Learning Plans & Activities
Analysis of Social Media as a Tool of Persuasion

Just as reading and writing are two sides of the same coin, so are detecting tools of persuasion and persuasion itself. Teaching students to recognize ethos, pathos, and log­os expands their repertoire of tools for argument—­argument, that is, in the Aristotelian sense: civil discourse.

One tool for engaging students in explorations of social media and news literacy is Teach Argument. They do not give every­thing away for ­free, but from their ­free materials you can get a sense of the quality of the lessons they offer. In par­tic­u­lar, they suggest directing students to apply well-­known tools of rhetorical persuasion to their analy­sis of media posts:

Ethos appeals to a sense of right and wrong or what is just.

Pathos is an emotional appeal.

Log­os uses reason to persuade.

To that end, select a Facebook post that is relevant to your unit or content and relevant tweets (alternately, select tweets that ­will serve as a good model if you ­don't want to apply your thinking to the content with which the students will be wrestling). Annotate the posts, highlighting for your students where and how dif­fer­ent tools of persuasion are used. Then ask them to apply ­these skills to a content-­related exercise like this one:

Unpacking Hashtags

In this exercise, students will unpack and analyze twitter hashtags that address potent issues in education and education reform and then create their social media campaign. Students can work in groups with each group focusing on one of the following hashtag (#) categories. First, review recent posts made using ­those hashtags.


#achievementgap: Follow this hashtag to learn more about the achievement gap and what activists across the education profession (including parents) have to say about closing it and establishing more opportunities for students caught in the middle.­

edgap: Like #achievementgap, #edgap is all about promoting equal opportunities in education, particularly along class, race, gender, and ability lines.


#edpolicy: perhaps obviously, this hashtag is dedicated to furthering the discussion of current education politics and what needs changing to ensure the best pos­si­ble environments for kid and adult students alike.

#edpolitics: Politics and education merge in a fireball of . . . ? well . . . ? just go give it a read! #edpolitics informs and no doubt nurtures some in­ter­esting conversations and debates.


#putkidsfirst: Used primarily in Louisiana, #putkidsfirst is a national discussion about bud­gets, vouchers, and other hot education topics.

#teacherquality: ­ Because teachers stand at the forefront of education, drawing up policies to ensure the best pos­si­ble output greatly benefits students.


#edreform: This hashtag indexes a frequently updated discussion about education reform, featuring a wide spectrum of ideas, insights, and opinions.

#schoolreform: This is another active, ongoing discussion about changing education at dif­fer­ent levels to provide the best pos­si­ble learning experiences.


#blackedu: This conversation focuses on in-­class strategies and out-­of-­class policies both negatively and positively impacting black students, with some excellent insight provided by a nice range of participants.

#latinoedu: Parents, policy makers, and, of course, education professionals might want to give this Twitter talk a follow when wanting to learn more about providing opportunities for Latino students.

#nativeedu: The National Indian Education Association primarily uses the quite new #nativeedu to raise awareness of the good and bad policies directly affecting Native American students.

#urbaned: This hashtag concerns itself with drawing up policies to improve education prob­lems unique to urban and inner-­city schools.


#eddata: Get to number crunching with #eddata and its long-­running exchange of statistics relevant to the education industry. Compelling research is essential to drawing up the most effective, valuable reformation pos­sible.

After reviewing the hashtags, each group should identify one ­really potent tweet to analyze, take a screenshot, and paste it into a document where they can annotate it. For example, the following outline can be re­created as a Google Doc and shared with students:

Remember: If the tweet includes an image, how does that image advance the message?




Ethos (right and wrong):

Pathos (emotion):

Logos (evidence):

Synthesize (Tweet purpose):

Compare and contrast how each of ­these tweets uses ethos, pathos, and log­os. From a rhetorical standpoint, which of these tweets do you consider most effective? Why?

How do the purposes of each of ­these tweets vary, and how is that reflected in their composition? How are dif­fer­ent individuals invested in the same subject ­matter? How do they choose to approach ­these "investments"?

How are the purposes of each of your selected tweets similar or dif­fer­ent—­and why are ­these purposes similar or dif­fer­ent? Is it the speaker's choice? Is the speaker somehow restricted?

How does social media advance the discourse happening ­here? How is it hindered?

Once the students have completed their tweet analy­sis, it is time to Jigsaw: re-­form groups so that each group has one person from each of the original groups. Students then share their analy­sis and collaborate to synthesize the tweets.

No lesson on hashtags would be complete without tweeting!

Direct students to open a Google Slide or some other program for creating an image with text. Direct students to capture their group's big takeaway and add a relevant image that they have permission to use. Download the slide as a jpg so that you can add it to a tweet.

Ask students to tweet out their insight using a class or school account. Be sure to include the school's hashtag or handle.­


"'Boys on the Bus': 40 Years ­ Later, Many Are Girls." Transcript. National Public Radio. April 12, 2012. https://www.npr.org/transcripts/150577036?storyId=150577036?storyId=150577036.

"Lesson Plans." Teach Argument. Accessed May 18, 2017. https://teachargument.com/products/

About the Authors

Michelle Luhtala is Library Department Chair at New Canaan High School in New Canaan, Connecticut. She facilitates an online learning community for nearly 12,000 library and educational technology professionals at edWeb.net/emergingtech, where she has hosted over 80 webinars since 2010. She is an adjunct instructor in the Masters of Information Program at Rutgers University' s School of Communication and in the Information and Library Science Department at Southern Connecticut State University and is also a contributing author to Libraries Unlimited's Growing Schools: Librarians as Professional Developers. The American Association of School Librarians distinguished her as Curriculum Champion in 2017.

Jacquelyn Whiting is the Innovation and Technology Specialist for Cooperative Educational Services (CES) in Trumbull, CT. She has a bachelor's in Government Studies and Studio Art from Connecticut College and a master's in Social Studies and Education from South Connecticut State University. She is also a Google Certified Innovator and Local Activator for Future Design School. Jacquelyn is the co-author of News Literacy: The Keys to Combating Fake News. She presents frequently on human-centered design, student and educator voice, and innovative educational technology practices. You can follow her tweeting @MsJWhiting.

MLA Citation Luhtala, Michelle, and Jacquelyn Whiting. "Analysis of Social Media as a Tool of Persuasion." School Library Connection, May 2020, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2248101?view=community.

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Entry ID: 2248101

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