This month, I’m delving into a brand new unit on a topic about which I am extremely passionate — advertising. During my Master’s year, I took a wonderful course called “Growing Up in a Media World,” which motivated me to try to make sure that I help bring 21st century literacy skills into my classroom. My goal this month is to help my students develop some media literacy skills as they learn to become both aware of and critical consumers of many different types of advertisements.
I opened my unit by doing a KWL chart with my second graders — unsurprisingly, they did not know very much about it. Together, we created a working definition: “Advertisements try to make you want to buy something, go somewhere, or do something.” Then, using this definition, I had my students circulate around to four different stations in the classroom — one had catalogs, one had books and magazines, one had brochures, and one had various fliers. My students had the chance to peruse the items at the station and then consider whether they thought that it represented advertising or not. The students came up with great reasons to defend their opinions and in our debriefing discussion, we were able to address many misconceptions (i.e. all advertisements have to list prices).
On Wednesday, my students took the “Is It Advertising?” challenge. I prepared a PowerPoint slideshow with various clips and pictures that were either content or advertising. My students really caught on — they were easily able to tell the difference between the trailer for “The Lion King” and a clip from the movie. I was also impressed when they noticed the product placement I was planning on having to point out to them in a photo of the American Idol judges with their always-present Coca-Cola cups.
For homework this past week, my students have been working on creating a log of all of the advertisements that they encounter at home and while they are out and about with their parents. I am eager to see what they discover!
This coming week, unit activities will include designing an advertisement for a common classroom product (which will require several meetings with an “ad executive” to approve and push on their plans) and an exploration of the messages about gender that are conveyed through advertising. I am so excited to see what they create and what they make of the messages about gender on Barbie.com and GIJoe.com!