This post provides materials for teaching a lesson on argument fallacies. This lesson is best suited for upper middle school as well as high school students.
Do you have ideas that work for teaching the art of argumentation?
Share with us below!
- Time: 120 minutes
- Supplies: (optional) art materials to make props for skits
- Duke TIP Argument Fallacies Lesson Plan
- Duke TIP Argument Fallacies Infographic
- Duke TIP Argument Fallacy Skit Rubric
Lyn Fairchild Hawks says
Monica, two Facebook comments when TIP shared your lesson there have come up where we’d love to hear your thoughts: #1 “The irony is that in today’s world they may be more equipped to persuade people but utilizing these very fallacies in earnest.” #2: “I teach all my students to appeal to emotion…It’s the nature of being a good storyteller. the graphic doesn’t have argumentum ad passiones on here but it often is on these list. I also teach my students to be weary of this as a form of manipulation. Emotions are so important in storytelling and communication. How does that reconcile with making a logical point in media?”
Monica Miller says
#1 is so, unfortunately, true. However, I maintain that being able to identify such fallacies is an important skill to combat this trend. In addition, an important part of being able to make a convincing argument is to address the opposition–and so, being able to acknowledge ways in which argument fallacies may be deployed can help strengthen an argument.
Monica Miller says
#2–This is certainly not an exhaustive list of fallacies by any stretch of the imagination! There are so many varieties. I have thought about getting a poster like one of these for my classroom:
I do teach the importance of emotional appeals when teaching argument, but that comes before this unit. We look a modified Aristotelian model of communication, in which appeals to emotion, values, and beliefs are part of the “rhetorical triangle” model:
In this unit, I often have students perform a rhetorical analysis on print advertisements to discern the primary argument an ad is making. Students often see how heavy-handed most print ads are in their appeals to emotion, and we talk about the ramifications of relying too heavily on emotion in communication. I often refer to the television commercials for the ASPCA that featured Sarah McLachlan on them as an example of this. I was amused to find this article in particular about those ads, in which the singer admits that even she can’t watch the ads all the way through, because they’re too sad:
Luke T. says
Thank you for sharing this lesson, Monica!
If you haven’t already seen this, I highly recommend checking out An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments. It’s both free and engaging for folks to read. I use it in a problem-solving class.
Robert Corbin says
This is a brilliant and timely post.
Has there been a more important time and place to help students and teachers to derive what is likely to be true than in the United States in 2017? Thank you for this post.
I am intrigued too by the role that the senses play in the formulation of thought and emotions and the role each plays in helping us to determine veracity.
I would argue that we learn very early on through our religious traditions about the duality of mind and body. But this duality is false. We can not separate what we think from what we sense and feel. Whitman of course explores this idea quintessentially in “I Sing the Body Electric”. What is true is what we sense, feel and think and each informs and affects the other I believe. See Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer.
Our thoughts and feelings are in fact immaterial but they begin in the flesh. To know then what is true requires that it be “sensed”. Epistemologically we are taught we must divorce ourselves from our emotions and rely solely on what we can observe with our senses. Of course, this is an impossible task. Rather it is more reasonable to be aware of the role that our senses and emotions play in the derivation of truth.
It boils down to understanding more deeply how and why we feel and think as we do. This is not an easy task. Practicing these skills prepares teachers and students to more wholly understand veracity. It is the lifelong endeavor of teaching and learning and what a kick in the pants it is. Very important work for us all.