Persuade or Die!

Author: Jill Torrey Emmons

Time: 1 class period
15 minutes to make copies
Materials: Copies of “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!” speech by Patrick Henry, American revolution posters (optional)


This lesson delves into the realm of history as we look at a famous persuasive speech from the American revolutionary era: Patrick Henry’s famous “Give Me Liberty of Give Me Death” speech, which is rousing even today. By setting the stage with a bit of American history, the teacher gets the class excited about persuasive writing as an outlet for passionate feeling. The lesson is meant to allow students to continue examining what persuasive writing looks and feels like, so that they may include these aspects in their own persuasive writing.

Purpose – This lesson will allow students to explore the qualities of persuasive writing and prepare to implement these strategies in their own writing.

Students will be able to:
1. Identify the persuasive qualities in a given text.
2. Differentiate between the logical, emotional, and ethical appeals.

National English Education Standards
Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.

Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

Teacher Background
The instructor may need to brush up on American history in order to set the stage for the reading of Patrick Henry’s speech. Also, previewing the speech and identifying the persuasive elements is a good preparation for this lesson. See the websites below.

Related and Resource Websites

Patrick Henry’s Speech: http://libertyonline.hypermall.com/henry-liberty.html
History surrounding the speech: http://www.multied.com/Bio/RevoltBIOS/HenryPartick.html
Patrick Henry Bio: http://www.redhill.org/biography.html
The American Revolution http://www.historychannel.com/perl/print_book.pl?ID=71707



1. Before students enter the classroom, put posters of the American Revolution around the room to set the stage for today’s reading and discussion. Have copies of Patrick Henry’s speech ready to pass out to students as they come in.

2. Ask the class what they remember about persuasive writing form the previous day. You may review a few of the techniques from the lists students created, as well as the handout on the three appeals. Make sure the students have the persuasive writing techniques fresh in their minds as you begin this activity.

3. Set the stage for your reading of Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech by asking the students what they remember about the American revolutionary war. Relate some details of the American revolutionary war, focusing on the tensions that built between America and England, and the reasons why people in the colonies wanted to be independent. Ask students if they remember a man by the name of Patrick Henry, and write what they know about him on the board. Tell the students that Henry wrote a very powerful persuasive speech on the subject of freedom, and that you (or a student with a strong voice) are going to read this speech to them.

4. Read the speech aloud to the class, using lots of emotion and gestures. While you are reading, have students take notes on what makes this speech persuasive. This should take about 5-10 minutes. At the conclusion of the oration, discuss with the class the main points of Henry’s argument and the persuasive techniques he uses.

Have students create a three-column chart with the columns titled: “Logic”, “Emotion”, and “Ethics”. Then have the students go back to the text, and read it on their own, noting specific quotes in which Henry uses each of the three appeals in his argument.

Embedded Assessment
Student’s discussion, notes, and chart may be evaluated to see if students are able to identify the persuasive techniques used in Henry’s speech.

None today.

Embedded Assessment



PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

1996-2007, The University of Arizona
Last update: November 10, 2009
  Page Content: Rachel Hughes
Web Master: Travis Biazo