Unit Title: Introduction to Media and Advertising: Cultivating Critical Thinking Skills

Grade Levels: High School, 12th grade

Subject /Topic Areas: English and Communication Arts, a sub-unit of a World Literature or Media Studies Course

Designed by: Elizabeth Bremer

School District: Cocalico School District, Denver, PA, Lancaster County

Time Frame: 3-4 weeks *Note: This unit plan will not be the only thing taught during these 3-4 weeks.

Summary of Unit: Media literacy is an ever-changing and constantly applicable, essential part of any school curriculum. All students will develop an understanding of the concepts and techniques related to media, advertising, and bias. Students will not only analyze, but also create, critique, and think critically about persuasive elements used to market products and services to the public.

This unit is prepared for a career ready 12th grade English course. There is absolutely no denying the fact that in order to prepare students for a post-high school career, we must cultivate and encourage them to employ critical thinking skills, which is a task that is conducive to a media literacy unit. Students are inundated with images, advertising, and messages embedded in their everyday media consumption. In order to better prepare students for a career or college, we must force them to not only look critically at the constantly evolving media, but also provide them with the tools find the hidden message and agenda in advertising. Students are constantly being bombarded with persuasive media images, and the ability to not only recognize these images and deconstruct the persuasiveness of advertising is a life-long skill.

Renee Hobbs, a leading authority on media literacy in the English classroom writes, “…restoring the medieval trivium of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric as the center post in English education will help students situate themselves in their own culture and make the basic processes of language and communication fully available for students’ use(7).” [[#_ftn2|[1]]] By assisting students and providing them the tools to think critically about media, not only will they transfer those tools to thinking critically about literature and sundry curricula, but they will also develop an appreciation for the cultural connection between literature and contemporary media.

John Golden also suggests in his book Reading in the Dark that “Film and literature… should be used closely together because they share to many common elements and strategies to gain and keep the audience’s attention (36).”[[#_ftn3|[2]]] The concept that we can teach literal strategies through film should be integrated into the classroom, as students connect to and can better visualize concepts through film which will assist them in understanding canonical literature, as well.

Overall, the concept of using film and media in the classroom has become a widely accepted and praised method for media literacy in the 21st century. This unit plan is designed to incorporate several different methods of media literacy in order to better develop analysis, critical thinking, and literacy skills.

Core Curriculum Content Standards Addressed:
Reading Standards for Literature
3. Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).
4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful.
6. Analyze a case in which grasping point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement).

Reading Standards for Informational Texts
1. Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
2. Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.
4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of a text.
5. Analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the structure an author uses in his or her exposition or argument, including whether the structure makes points clear, convincing, and engaging.
6. Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness, or beauty of the text.

Writing Standards
1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
8. Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation.
9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Speaking and Listening Standards
1. Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one- on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
2. Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data.
3. Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone used.
4. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.
5. Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.
6. Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating a command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Overview of Lessons:
Lesson 1: Review of methods of persuasion
Lesson 2: Looking at Persuasion
Lesson 3: Nine types of Advertizing and Intro to Commercials and Slogans
Lesson 4: Analyzing Commercial Advertisements
Lesson 5: Magazine Ads and Deconstructing an Ad
Lesson 6: Creating an Ad
Lesson 7: Radio advertisements-Knowing your Target Audience
Lesson 8: Gender in Advertising

It is expected that students will:
  • apply critical thinking skills – including comparing, classifying, inferring, imagining, verifying, identifying relationships, summarizing, and drawing conclusions – to a range of problems and issues
  • evaluate the credibility and reliability of selected sources
  • deliver a formal presentation
  • read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  • interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
  • assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
  • delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

Lesson #1: How to Persuade

Core Standards Addressed:
RI. 1, RI. 5, RI. 6
W. 1, W. 4
SL. 1, SL. 3

Lesson Activities
Review Artistotle’s three methods of persuasion
  • Give background: In Ancient Greece, Aristotle (our “father” of rhetoric) studied the art of persuasion and found that the ways all rhetors appeal to their audiences can be categorized in three ways.
  • Write on the board ‘Logos, Ethos, Pathos.’ Elicit student responses to review these different appeals (think roots: logos/logic; ethos/ethics; pathos/sympathy)
  • Have students brainstorm and call out how might rhetors appeal to an audience using logos? Ethos? Pathos? Jot down their answers on the board.

Students will be given notes on ethos, logos, and pathos. (Appendix A)
  • Students will fill in the chart with a partner for “Effect on Audience “

E-mail activity: Students will be given a scenario in which they were unable to make it to their first college class/first day of work. As their professor grades on participation, each group must write an e-mail to their college professor/boss explaining why they were not in class/at work (relying heavily on the method of persuasion that their group is assigned to.) Below are some examples that can be used in the letter if the students are having a hard time coming up with an example for their e-mails.

In writing a persuasive email to the instructor, how did the student appeal to logos?
  • Reasoning: x happened, so it was impossible to be in class
  • Doctor’s note / death certificate
  • Letter from coach

  • Apologize / take responsibility
  • Greet professor professionally / “speak” respectfully
  • Assure you’re proactive, hardworking, willing to do what it takes

  • Tell a sad story of what happened
  • Tell a sad story of what will happen if you fail
  • Plead for forgiveness

Students will then move with their groups to a different group’s letter in order to read and “grade/critique” this letter. (Appendix B)
Students will return to their group, read over the previous group’s critique, and fix any necessary parts of the letter.
Then, students will share their group letters aloud.

Lesson 2: Looking at Persuasion

Core Standards Addressed in this Lesson:
RI. 4, RI. 5, RI. 6
SL. 2, SL. 3, SL. 4, SL. 6

Lesson Activities
Start by reviewing the three methods of persuasion
  • Show students two different movie clips: “Smoking is Cool” pitch from Thank You for Smoking

  • “What do you want” scene in The Notebook

  • “Court Scene” in To Kill a Mockingbird.

  • Students will use the ethos/pathos/logos paper. (Appendix C) While watching these three movie clips, students will write down any examples of persuasion used in these clips.

Show Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech and have groups of students each look at either pathos, logos, ethos, or other persuasive elements in his speech. (Appendix D)

  • Play this speech again, but this time, have students look for the following things: language, the way King is standing (poise), and common words/phrases.
  • Think: What effect does this have on the listener?

Show George W. Bush’s September 11th address to the nation and have students discuss and compare the persuasive qualities.

Formative Assessment: 60-Second Persuasion
Students will choose one topic and will prepare an ethos, pathos, and logos persuasive 60-second speech. Students will present one of the three different ways.

Lesson #3: The Nine Types of Advertizing and Intro to Commercials and Slogans

Core Standards Addressed in this Lesson:
RL 3, RL 4, RL 6
RI 1, RI 2, RI 4, RI 5, RI 6
W 4, W 8
SL 1, SL 2, SL 3, SL 4, SL 6

Lesson Activities
  • Review the average daily media consumption. (See Lesson 2) Have students fill out the chart. (Appendix E)]

  • Homework assignment: Take note of all media consumption that they have for the following week. At the end of the week, students will tally up their media consumption and project their media consumption for one year.
  • Introduce the nine types of persuasion in advertizing to students

  • Show students an example of each type of advertising (from below):
1. Story: ASPCA Sara McLauchlin

2. Humor: Planet Fitness

3. Testimonials: Hydroxycut

4. Bandwagon:

5. Emotional words or facts: American Express

6. Repetition: Head-on

7. Slogan: DeBeers

8. Jingle: Meow Mix

9. Visual metaphor: Troy Polamalu

  • Review which of the above listed commercials can fall into pathos, logos, and ethos persuasion.

Show students a commercial advertisement and have them jot down product, plot, and target audience.(Appendix F)
  • Review the other terms on the sheet (camera shots, advertising techniques, sounds, other important words/phrases)
  • Show the commercial again and have a specific group of students look at each individual term

Have students work in partners on the slogan and tagline worksheet. (Appendix G) When finished, review and discuss the following questions:
  • How do slogans affect what we buy?
  • How do slogans help us remember the product?
  • Look at the slogan for Southwest Airlines: “You are now free to move about the country.” What is the slogan trying to tell you beyond trying to get you to remember their brand?

  • Slogan activity: Collect 10-15 ordinary objects and have students group together in groups of three. Students must market this object as MORE THAN just its normal, everyday use by giving their object new uses. For instance, a toy hoop could be a waist reducer, and some strange looking kitchen gadget might be a new type of mosquito catcher. Use your imagination! In order to market the project, the group is to give the object a catchy name, write a slogan, and give a “pitch” to the class. (Appendix H)

  • Review the worksheet labeled “A Defense of Advertising” and “Against Advertising”(Appendix I)

  • Homework: Students should watch a 30 minute tv show and take notes on the three pods of commercials that are shown.(Appendix J)

Lesson 4: Analyzing Commercial Advertisements

Core Standards Addressed in this Lesson:
RL 3, RL 4, RL 6
RI 1, RI 2, RI 4, RI 5, RI 6
W 1, W2, W4, W 8, W 9
SL 2

Lesson Activities
Students should come prepared with their commercial notes from homework.
  • Students will get together in groups based on the type of show that they watched.
  • In groups, students will make a list of the overarching themes that they discovered not only during their show genre, but also in each “pod”.
  • Students will create a poster with their findings that will hang around the room. The poster will be aesthetically pleasing, and will explain how the time the show aired, the network, and the target audience for the tv show affects the advertising. (An example of this poster should be given to the students for reference.)

Give students the handout on analyzing commercials (Appendix K)
  • Students will watch three commercials from the most recent Superbowl and answer questions about the advertising. Discuss after watching each ad.

  • Students should also discuss which of the nine types of advertising and three methods of persuasion are used in these commercials.

Here are some examples:
Bridgestone Tires :



Formative Assessment: Students will choose a commercial from this database (http://www.splendad.com) and, keeping the commercial advertising questions in mind, will write a half-page review and analysis of the commercial. Keep in mind the nine types of advertising and three methods of persuasion in writing these analysis papers.

Homework: Bring in a magazine that you have at home.

Lesson 5: Magazine Ads and Deconstructing an Ad

Core Standards Addressed in this Lesson:
RL 3, RL 4, RL 6
RI 1, RI 4, RI 5, RI 6
W 1, W2, W 8,
SL 2, SL 5, SL 6

Lesson Activities

Introduction to print ad deconstruction
  • Students will review the worksheet labeled Analyzing an Advertisement (Appendix L)
  • Deconstruct the Covergirl ad together CoverGirl%20Ad%205.jpg
  • Students will discuss each section (together) of ad deconstruction
  • Students will then choose an ad out of their magazine to deconstruct. Have students search carefully to find a rich ad to discuss.
  • Once they have chosen an ad, have the students pair up with someone.
  • Students must deconstruct the advertisement together. Once they’ve deconstructed, instruct them to make a poster sharing their ad and their deconstruction. This will take approximately 25-30 mins.
  • Students will grade each other’s ad deconstruction (Appendix M)

Formative Assessment: Students will deconstruct an ad individually.
Students will visit **www.splendAD.com** and will choose an ad that they are interested in. This may take about 15 minutes because I want students to carefully choose a “rich” advertisement.
Then students will visit www.Voicethread.com. (Appendix N) We will go through the directions together, and students will be given about one block of time to work on this in class.

Lesson 6: Creating an Ad[[#_ftn21|[6]]]
Core Standards Addressed in this Lesson:
W 1, W2, W3, W4, W 8,

Lesson Activities
1. Divide the class into three large groups (8-9 students each). Do one of the following:
  • Assign each group the task of creating an ad for A) ethos, B) pathos, or C) logos. This activity is most effective if you use the same company (for example, Nike) for the whole class. This way they can see how very different the same product can be promoted depending on which rhetorical appeal is emphasized. Groups share in class and/or write something up as homework.

  • Assign each group the task of creating an ad where they must persuade their audience using ALL three of the appeals. This can help to emphasize the idea that most arguments utilize a balance of ethos, pathos, and logos when attempting to convince their audience. Assign various or the same company or let students choose. Groups share in class.

2. Several Small Groups Creating an Ad
  • Ask your class to get into groups of three and assign each group to one box in the chart below. Groups share in class and/or write something up as homework.

Coca Cola
Group A

Lesson 7: Radio Advertisements-Knowing your Target Audience

Core Standards Addressed in this Lesson:
SL 1, SL 2, SL 3, SL 4, SL 5, SL 6
W 1, W2, W3, W4, W 8,

Lesson Activities
Review the two types of radio advertisements: story and pitch (Appendix O)
  • Explain that radio ads tend to be MOSTLY story ads, because people prefer to be entertained
Read through two examples of radio ads
  • Have students listen to two different types of radio advertisements
  • One will be a “Real American Heroes” commercial, a famous advertising campaign for Budweiser, and the other will be a radio commercial for NPR. I will not tell the students where each radio commercial came from before playing the commercial. While listening, students will try to figure out the target audience.

CDC Diabetes Commercial

  • After listening to the commercials, students will discuss how target audience affects the type of ad (any ad) is organized. Also, discuss how pathos, ethos, and logos have a different effect on radio advertising than on commercial advertising.

  • Students will listen to another script advertisement (anti-drug campaign) and will focus on other things that are effective in making the ad interesting
  • Think: How is this different than TV advertising? What do radio advertisements have to keep in mind?

Go over the AIDA formula for radio advertising.
  • Have students group together into small groups of 4. Hand out the paper about creating your own radio advertisement. (Appendix P) Students will be given approx. 25 mins to prepare a script and hand in for the teacher to look over.
  • After each script has been looked over, students will read through the script once with the teacher present (students have already read through the script to practice.)
  • Students will begin recording their script when they are ready. Remind them that it’s always better to record everything in one shot than to have to go back and edit, so make sure that their group is prepared.

  • When finished, students will share their PSAs with the class.

Lesson #8: Gender in Advertising

Core Standards Addressed in this Lesson:
RI 1, RI 2, RI 3, RI 4, RI 5, RI 6
SL 1, SL 2, SL 3, SL 4, SL 5, SL 6
W 1, W2, W3, W4, W 8,

Lesson Activities
Students will get into groups with someone of their same gender.
  • Pairs will be given a magazine that students brought in (from previous lesson).
  • As a partner pair, one person should sort through the magazine and the other person will be the scribe. Students should look specifically at the way that men and women are portrayed in the magazine.

  • Think: What does this show us about the reader/target audience of the magazine?

Students will discuss gender stereotypes.
  • Write "Act Like a Man" at the top of the flip chart paper and “Act Like a Woman” on another sheet. (This will be referred to again in upcoming activities about gender. )
  • Separate the class into a “boys” and “girls” group. Ask the female students: What does it mean to act like a man? What words or expectations come to mind? Ask the male students: What does it mean to act like a woman or to be a lady? (This may bring up the concept of the difference in perception between “woman” and “lady”. Have students discuss this as well if it comes up.)

Discuss the following questions:
  • Where do we learn these gender roles?
  • What people teach us these stereotypes? Entertainment? Sports? Media? (When the students respond "TV" or "movies," ask for specific examples to list.)
  • Where do women learn these messages?
  • What other people influence our learning of gender roles?

On the flip-charts, write these responses on one side of the box. You may draw arrows to illustrate how these influences reinforce the wall of the stereotype box.

Students will read the article “The Beautiful, the Bulimic, and the Dead” and discuss the following questions. (Appendix Q)
1. Why does the author criticize popular female movie and fashion stars?
2. Why do movie stars and supermodels surgically alter their bodies?
3. How do these role models influence the acceptable standards for beauty in the minds of their fans?
4. Miss USA, Kenya Moore, states, "Real beauty is within. Inner beauty comes from what the soul says and how you treat other people." How common is this attitude among the people you know?

Students will watch parts of “Killing Us Softly 3” and discuss the validity of Jean Kilbourne’s argument.

Students will also read “Media Portrayals of Men” (Appendix R) and compare this article to what students observed about portrayal of men in print ads.

  • Discuss how pathos, ethos, and logos play into advertising toward gender. How is it used differently than before? What types of ethos are we starting to see in gender bias?

"Advertising." John Colet School. Web. June-July 2011. <http://www.johncolet.co.uk/>.

"Curriculum." :: Welcome to Medialitpa.org :: Drug Free Pennsylvania's Media Literacy Website ::. Drug Free Pennsylvania, 2009. Web. 8 July
2011. <http://medialitpa.org/curriculum.html>.

Golden, John. Reading in the Dark: Using Film as a Tool in the English Classroom. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2001. Print.

Hobbs, Renée. Reading the Media: Media Literacy in High School English. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University, 2007. Print.

Kilbourne, Jean, perf. Killing Us Softly 3. 1999. Killing Us Softly 3. Google, 2006. Web. 6 July 2011. <http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid= 199336850

Werry, Chris, ed. "Ethos, Pathos, and Logos." Creating an Ad (2009). Wiki. Web. 8 July 2011. <http://sdsuwriting.pbworks.com>.