Analysing the language of elections

Analysing the language of elections

There was nothing I loved more as an English teacher than persuasive language and argument analysis during an election period. All I had to do was go near a shopping strip on a Saturday morning and people would hand me piles of persuasive texts that were perfect for my students to analyse – for free!

This year, it’s like we’ve hit the jackpot. An Australian Federal election and an incredibly interesting US presidential election filling our news feeds.

The skills students can build through analysing the arguments and language techniques in political advertising and rhetoric are, of course, incredibly important beyond ‘the SAC’ and ‘the exam’. Can they decipher the euphemisms to get to the heart of what each party genuinely stands for? Are they able to look at a billboard or a website and pick apart the ways in which language and imagery are positioning them to vote in a particular way? Do they really know what they are voting for when they cast their ballot? We all need a certain level of critical literacy to be informed, engaged voters.

The following activities are aimed specifically at Years 9–11 students who are exploring the way that different language techniques, specifically appeals, are used in persuasion. You could probably adapt these for younger students, or for Year 12s who struggle to compare the use of persuasive language by two different writers. They would also work well for integrated Humanities and English curricula – making sure that your own views and values don’t skew the discussion, of course.

Click the icon below for a free downloadable PDF of analysis questions and writing tasks based on the four biggest Australian political parties’ websites. Please note that all links below and in the PDF will take you to third-party sites. Please also note that the attached questions are not an endorsement of any of the political parties, nor do they intentionally make any evaluation of their policies or views.

Best wishes and happy teaching.

Sandra Duncanson
Senior Editor

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The main resources for the tasks attached are the websites of each of the four main political parties contesting this Federal election. All are appropriate for Years 7–12.

Additional resources

Delivering a great presentation

May 23, 2016

Encouraging authentic voices

May 23, 2016