The year 12 students at my school are studying persuasive language techniques in preparation for their Responding to Media Texts SAC. I have heard a number of teachers say that teaching this section of the course is dry and boring, not only for the students but also for themselves. But I think that it depends on the way it is framed. If this study is seen as an exploration of the language of power, the students may more readily see its relevance to their lives. So much depends on the way the teacher presents this task. A friend of mine similarly is disturbed by the glib assumption that school literacies are boring. She talks about her classroom and the way that students are doing things in the classroom which show they are really into what they are learning. Few students would say in public that they love it but their actions and discussions show another side to this. I too have seen students reluctant to leave the class when the bell goes because they are discussing something that is important to them or they are writing something or sharing something that has to do with what they are learning about.
As a result of going the Meet the Assessors program put on by VATE I have started asking students to report on an aspect of persuasive language use they have seen in the course of their day or week, something on a billboard, or a tv ad or a headline in a newspaper or whatever they like. It is very engaging, at least so far, and students are gaining practice in using the metalanguage needed for their analytical work. Often it leads to a continued discussion as students share their own experience with that particular persuasive strategy. It reminds me of the podcast I listened to by Wes Fryer on the importance of informational texts for our students. For so many of our students the only texts that they will read when they leave school will be informational or persuasive texts and thus the importance of being deeply literate is incalculable. I am really interested in following the path of looking at how the language is being manipulated and showing and demonstrating to students the way they too can have power over the language and be in command of strategies instead of being uncritical consumers of whatever is dished up. Although I do wonder sometimes if people in ‘real life’ (those not in classrooms) go around identifying rhetorical strategies and techniques and analysing their effect.