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15. Teaching Rhetorical Pathos through Playlists

15. Teaching Rhetorical Pathos through Playlists

This blog entry describes a lesson plan that can be used to teach rhetorical pathos through the making of playlists. It was created for a computer-enabled classroom, but could also work for a conventional classroom if students were able to bring in laptops.

Students must first acquire accounts on, a free music streaming service. This can be done at the previous class meeting, or, with instructions, as part of homework.

The homework leading up to this class (assigned the class before it) should be as follows:

  • Students write a one-page persuasive essay on a topic of their choice.
  • Students make a fifteen-minute Spotify playlist intended to induce feelings that will make a partner agree with their opinion on the topic.

In class, the students listen to the playlists. One could combine any activity that wasn't overly distracting with listening to the music. I let them listen while doing whatever they would typically do on the computer while they listen to music -- allowing Facebook, Twitter, etc. This activity provides a sort of neutral starting point for the students as the playlist works on them, while alleviating the boredom that might come with solely listening to the music. Next, the students read their partner's persuasive essay. They then write a brief response describing how the playlist made them feel and how the essay used those emotions to persuade them. They email this response to the partner and the professor.

For homework, the students revise their persuasive essays to incorporate more emotional language, playing on the same feelings as the playlist songs.

Students enjoy making and listening to the playlists, and they also absorb the idea of inducing emotion in an audience as a persuasive tactic.


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