12 Angry Men – Persuasive Language Listening Lesson

Using clips of films has long been a favoured method of mine in classes. Sometimes as a model for pronunciation as with this lesson: https://textploitationtefl.com/2015/02/18/video-lesson-catch-it-if-you-can-connected-speech/

This lesson instead looks at persuasive language as well as offering students the chance to practise listening and giving natural responses.

Why 12 Angry Men? I have wanted to write a lesson using this clip for about 3 years and with the current political climate, this seems like a good moment to look at a clip which demonstrates prejudice. I find this clip optimistic in that most of the jurors move away from the speaker. Anyway, I digress. We were both impressed by a session given by Angelos Bollas (Dublin: 2018) on using materials that are emotionally engaging and hope some of that has filtered into this.

  • Time: 2hr
  • Level: Intermediate (B1) and above
  • Aim: to look at persuasive language and structuring a response
  • Sub-aim: to generate discussion in class

For more lessons like this, check out our book: https://www.bebc.co.uk/textploitation

Materials:

Procedure:

Getting the Gist

Pre-Listening:

  1. Show the clip with the sound off and ask the students what they think is happening? What makes the men stand up one by one and walk away from the table? This is to generate interest and pique their curiousity.

Listening:

2. This task relates back to question in pre-listening – giving a reason to watch and a chance for those who are stronger to identify the issues with what the speaker is saying.

In terms of answers you might want to let them know that it is the jury in a trial

3. This is more detailed and is looking for the following answers or similar. (However, if you think other answers work, go with it.)

  • Who has been accused and of what? – a kid (probably can infer murder)
  • What is the speaker’s attitude towards the case? clearly prejudiced against the kid and ‘others like him’
  • What do the rest of the juror’s think about what he is saying? again you can infer they disagree by walking away in peaceful protest
  • How does the speaker react when he is told to stop talking? Bemusement – defeat 

Natural Response:

This section is meant to promote discussion in a lest gist orientated fashion. Allowing the students to analyse the text discuss it.

  1. Is there any language here which is used to generalise a group of people? phrases like “you know how these people lie” “it’s born in them” “They don’t know what the truth is” “they don’t need any real big reason to kill someone either” “they get drunk”
  2. Why might that be a problem in a trial? Clearly this speaker isn’t impartial
  3. Do you think the speaker is racist? clearly this is contentious, but acting like this could definitely be considered as ‘Cultural racism’

Persuasive Language:

  1. This is just a simple matching task

1 = H  2 = F  3 = D  4 = B  5 = I  6 = G  7 = E  8 = A  9 = C

Adapted from BBC Bitesize Literary techniques: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zx7cmnb/revision/2

2. The following techiques were used in the speech

Techniques: 1 2 3 4 7 9

Responding and debating: the rebuttal

The point of this is to give the students some chance to respond to the speech used in the clip by recording their own version. You could hold class discussions on suitable topics to include. The main aim is to get them to record a response that you can check and to use the check list.

The two methods of beginning are by no means the only options, but should give the students some help in starting. If you have others you prefer, please use them.

  1. What do you think are the advantages or disadvantages of both?

Concession – advantages deflames situation / disadvantage could be that it implies a degree of agreement

Refutation – opposite to above.

Your response:

Give students time to plan. Let them think of arguments (claim and evidence) to help them in their short response.

Setting Success Criteria: When you mark these, tell the students in advance exactly what you will be checking for. If you are looking for structure, do not only correct them on their grammar or pronunciation. The checklist is here to help with structure, but depending on the needs of your class you could negotiate others with them. Or, in mixed ability classes even for each student.

Extension activities:

  • After feedback, students rerecord their response focusing on one or two points highlighted.
  • You could ask your students to read this review and again look for persuasive devices featured in the lesson or any of the myriad of ideas for reviews you would normally use

https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-12-angry-men-1957

  • Alternatively, you could ask your students to look for any examples of cultural racism and the generalising of different nationalities into negative traits.

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