’s Rights Convention of 1863, The Last Day of Pompeii, and The Signing of the Magna Carta. Search for over 50 similar broadcasts from CBS.
About the Common Core
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) lay out very specific listening requirements, by grade, as part of a dedicated strand for speaking and listening skills. The standards specify the use of ‘other media’ within the standards, e.g., “CCSS.ELA-Literacy 3.2 Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.”
Listening is placed on equal footing with reading, writing and speaking. And for those tempted to just pair audio with visual text, that approach is common and valid with emerging readers, but not what the standards intend.
The CCSS also requires students to comprehend texts of steadily increasing complexity as they progress through school. Audio books can act as an important scaffold that allows students to read above their actual reading level.
Learn more at www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy.