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Identifying Rhetorical Devices
Have students identify the speech or long dialogue in 'Inherit the Wind' that they find particularly powerful. Have students work in groups to share their favorite speech or dialogue and discuss why they think it has such a great impact. Then teach the class various rhetorical devices, such as parallelism, anaphora, hyperbole, rhetorical questioning, or allusion, and have each group try to identify rhetorical devices in the speeches that they had been discussing. As a class, discuss which rhetorical devices seem to appear most often in the powerful passages of the play. You can even make a class chart showing the rhetorical devices used in the play, with spaces for students to insert several examples of those devices.
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Comparison With the Film
Show your students a film of the play (there are several, ranging from one produced in 1960 to one produced in 1999). Encourage students to take notes throughout the film, and emphasize that they should focus on the differences between the written play and the acting on the film. In addition, they should note any time that something in the film differs from what they imagined, such as the appearance of a character or a character’s expression after a particular event. Discuss their notes as a class, and compare their reactions to the film. You may also want to look at several film versions of a specific scene in the play and discuss the differences between them, as well as whether the students would stage anything differently in their own "film" of the play.
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Have students read several articles (such as this one) on the infamous Monkey Trials, and discuss which of them are biased and which are most impartial. Then have them write two of their own articles based on the trial in the play, one from a pro-evolution standpoint and one from an anti-evolution standpoint. If you’d like, have groups of students scour some newspapers for other articles that they think may be biased. Make sure they are able to support their opinions.
These group activities teach students to read and listen effectively and to evaluate what they’ve heard and seen. Let me know how these ideas worked out for you, or share one of your own in the comments.