The Rhetorical Approach


In Yancey and Robertson’s (2014) _Writing Across Contexts, the authors demonstrate that a focus on rhetorical concepts and theory building in a first-year college composition class empowers students to “transfer” their learning to new tasks and contexts. In this interactive workshop, I extend that approach by investigating how framing secondary school English language arts instruction around rhetorical thinking can help all students become “agents of integration” (Nowacek, 2011) who successfully adapt and apply their learning. Approaching texts with an eye on the rhetorical situation (Bitzer, 1968; Grant-Davies, 1997); rhetorical genre theory (Bazerman, 2013); and the Aristotelian appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos supports students becoming flexible thinkers and communicators—essential abilities for transfer. Because rhetoric emphasizes what "works" for a given situation, students who learn to read and write rhetorically approach each new literacy task considering the communication strategies that are most appropriate and effective in that particular setting, comparing contexts, assessing the relevance of prior knowledge, and applying pertinent skills and knowledge. By teaching texts rhetorically, we thus also teach for transfer and agency. We prepare students to read and write across diverse contexts, for diverse audiences, purposes, and occasions. Participants will experience how using activities such as descriptive outlining, “Talking to the Text,” rhetorical précis, and “Say, Mean, Matter, Do” with both literary and informational texts can promote integrative thinking and metacognitive knowledge. Readings, student examples, and graphic organizers will be provided.


Rhetoric, Transfer, Literacy, Agency, Secondary Education, English Language Arts


Pedagogy and Curriculum


Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


  • Dr. Jennifer Fletcher
    • Professor of English, School of Humanities and Communication, California State University, Monterey Bay
    • My current position as Professor of English and the English Subject Matter Preparation Coordinator (a teacher preservice program) at California State University, Monterey Bay involves multiple cross-sector collaborations that address the issue of academic preparation. These partnerships include the CSU Expository Reading and Writing Course (ERWC), for which I serve as Steering Committee Chair. The impact of the ERWC on secondary school curricula and pedagogy has been significant. More than 12,000 high school teachers in the States of California, Washington, and Hawaii have participated in professional development sessions on the ERWC, and the program has been nationally recognized as a leader in college readiness initiatives. In addition to my work with educational partnerships, I also teach undergraduate literature and composition courses and advise prospective high school English teachers in our major. My most recent scholarship examines the efficacy of using a rhetorical approach to texts in secondary school English classes as a means of developing advanced literacy practices. I am the author of _Teaching Arguments: Rhetorical Comprehension, Critique, and Response_ (2015) and _Teaching Literature Rhetorically: Transferable Literacy Skills for 21st Century Students_ (2018) and the co-editor of _Fostering Habits of Mind in Today's Students_ (2015). Before joining the faculty at Monterey Bay, I taught high school English for ten years in Southern California--an experience that continues to inform my present work.