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Stone Hill Elementary School Library: Advertising Tactics

Essential Question

How can I be more aware of advertisements around me and critically evaluate their persuasive tactics?

Lesson 1 - Introduction

  • Introduction: Explain to the students that we are starting an advertising. Ask if anyone can figure out why I'm timing the lessons this way. (Answer: The Super Bowl (which may be next week or next month, depending on how the year is going) is one of the most-watched television events each year [98.2 million viewers in 2019], and advertisers want to show their products to the huge audience.)
  • Discussion: Ask students to define the term "media." They will most likely give you examples, which you can write up on the chart paper/whiteboard. Sum them up as anything that delivers information to you via your eyes or ears.

    The students should already have covered author’s purpose in class. Ask them to list the three purposes: to inform, to entertain, and to persuade. Ask which category advertising falls into (the latter). Ask if anyone has been persuaded to do, think, or buy something because of an ad they saw.

Going back to the list of media examples, ask the kids for examples of where you might see ads. You’ll probably check off all of the items on the list as well as adding new ones. Point out that there are ads right in front of you, and ask who knows what you’re talking about (clothing).

Ask the students how long they think advertising has been around for. Field answers for a couple of minutes and then show this video: 



  • Assessment: Track participation. 

  • Extra credit opportunity: Be an ad detective – list products you’ve seen in various locations, including buses and billboards.

Lesson 2 - Product Placement

  • Introduction: Ask if anyone can define product placement in TV and movies. Discuss what it is and ask if anyone can think of why it might be more and more prevalent in television now than it was just 10 years ago (Answer: DVRs and streaming services mean that viewers are skipping traditional commercials.)
  • Discussion: Point out that advertising is a revenue stream for media, and product placement is a win-win for the production companies and the advertisers. Many viewers made fun of the 2015  movie Jurassic World because of how prominent their product placement was. Show the kids this video (they like counting along):

    Ask how long they think product placement has been around. Answer: pretty much since they started making movies. Show them this video with examples, but cut off at the 4:00 mark or you’ll end up in Hooters.

    Go back to the beginning of this last video and ask the kids if they can recognize the corporate logos used as letters in the text. Point out that logos are like shorthand advertising. Ask the kids to stand up if they are wearing a logo of any kind.

Bring up this quiz:​ Give the kids a few minutes to yell out the products as you type them in, and then marvel at how many they were able to identify. Ask them what they think about this.


  • Assessment: Track participation.

  • Extra credit opportunity: Name the product mascot. Before giving it out, ask if anyone can explain how these pictures differ from the logos above (they are characters).

Lesson X (Date dependent) - Superbowl Analysis

  • Discussion: Ask if anyone watched the Super Bowl and if they remember any of the ads. See if anyone can guess how much it cost to have a 30-second commercial air ($5.6 million this year). For 2020. I thought these made good discussion points:










illustration credit:

Lesson 3 - Questionable Tactics

  • Review: When we watched sample Super Bowl ads, we found that advertisers use humor, emotion, and celebrity endorsements to sell their products. These are legitimate tactics. However, advertisers sometimes use persuasive tactics that are less than aboveboard. I used to show a video from TV411, but Flash is blocked, so we'll just skip it and go into the list of things to beware: 
    • generalization (including celebrity endorsements)
    • exaggeration (look at the fine print)
    • scare tactics (you'll be sorry!)
  • Discussion: Show the PPT below, which uses sample ads from TV411's "Truth in Advertising" lesson. Go through the slides and ask the kids to identify the tactics used. When talking about generalization, ask them to come up with reasons why the person in the ad may not be the best example (e.g., Sue might have lots of rich friends or Ramon might have a crazy fast metabolism).

    During the year, collect examples of scare tactics - usually any political mailings feature plenty of them. Pass them out to the kids and have them describe the scare. They are often gobsmacked by these ads; it's a great way to show the concept "in the wild."

  • Assessment: Track participation.

Lesson 4 - You Be the Advertiser

  • Review: As the kids to list the three questionable tactics we discussed last week. 

  • Assignment: Students may work on their own or in a group to create an ad using one of these tactics. (A group of 3 must use at least two of them.) They may choose any product, service, or candidate - real or imagined - so long as there is no violence involved (sorry, no swords). They may create a print ad, a radio spot, a jingle, a TV commercial script ... whatever they come up with. 
  • Assessment: 

    1 = Ad not completed after two class sessions

    2= Ad created, but I have trouble figuring out which tactic they used

    3= Ad successfully uses at least one (or two for large group) tactic

    4 = Ad successfully uses more than the required number of tactics


Standards Addressed

AASL: I.A.2 – Recalling prior and background knowledge as context for new meaning; I.B.3 - Generating products that illustrate learning; I.D.3 - Enacting new understanding through real-world connections; III.D.1 - Actively contributing to group discussions; IV.B.3 - Systematically questioning and assessing the validity and accuracy of information; Reflecting and questioning assumptions and possible misconceptions; V.A.2 - Reflecting and questioning assumptions and possible misconceptions; VI.A.3 - Evaluating information for accuracy, validity.

Common Core: RL.5.6  – Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described; RI.5.8 – Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text, identifying which reasons and evidence support which point(s); SL.5.1 - Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; SL.5.3 - Summarize the points a speaker makes and explain how each claim is supported by reasons and evidence; W.5.4 - Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience; MP.3 – Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

Rhode Island Cross-Curricular Proficiencies: Communication - Actively listen and discuss information; Communicate understanding and interpretation of information; Problem Solving and Critical Thinking - Observe, identify and analyze a problem; Evaluate, justify and defend the relative effectiveness of the plan or process of approach