Standard: Language 11-12: 3, 4, 5 Reading for Informational Text 11-12: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10 Writing 11-12: 1, 2, 4, 9 Speaking and Listening 11-12: 1, 3, 4

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discovering the power to influence tone, mood, style, voice, and meaning

Standard: Language 11-12: 3, 4, 5 Reading for Informational Text 11-12: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10 Writing 11-12: 1, 2, 4, 9 Speaking and Listening 11-12: 1, 3, 4
To be college and career ready in language, students must have firm control over the conventions of standard English. At the same time, they must come to appreciate that language is as at least as much a matter of craft as of rules and be able to choose words, syntax, and punctuation to express themselves and achieve particular functions and rhetorical effects. (CCSS, 51)

Featured Skill:

Students will understand how authors make choices in language to influence and persuade an audience.

Grade Level: 11 (Suggested for grade 11)

Lesson Summary:

In this lesson, students will read, reread and analyze the language use in “Speech to the Virginia Convention” by Patrick Henry to determine how the author uses rhetorical strategies to persuade his audience. This lesson will then be connected to English III through the essential questions.

Featured Text

Theme and/or Essential Question

Primary Text:

  • “Speech to the Virginia Convention” by Patrick Henry

Secondary Text (choice of the following):

  • From “Declaration of Sentiments of the Seneca Falls Woman’s Rights Convention” by Elizabeth Cady Stanton

  • “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards

  • How can an author persuade an audience?

  • What are the different ways an author can appeal to an audience?

  • Can a person’s mind ever truly be changed by an argument?

  • What is the difference between rebellion and a fight for independence?



Instructional Steps


Modeling and explaining the featured grammar skill

  1. Background: Students should, in grades 9-10, learn about rhetorical strategies and how they can be used to organize an argument. Students may not have an understanding of the choices they have in language and how those choices ultimately create emphasis on a particular element.

  • In this particular lesson, the teacher will not model the featured skill. Students will engage in a close reading of “Speech to the Virginia Convention” by Patrick Henry in order to determine the usage and impact of the grammatical conventions. This lesson guides students to discover the impact of choices in rhetorical strategies in a piece of writing. For students to become well acquainted with the text, multiple opportunities to read the selection will be necessary.


in Context

Reading text and identifying deliberate use of the featured grammar skill

Reading 1: Student reading

  • We encourage the reading of the entire selection before the close study in order to provide a context for the particular excerpt in this lesson. Independently, students will read and annotate the selection, “Speech to the Virginia Convention” by Patrick Henry. While they read, students should underline any details that develop a clear argument or purpose in the speech. They should then annotate the underlined details in the margin, explaining what each example is asking the audience to do or to consider.

Reading 2: Teacher or fluent reader reading

  1. Teachers may want to read the excerpted section aloud while being careful not to overly influence meaning with inflection. Students need to hear all the words pronounced correctly; delivery includes deliberate choices that could begin to rob students of the opportunity to make meaning based on the word choice, word order, and punctuation. Students will want to begin to understand and be able to restate the text in their own words. As students gain understanding, they will want to make adjustments to their personal translation of the text.

Reading 3: Teaching about Ethos, Logos and Pathos/ Highlighting for further understanding

  1. Teachers will now distribute the student handout on rhetorical strategies. Students should now do page one of the handout only. They may work on this in small groups and then teacher should facilitate a class discussion on the students’ findings.

  2. Teachers should now give students three different colored highlighters. Have students, in small groups, reread the selection and highlight their underlined passages: one color for ethos, one color for logos and one color for pathos. Definitions of these terms can be found on the “Student Directions” handout.

  3. Students should use their highlighted passages to complete page two of the rhetorical strategies handout.

Answering questions to engage in the text

  1. Students will use the questions provided to analyze the text for Henry’s choices in language and for answers to the essential questions.

  2. Students will continue to annotate the selections and answer questions. (See student direction handout) The questions are intended to promote understanding/comprehension; however, these are not questions that are all necessarily ‘right there’ types of questions. The questions all require students to return to the text and potentially locate additional information to increase understanding.


in Writing

Writing text and applying the featured grammar skill in a deliberate way

Writing: Use the featured skill(s)

  1. Students will choose one of the writing options available. (See options on student directions handout)

  2. Students will be asked to interpret, analyze and evaluate the author’s choice in language in their writing assignment.


Additional Resources

For extension: (Students could be provided options for extension activities)

  1. Read the selection from “Declaration of Sentiments of the Seneca Falls Woman’s Rights Convention” by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. (Holt: Elements of Literature p. 110-11). Create both rhetorical triangles like the ones on the students handout on a sheet of paper. Complete your rhetorical triangles in small groups using the steps that you did for Patrick Henry’s speech.

  1. Read “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards (Holt: Elements of Literature p. 46-48). Create both rhetorical triangles like the ones on the students handout on a sheet of paper. Complete your rhetorical triangles in small groups using the steps that you did for Patrick Henry’s speech.

Intervention and support

For Intervention and support:

  • Teachers should review the questions for the excerpt carefully. The questions are intended to help the students attend to the reading for comprehension. The use of the questions should be determined by the students in the room. If students are able to read and comprehend without questions that direct them line by line, then these supports can be taken away. Always remember that the purpose of the questions is to promote close reading of the selection; the removal of the direct questions should not remove the opportunity to read carefully and closely. The questions should only be reduced or removed once students are equipped with the annotating and close reading skills necessary to question the text naturally. (See the attached handout).

  • To support students, students should be encouraged to work collaboratively. The first reading should be done by students independently—we want students to have the opportunity to try to find some elements first. Reading aloud is an opportunity for a second reading and to hear all the words pronounced correctly. As students become more intimate with the selection, working collaboratively allows them to build on the ideas of others and negotiate the meaning of particular elements.



  • Answer keys are not provided. The lessons are intended to create opportunities for students to rely on the text to gain independence in reading complex texts. In this instructional model, the only wrong answers are those that are not well supported or engage in fallacious reasoning.

  • It is best for teachers to engage in conversations and make instructional decisions with a PLT about this lesson, its content, and student outcomes.

  • You may have noticed that providing background information is not part of the beginning of the lesson. Within the Language Lessons, students will need to rely upon the words and punctuation to create meaning without the assistance of the teacher or other background building activities prior to the learning experience. As students progress through the activities, they will need information and build the background that we typically provide up front. When students enter the world of college and career, they will need to be equipped with the necessary skills to determine context, question a text, determine the information they will need to know to increase understanding, and know where to locate that information.

Speech to the Virginia Convention”

Patrick Henry

Source: Wirt, William. Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry . (Philadelphia) 1836, as reproduced in The World's Great Speeches, Lewis Copeland and Lawrence W. Lamm, eds., (New York) 1973.

Elements of Literature, Holt.

MR. PRESIDENT: No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves, and the House? Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with these war-like preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort.

I ask, gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done, to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free² if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending²if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable²and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace²but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Directions for Students “Speech to the Virginia Convention” by Patrick Henry

Step One: Read the excerpt to yourself and annotate the text.

Read the excerpt to yourself. Make note of words, phrases, and punctuation that intrigue you in some way.
Look for irregularities, similarities, and unknowns.
Irregularity: I find it peculiar the way the author used this word.

Similarity: I am seeing a pattern here: in words, phrasing, or ideas. (Diction and Syntax)

Unknowns: I don’t know what that means. Or I don’t know what that means in this context.

  • While you read, underline any details that develop a clear argument or purpose in the speech. Then annotate the underlined details in the margin, explaining what each example is asking the audience to do or to consider.

Step Two: In this step your teacher or a classmate will read aloud the selection.

Listen carefully to the words being read. If you have read a word incorrectly, you may want to make note of that change. True understanding of a text means you will be able to paraphrase and restate the text in your own words.

Step Three: In this step, you will be asked to reread carefully and highlight the passage.

Terms you need to understand before you highlight

A General Summary of Aristotle's Appeals . . . The goal of argumentative writing is to persuade your audience that your ideas are valid, or more valid than someone else's. The Greek philosopher Aristotle divided the means of persuasion, appeals, into three categories--Ethos, Pathos, Logos.

Ethos (Credibility), or ethical appeal, means convincing by the character of the author. We tend to believe people whom we respect. One of the central problems of argumentation is to project an impression to the reader that you are someone worth listening to, in other words making yourself as author into an authority on the subject of the paper, as well as someone who is likable and worthy of respect.

Pathos (Emotional) means persuading by appealing to the reader's emotions. We can look at texts ranging from classic essays to contemporary advertisements to see how pathos, emotional appeals, are used to persuade. Language choice affects the audience's emotional response, and emotional appeal can effectively be used to enhance an argument.

Logos (Logical) means persuading by the use of reasoning. This will be the most important technique we will study, and Aristotle's favorite. We'll look at deductive and inductive reasoning, and discuss what makes an effective, persuasive reason to back up your claims. Giving reasons is the heart of argumentation, and cannot be emphasized enough. We'll study the types of support you can use to substantiate your thesis, and look at some of the common logical fallacies, in order to avoid them in your writing.

Information from

FirstFind three different colored highlighters. In small groups, reread the selection, searching for Aristotle’s appeals and highlight the speech: one color for ethos, one color for logos and one color for pathos.

NextUse the highlighted passages to complete page two of the student handout.

Step Four: In this step, you will be asked to carefully reread the passage. Make sure to find textual evidence to support each answer.

  1. Why does Patrick Henry begin his speech by complementing the previous speakers at the convention?

  2. In what way does Henry acknowledge points of view different than this own in his first paragraph?

  3. When Henry states “I consider it nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery,” what is the antecedent of “it”?

  4. An allusion is an indirect reference to another well-known literary work, historical event or person. Examine the allusion in paragraph two. What connotations can be applied to hope through the use of this allusion?

  5. Henry uses many rhetorical questions throughout his speech. Find at least three and discuss them. How do these rhetorical questions strengthen his appeal?

  6. Explain the purpose of the metaphor in the beginning of paragraph three. How does the metaphor help to build his argument? How does this example contribute to establishing ethos?

  7. Read the following sentence out loud and then examine the alliteration: “It is that insidious smile whith which our petition has been lately received?” What is its effect in characterizing the British government?

  8. Discuss the biblical allusion in the sentence “Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss.” How would its use influence his audience?

  9. Notice the parallel structure in the forth paragraph with the sentence that begins “We have petitioned…” Does it contribute more to building logos, pathos or ethos? Why?

  10. Henry presents a counterargument in paragraph five that begins “They tell us, sir, that we are weak”; paraphrase his counterargument and explain why it is included.

  11. Find the places that Henry uses images of enslavement. Does it contribute more to building logos, pathos or ethos? Why?

  12. Which of Aristotle’s appeals does Henry use the most in his speech? Why would he choose to emphasize this appeal over the others?

Step Five: Writing

Option 1: Write an essay in which you examine Henry’s purpose and use of rhetorical techniques in his “Speech to the Virginia Convention.”

Option 2: Write a speech from the point of view of the British government arguing why the colonists should cease their rebellion. Use the information provided by Henry in his speech to find details to support the British government’s argument. Incorporate the rhetorical strategies that Henry uses to develop your argument.

Option 3: Choose a novel that you’ve read this term in English class. Identify a character in the novel who needs to persuade others for a purpose. Determine what that purpose is and complete a rhetorical triange for this character’s purpose, just like on side one of your student worksheet. Write a persuasive speech or monologue from that character’s point of view outlining his or her argument. Make sure to include rhetorical strategies throughout your character’s argument that completement both the argument and the character’s personality. (Example: Write a speech from Myrtle’s point of view as if she were to demand that Tom leave Daisy. You can focus on any character, not just the protagonist, and the situation can be completely hypothetical; it doesn’t have to occur in the book.)

Student Handout: Rhetorical situation and strategies in

“Speech to the Virginia Convention”
When examining an argument, it is important to keep in mind the rhetorical situation, looking for imformation about the speaker, audience, subject and purpose of the piece. When an author is developing an argument, he or she must adjust his/ her argument based on the audience.

SPEAKER: What do we know or can we infer about Patrick Henry (the speaker) from the text?

How can you tell? Use textual evidence to support.

How can you tell? Use textual evidence to support.

AUDIENCE: What do you know about the intended audience of the speech?

How can you tell? Use textual evidence to support.

SUBJECT: What is the subject of Henry’s speech?

How can you tell? Use textual evidence to support.


Henry’s Speech:

Student Handout page 2: Rhetorical strategies in

“Speech to the Virginia Convention”

ETHOS: How does Patrick Henry establish ethos in this piece?

How can you tell? Use three textual examples to support.

Part 1:

LOGOS: How does Patrick Henry establish logos in this piece?

How can you tell? Use three textual examples to support.

PATHOS: How does Patrick Henry establish pathos in this piece?

How can you tell? Use three textual examples to support.


Henry’s Speech:

(copy from page one!)

Part 2: Now, identify other rhetorical strategies used in the speech. These strategies could include metaphor, allusion, rhetorical questions, repetition, parallel structure. Find examples of these in the text.

Rhetorical Devices


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