The Rhetorical Triangle: Ethos, Pathos, Logos

By Katherine Docimo and Kristy Littlehale

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In high school, the ELA Common Core State Standards require students to develop formal writing skills, creating essays and arguments that are well-thought-out and syntactically varied. They also require students to effectively use persuasive writing strategies to defend a claim or point of view.

A great way to enhance students' understanding of effective arguments is to teach the Aristotelian concepts of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. This requires a basic working knowledge of rhetoric. A key to strong persuasive writing is the ability to dissect and validate, or debunk, the rhetoric of other arguments.

Rhetoric Definition

Rhetoric is using language in an effective manner with the aim to persuade or motivate an audience. Rhetoric is applicable to both speaking and writing.

The Rhetorical Triangle: Ethos, Pathos, Logos


Ethos is the credibility of the speaker or writer. In order to engage an audience on a particular topic, the person presenting the information must first establish him or herself as someone that can be trusted, or as someone who has a lot of experience with the topic. This is also known as ethics.

Ethos appeals to:

Storyboard the Rhetorical Triangle  


Pathos accesses the emotions and deeply held beliefs of the audience to draw them into the subject matter. Pathos often makes audiences feel like they have a personal stake in the information being provided and is often the catalyst that drives them into action.

Pathos appeals to:

Storyboard the Rhetorical Triangle  


Logos uses logic, reasoning, evidence, and facts to support an argument. Logos appeals to the more rational side of the audience’s minds, and provides support for the subject matter. Logos strategies can often be used to strengthen the impact pathos has on the audience.

Logos utilizes:

Storyboard the Rhetorical Triangle  

Rhetorical Strategies and Devices

The successful implementation of ethos, pathos, and logos in writing or speech depends on the effectiveness of different rhetorical strategies. There are many different rhetorical strategies (and rhetorical fallacies!) that can strengthen or weaken an argument. A few of the more familiar strategies to students include:

Rhetorical Questionsencourages audience to think about an obvious answer
Analogyestablishes a more familiar concept to explain a more complicated or remote subject
Rebuttaldisproves or refuses an assertion
Antithesisuses strongly contrasting words, images, or ideas
Parallelismrepeats a grammatical structure to emphasize an important idea
Repetitionrepeats a specific word or phrase to ensure that the audience pays attention
Loaded Wordsuses the connotations of words in order to play on the audience’s emotions
Restatementexpresses the same idea but in different words to clarify or emphasize
Understatement or Overstatementuse to be ironic, call attention to an idea, or to emphasize an idea through exaggeration

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Take a look at these rhetorical strategies in use:

Storyboard the Rhetorical Triangle  

By recognizing the tactics of a persuasive argument, students learn to utilize it themselves and recognize these tactics in daily life. One excellent way to teach and review the concepts of ethos, pathos, and pathos is through a storyboard.

In the following example storyboard, each concept is briefly explained and then shown in action. When students create a definition-example board like this, classroom concepts are reinforced, and students have the chance to demonstrate them creatively.

Storyboard the Rhetorical Triangle  

By incorporating the visual elements of a storyboard as well as text, even students who struggle creating organized written thoughts can demonstrate mastery of the subject. Additionally, teachers can immediately see and respond to inaccuracies, allowing them to use class time to assess and correct, rather than handing back graded work a day or two later.

Using Storyboards In Your Classroom

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More Ethos Examples and Activities

Utilize the following activities in your own classroom with the examples below! Use the template with your students, and assess their progress with our Quick Rubric!

Storyboard the Rhetorical Triangle  

Storyboard the Rhetorical Triangle  

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•   (English) The Rhetorical Triangle: Ethos, Pathos, Logos   •   (Español) El Triángulo Retórico: Ethos, Pathos, Logos   •   (Français) Le Triangle Rhétorique: Ethos, Pathos, Logos   •   (Deutsch) Das Rhetorische Dreieck: Ethos, Pathos, Logos   •   (Italiana) Le Retoriche Triangolo: Ethos, Pathos, Logos   •   (Nederlands) De Retorische Triangle: Ethos, Pathos, Logos   •   (Português) O Triângulo Retórico: Ethos, Pathos, Logos   •   (עברית) משולש רטורית: אתוס, פאתוס, לוגואים   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) والبلاغية المثلث: ايثوس، شفقة، شعارات   •   (हिन्दी) बयानबाजी त्रिभुज: लोकाचार, करुणा, लोगो   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Риторический Треугольник: Ethos, Пафоса, Логотипы   •   (Dansk) Det Retoriske Triangle: Ethos, Pathos, Logos   •   (Svenska) Den Retoriska Triangle: Ethos, Pathos, Logos   •   (Suomi) Retorinen Triangle: Ethos, Pathos, Logot   •   (Norsk) Den Retoriske Triangle: Ethos, Pathos, Logoer   •   (Türkçe) Retorik Üçgen: Ethos, Pathos, Logolar   •   (Polski) Trójkąt Retoryczny: Ethos, Pathos, Logos   •   (Româna) The Triangle: Ethos Retorice, Pathos, Logos   •   (Ceština) Rétorická Trojúhelník: Ethos, Pathos, Loga   •   (Slovenský) Rétorický Trojuholník: Ethos, Pathos, Logos   •   (Magyar) A Retorikai Triangle: Ethos, Pátosz, Logók   •   (Hrvatski) Retorički Trokut: Ethos, Pathos, Logos   •   (български) Реторическият Триъгълник: Етос, Патос, Логос   •   (Lietuvos) Retorinį Trikampis: Ethos, Patoso, Logotipai   •   (Slovenščina) Retoričnih Triangle: Ethos, Patos, Logos   •   (Latvijas) Retoriskās Triangle: Ētoss, Patoss, Logotipi   •   (eesti) Retooriline Triangle: Ethos, Pathos, Logod