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Ministry of Education.

Language is a manipulator

Focusing on persuasive language, this unit models the research process for students and provides guidance so that they can then carry out their own independent language research.

Learning Outcomes | Teaching and Learning | Assessment and Evaluation | Printing Version

Writer: Marie Stribling
Year level 13
Who are my learners and what do they already know? See:  Planning using inquiry
School curriculum outcomes How your school’s principles, values, or priorities will be developed through this unit

Learning Outcomes

 (What do my students need to learn)

Curriculum achievement objectives (AOs) for:  

Processes and strategies

Integrate sources of information, processes, and strategies purposefully, confidently, and precisely to identify, form, and express increasingly sophisticated ideas.

  1. integrates sources of information and prior knowledge purposefully, confidently, and precisely to make sense of increasingly varied and complex texts
  2. selects and uses appropriate processing and comprehension strategies with confidence and discrimination

Purposes and audiences

Show a discriminating understanding of how texts are shaped for different purposes and audiences.

  • recognises, understands, and appreciates how texts are constructed for a range of intentions and situations
  • identifies particular points of view within texts and understands that texts can position a reader
  • evaluates the reliability and usefulness of texts.


Show a discriminating understanding of how texts are shaped for different purposes and audiences.

  • recognises, understands, and appreciates how texts are constructed for a range of intentions and situations

Language features

Show a discriminating and insightful understanding of how language features are used for effect within and across texts.

  • identifies a range of sophisticated oral, written, and visual language features and understands their effects
Achievement Standard(s) aligned to AO(s) AS 90726 Complete independent research on a language or literature topic

Teaching and Learning

 (What do I need to know and do?)

1-2 related professional readings or links to relevant research

Planning Using Inquiry

English Teaching and Learning Guide 

NCEA Rules and Procedures

Learning task 1:

Learning intention(s)

Establishing prior learning

KCs/ Principles/Values focus


Thinking – explore texts

Relate to others – peer discussion

Learning task 1

Establishing prior knowledge

This is a vital first stage in the research process, as you need a body of knowledge before you can effectively research a topic. How can you develop key questions if you have no knowledge of your topic to begin with?

Language (verbal and visual) has the power to manipulate the thinking and behaviour of others. An understanding of the linguistic features that contribute to this manipulative effect will help to make us less susceptible to the manipulative power of language.

Teacher resources

Look at the verbal features which contribute to the manipulative power of language in the following contexts. Use the worksheet to compile a glossary of features which manipulate. In groups discuss and record how that manipulative effect has been achieved.

Context A: Literature

Context B: Language of the Iraq war

Learning task 2:

Learning intention(s)

Apply thinking strategies

KCs/ Principles/Values focus


Thinking: thinking critically

 Relate to others – explore a range of different perspectives

Learning task 2

Brainstorming is the process by which you note down all the information that they know on a topic. In order to model the process you could chose to examine in more depth the language used in one of the contexts chosen in the learning task 1. 

We will look at the context of the Iraq war – a language research project requiring students to closely analyse the language used to manipulate people.

 Read the following documents: George Bush’s speech and Saddam Hussein’s letter, noting any language features/ effects/ word/ phrases/ attitudes which are evident. Work in groups, writing ideas on post it notes then placing the notes on a large sheet of paper. As you write information on post it notes, say your idea aloud to avoid duplication. An example follows in task 3. Once you have included all the information you can think of, move to the next stage of the process: mapping information into categories.

Learning task 3:

Learning intention(s)

Categorising information

KCs/ Principles/Values focus KCs: Thinking: make connections; look for patterns

Learning task 3

Mapping Information into categories

Mapping is the process where you organise their brainstormed material into categories, giving each category a title or label. The object of this exercise is to make sense of your material and to see similarities and differences in your material. 

Possible categories might be features/ examples/ effects/reasons for use, for example: 


  • Allusion
  • Hyperbole
  • Abstract nouns with negative connotations


  • infidel, criminal, cowardly occupier
  • occupation, humiliation, betrayal
  • the criminal Bush
  • peace and security


  • demonises the enemy

Reasons for use

  • Hussein wants to create an image of Bush as the oppressor

 Once you have organised material into categories, you will be able to see whether you have gaps in your information. This will enable you to revisit your sources to add to your mapped information. 

From your mapped categories you can now devise key questions.

Learning task 4:

Learning intention(s)

Setting up an inquiry

KCs/ Principles/Values focus KCs: Thinking: explore types of questions

Learning task 4

Devising Key Questions

From mapped categories, you can now devise key questions.

  • Some questions invite the recall of information eg: What features do my speakers/ writers use? / What are the effects of these features?

  • Other questions invite the student to draw conclusions and to form judgements eg: How do my speakers/ writers use these features to manipulate the audience?

It is essential that at this level you include at least one question of the latter type, as unless you include such a question you will not be able to meet the requirements of AS 90726. Once you have chosen your questions, you need to think about how you will find answers to your questions. It may be that you will need to find some more primary sources to enable you to do a more in-depth linguistic analysis. 

It may be that you need to consult secondary sources for commentary on the language or to find out more about the social, political or historical aspects surrounding a chosen context. This will arm you with information about why the speaker/ writer might want to manipulate the audience. 

For example, if the context is the inaugural addresses of selected American presidents, you may need to research the factors affecting American society at the time. Similarly, if the chosen context is the issue of “customary rights to the foreshore and seabed in New Zealand”, some research may need to be conducted into the issue to come to an understanding of the points of view of the different interest groups.

To find this type of information, use keywords and phrases [see learning task 5]. Now that much of the research process has been modelled, you could now choose your own topic to complete the assessment task. 

Resources linked to developing questions:

Learning task 5:

Learning intention(s)

Setting up an inquiry

KCs/ Principles/Values focus KCs: Use language, symbols and texts: experiment with different keywords

Learning task 5

Using Keywords

Keywords enable you to do ‘smart searching’. 

Keywords should be used to search indexes of books, electronic databases and the internet. 

A knowledge of simple Boolean search strategies will be useful here. 

To find primary sources for analysis, useful keywords/phrases might be:

  • “George Bush” + Iraq
  • “American presidents” + “inaugural addresses”
  • “Helen Clark” + “customary rights”
  • suffragettes + speeches

To find secondary sources as commentary on language or as background social/ political/ historical information, useful keywords/ phrases might be:

  • “language as a weapon”
  • “semantics of war”
  • “suffragette movement” +NZ
  • “iraq war” + reasons

 As you are searching for information you need to use scanning and skimming skills to determine whether the information or sources you have found are relevant to their questions [see learning task 8]. 
Record relevant information by taking notes. A suggested approach here is to draw up a sheet like the student worksheet. As well as this you may want to draw up a frequency chart to record how often particular language features are used in your sources. 

Once you have assembled the information, you will need to scan and skim it to find the information you need.

Learning task 6:

Learning intention(s)

Evaluating and selecting information

KCs/ Principles/Values focus KCs: Thinking: make judgements about sources

Learning task 6

Skimming and Scanning


Scanning is the first thing that you do when you select a resource. It answers the question: is this the right resource to help me find the answers to my questions? Will it give me the answers I want?

 Scan by zapping through the whole resource, homing in on the important bits. Scan before you start skimming.
Scanning gives you a feeling for the whole item.


  • Is it relevant?
  • Is there any thing in it that answers the target questions?

Look at:

  • The title page.
  • The contents page. Are there chapters or sections that you may want to read?
  • Are there maps, diagrams, pictures, captions? Do they look as if they would be helpful?


 Skim by zooming through the text quickly trying to spot key words. Don't start at the beginning and plod or shuffle through the text. After you have scanned the text and found the bits that you think look relevant and interesting then skim read. 
Concentrate to keep your keywords and questions in your mind. 
You are now ready to present the information in a report.

Learning task 7:

Learning intention(s)

Presenting conclusions

KCs/ Principles/Values focus KCs: Use language, symbols and texts – structure and express understandings

Learning task 7

Writing the Report

From your recorded notes you can now write a report which answers their questions. 

Paragraph 1 will set out the focus of the research. Depending on the topic, it may be necessary to contextualise the issue. The format for the rest of the report may vary depending on the topic and the results of the research.

Some suggestions to organise material are:

Refer to this annotated exemplar for AS 90726.

Learning task 8:

Learning intention(s)

Developing metacognitive skills

KCs/ Principles/Values focus KCs: Manage self: reflect on learning 

Learning task 8

Evaluating the Process

The final stage of the research process is to evaluate how effectively you researched your topic. It may be useful to reflect on their methods of research. 

So that you can improve on your research techniques, it is a good idea to do some reflective writing on the process you went through. 

Some questions you could ask yourself are:

  • Have I clearly answered all my key questions?
  • Did I need to adapt my key questions? How? Why?
  • Why were some types of resources more useful than others?
  • What strategies did I use to find information which matched my needs?
  • Which parts of the process did I do well? Why?
  • Which parts of the process did I find difficult? Why?

Learning task 9:

Learning intention(s)

Refer to tasks 1 - 8

KCs/ Principles/Values focus KCs: Refer to tasks 1 - 8

Learning task 9

Undertaking your own research

Now that you have learnt about the language features which are used to manipulate an audience and about the research process, it is time for them to choose your own topic. This unit has focused on language which has a specific purpose – to manipulate an audience. It should be remembered that AS 90726 Complete independent research on a language or literature topic allows for a much wider linguistic or literary focus. 

Follow the steps outlined in learning tasks 1 – 8.

You must gain approval for your topic from your teacher before beginning research.

Assessment and Evaluation

 (What is the impact of my teaching and learning?)

Formative and/or Summative assessment task(s), including how will feedback be provided AS 90726 Complete independent research on a language or literature topic

Provision for identifying next learning steps for students who need:

  • further learning opportunities
  • increased challenge
English Teaching and Learning Guide 

Tools or ideas which, for example might be used to evaluate:

  • progress of the class and groups within it
  • student engagement

leading to :

  • changes to the sequence
  • addressing teacher learning needs
See: Planning using inquiry

Printing this unit:

If you are not able to access the zipped files, please download the following individual files.

Published on: 08 Dec 2010