Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Teaching Advertising Part 4: Infomercials!

This is part 4 of my Teaching for Advertising thread. To view previous posts click here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Infomercials are AMAZING for teaching the visual and verbal language of advertising. They're over the top, repetitive (repetition, rule of 3!) and easy to understand. I like to use infomercials to teach advertising to lower English language learners because there are lots of visual aids but the higher level students can also be challenged. Especially when you create infomercials in class.

A reading that I had my year 9's in New Zealand read as well as my grade 12 in China was Mike Consol's "What infomercials teach us about persuasion" post. This was an easy to read article that sums up the infomercial structure and I thought it was nicely communicated through his concise bullet points of the 3 stages of infomercials - which are:
"1. Set forth the problem. 
2. Explain the solution. 
3. Demonstrate how your product or service provides the solution."

Make sure you give it a read and come up with some comprehension questions for class discussion or end of class (cloze) reflection. After reading and discussing the article, watch an infomercial in class and have students identify whether the infomercial follows the 3 stages mentioned. It usually does. 

Next, we watched some infomercials. There are some included already in the PPT of the first post of this thread. My favorite for a couple years now has been 'Jiffy Fries'. Food is always a winner and if you're teaching the concepts of Pathos, Ethos and Logos - this commercial can cover all three! 

Some key points of discussion:

  • What are the colors used repetitively in this advert? 
  • Why do we think these colors are used?

Red - color of appetite, notice most fast food places have the color red. Also, the color for 'STOP', grabs the viewer's attention, STOP now and make some fries. It's a happy warm color, bright/vibrant in the kitchen. One student mentioned how tomato sauce/ketchup always goes with fries, so this was a good color choice for the product also...

  • What words are repeated throughout the commercial? 
  • Why do we think these words are important to hear again and again?
  • What about the product name itself - what does 'Jiffy' mean?
Jiffy - slang for quickly "in a jiffy" - the product makes french fries quickly. Perfect for a snack. Easy to make at home...

  • What symbols are used in the infomercial? 
  • Why are they being used?
  • What does the black and white filter indicate? 
  • Why does the commercial go from black and white to color? What does this symbolize?
There's a large 'X' that is shown when the commercial starts talking about deep frying fries with oil. And the commercial is black and white, showing someone cooking fries with oil. As soon as jiffy fries are introduced, the screen is in color. Discuss with students the meaning behind the 'X' symbol and color change. 
 - Also relates to Mike Consol's article about introducing a Problem, then Solution...etc. 

There are so many things to discuss about the advert and I didn't really get to the language features - but they occur as well. Alliteration, rule of 3, onomatopoeia, repetition, colloquialism, imperative...etc. 

You can make this discussion more of an activity by writing up some of these questions on the board and ask students to take notes, attempting to answer these questions and sharing as a class. I found that the students were able to observe so much as we had already studied visual and verbal language features prior. 

Some other infomercials I recommend are:

These all have the great problem, solution, demonstration aspects that the article relates too. And they all have a variety of verbal and visual features. They are great to study. If you have the opportunity to get laptops in the classroom, I recommend asking students in groups to watch one infomercial together and present their findings to the class or in a short essay format to submit to you.


After watching and analyzing infomercials that already exist it's a perfect time for students to start creating their own infomercials. I advise you to ask students to work in pairs or threes to write an infomercial script of their own and present it to the class. Give them a list of criteria such as:

  • Includes at least 3 language features /3
  • Provides at least 1 visual aid either by drawing (logo, etc) or props /2
  • Presents a problem, solution and demonstration /5
  • Everyone in the group presents /4
  • An expert is used to advertise the product at some point - Ethos concept /2
  • Technical jargon or statistics are employed to relate to the Logos concept /2
  • When questioned after presenting a clear explanation of the Pathos concept is given, in relation to your chosen persuasive techniques throughout (the emotions) /2
  • Bonus points for outstanding creativity and organization /5
Total out of 25 : ___

I would write up something like that for a double period or spread it over a few classes in a week if you'd like them to submit the written script as well. 

I hope you can use this for your advertising unit! Happy Teaching :)

Here's a cool info-graphic on America's top infomercial products: Click here to enlarge. 

Monday, 3 September 2018

Teaching Advertising Part 3: Reviewing Language Features & Creating Ads of Their Own

This is part 3 of my Teaching Advertising Posts, click here for part 1 and here for part 2.

So, after you have covered some language features and visual features of print and video advertising as discussed in previous posts, it's good to start creating adverts so that students can get into their own ideas of what makes an effective advert.

Before I dive into my lessons - I'd also like to add that there are a bunch of great youtube clips that feature movie or tv series characters playing 'ad men/women'. My students felt really inspired when I told them that they could go for a career in advertising. I showed them this clip to show how an advertising agency would present to companies who want advert campaigns. Take a look:

Nike: No Games...

I also found this scene from 'Sweet November' - it's definitely more mature as there are sexual references, save it for your senior classes. But I like how they show more of how presentations are conducted with visuals, etc. Watch every video before you play it - a rule. I would stop this one at 2 minutes.

It's a HOT dog:

Group Lesson: Becoming 'Ad Men & Women'

A hit lesson was when I did rotational group work with my grade 12. I got some paper lunch bags, numbered them for easy rotational organization (lol) and within each bag were two envelopes. The first envelope had inside it, instructions for an advert that they had to create as a group. These instructions included the use of a language feature(s) commonly used in advertising. In the second envelope there was a bunch of cards with random products or services written on them.

They had to dip their hand in the envelope without looking and choose 1 card which would be the product or service they had to advertise. This was great to keep group work different from others, and it added some fun as they had to stick to what they drew from the envelope no matter how challenging. And if you didn't know already - students love lucky dips. Thus, I gave about 10- 15 mins for each rotation and every group completed 4 separate adverts by the end of class. I didn't want them to focus too much on art work, the writing was the most important.

Ok, so here is the preview of the activities - but you can download the editable word document for FREE from my TeachersPayTeachers store.

The instructions give a brief review of the language feature with examples so that students understand the feature they're being asked to implement.

You'll need 4 sets of the cards for each activity, but I thought, why don't I be kind and do that for you, so download these sets here: Click!  Just cut them out and put them in the appropriate envelopes. 

I really hope this group work inspires you in your class. The students really enjoyed working together and the following lesson was spent presenting their group adverts to the class. I marked them beforehand and gave out awards (candy) for the best advert per category - categories correspond to the instructions cards ( Rule Of 3, Figurative Language, Pronouns and Repetition).

Happy Teaching! Stay tuned for my next post which will have the mid-term exam papers that you can use for your mid-term, final, quiz or assignments. :)

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Teaching Advertising Part 2: Color and Symbols

If you haven't already read my last post, click here. This is post 2 of the advertising unit which focuses on symbols and colors - two very important visual language features of advertising. I suggest that if you are teaching visual text as part of  New Zealand's NCEA course, you embed these activities to help stress the importance of color and symbols in visual design. For more on visual text specifically click to my previous post where I taught Static Image in The Cook Islands.

You can download all the color and symbol worksheets mentioned here, for FREE!
Now, the Memory Challenge PPT from the last post has a slide which asks students to remember what color the woman in the advert: "Nike - Risk Everything" is wearing - the woman who seductively blows a kiss to football player Ronaldo....can you guess the color?
Seductive woman, blowing a kiss - what color comes to mind even when you haven't seen the advert? 

I don't know about you, but the color that usually comes to mind 
when associated to those words is RED. 

Now, discussing color is always a fun time. I have found students to become really intrigued with color meanings and I always like to have a few facts up my sleeve. For example:

The color purple is often associated to wealth, royalty and even nobility. Why? 
Because, back in the day - historically, purple fabric was very expensive to produce. Thus, only the very wealthy could afford to buy and wear it. The wealthy as we know were usually the royals or nobles in society. Purple was associated to God and spirituality also, due to the fact that royals were seen as ordained by God / were gods themselves. You can read a lot more at Live

I suggest, if you have the time - assign a color to each student or pair and have them do a little research presentation about what they can find about their color's meanings and history behind them.  

However, before you give too many facts or assign a research task -  do this color activity BEFORE to see what students already think and feel about color meanings and associations. 

On the board draw a table and tell students to copy it into their notebooks. It should be a simple table that has 2 columns. On one side, a color for each row and leave the other side blank for students to think of words that are associated to the color. It should look a bit like this:

This is also a great literacy activity as it employs prior knowledge, encourages students to use as much vocabulary as possible and applies critical thinking skills by asking students to think about why colors are associated to certain thoughts, things and words.

Remember to have students work alone, then share as a class. Encourage individual work before you start sharing altogether. 
This is also a chance to discuss how colors have different meanings to different cultures. You can direct this discussion further into demographics and target audiences.

For example, as I taught this unit in China the color red is associated to luck and wealth. Luck is often a color associated to green in western cultures due to the Irish four-leaf clover symbol. Thus, advertising campaigns for lottery or winning money in China might feature the color red while western adverts of the same kind may feature more green.

Now, if you have very low learners vocabulary wise, or less natural ability to brainstorm...etc. You can use my color worksheet that is a mix and match activity with color meaning vocabulary already on the sheet but they have to match the color to the groups of words.

After discussing color, I had my grade 12 students read about Color Psychology from this website: It's good to project it on the board if you can't print it in color. 

I also did a group activity. I separated students into small groups and assigned them a part of the reading. They had to read it amongst themselves and then come up with 4 questions about the reading. After, we rotated reading section and questions to a new group so that students had to answer questions from another group. This was a nice cloze activity to have students thinking about what they read in class and formulating questions about what they learnt.  

After color, which can take at least 2 lessons. I moved on to symbols and handed this worksheet out:

Again, I had students work on this individually before we shared as a class. This was a great one to see up on the board with students volunteering to come and draw what symbols they thought of. It was a great way to see what was common in our minds and further discuss the power of symbols. The second part of the worksheet on the right side was a way to tie it back to advertising. You can have them complete that part as homework or in pairs/groups to further facilitate discussion. 

It would also be good if you are able to show some print adverts that feature some of the same symbols in the worksheet. For example: Smiley Face Symbol for Happiness

Online Safety Awareness Advert: features a man who looks like a smiley face emoji - great discussion piece about emoji's and the anonymity of online chat. 

"Who's really chatting online with your child?"

For further reading on symbols in advertising there is an article on called: Cultural Symbols in Advertising.

Happy Teaching!

Teaching Advertising Part 1: The PPT to Start Your Unit & The Perfect Persuasive Writing Pack

This past semester in China I was given two grade 12 classes that were unexpectedly low in their English reading, writing and speaking abilities. Thus, after the first few classes of ice-breakers and speaking to their teachers from the semester prior, I knew I had to change my entire semester plan and approach. These were not native level English speakers or even fluent - but in fact, a grade of low to intermediate (at best) ESL speakers.

Thus, the main course objectives still needed to be met - these included:
  • developing persuasive writing techniques
  • summary writing
  • creative writing
  • critical analysis of a visual or verbal text
  • reading comprehension skills
So, with their low level in mind I decided to begin the semester with a unit on advertising. Advertising allows students to learn about persuasive writing via language features as well as the analysis of visual language e.g. symbols, colors and lettering, etc. 

It's also a fun way to engage students at the start of your course and it's hugely creative as there are many opportunities for students to write and design their own adverts. It is also relevant to students as we are surrounded by advertisements and you are able to tailor the advertisements to the interests of your students. 

In order to aim for high level concepts while teaching low level learners I chose to tackle 'Pathos, Ethos and Logos' right from the start. A life saving resource pack was Stacey Lloyd's Persuasive Writing and Language Bundle. It was a great way to organize my unit and allowed for great differentiation for those more capable students. I urge any English teacher / department to have this bundle on hand.  It comes with worksheets, posters and accurate handouts about the concepts mentioned. Wonderfully made resource. 

We started with television commercials. I tried to go through the unit by showing adverts and then picking them apart. I used a memory challenge PowerPoint to help students stay on task and it was less of a game, but more of a great way to facilitate discussion. Students enjoyed the memory quiz while I was able to steer the class into different persuasive aspects of commercials.
You can download the PPT for FREE from my teacherspayteachers store by clicking here.

There are links to the adverts being discussed within the powerpoint. The PPT is designed so that you have lots of opportunities to discuss different aspects of advertising. I used it as my skeleton and then I would stop the lesson to introduce supplementary materials and activities based on what we were discussing via the powerpoint.

Possible points of discussion via the PPT include (but are not limited too):

  • Repetition of logo or brand name - also, the rule of 3. Discussion of repetition and why it's important in advertising.
  • 'Experts' - the first discussion of Ethos concepts. Discuss why certain celebrities or professionals are being used to advertise certain products. There's a good Ethos worksheet in the bundle to cover this further.
  • Color - the woman in the Nike advert is wearing red. A discussion of color and meanings.
  • Personal pronouns in adverts - 'you', 'my', 'I' - discuss directly talking to audience/potential customers. Testimonials and reviews. 
  • Imperatives in adverts. 
Above are only discussion points for the first slides - you can see how this can be stretched out to cover weeks of learning.
Make sure to download and have a play around to see where you would start. 

I will be adding more teaching advertising posts with more resources and activities. Keep following!

Happy Teaching! 

Friday, 22 June 2018

Making Shadow Puppets - Grade 8 Drama

Last lesson, we made rod puppets . For our last class, we reviewed what will be on the final exam and then we finished making shadow puppets. Before we made our puppets we discussed the different types of shadow puppets - Hand shadow vs Paper shadow puppets.

We did a picture dictation exercise where I said one sentence to the students and then they had to draw what they heard. It's a literacy exercise that you can read more about here. 
My picture dictation was a hit, and students were able to use their drawings after to try and remember the sentences I had said - in turn, they learnt key facts about shadow puppetry.
Below are some of the student's worksheets:

We also watched some videos of  hand and shadow puppetry in the lesson prior. If you have a projector you can project a white slide of a PPT and let students have a go making hand puppet shapes. Or, just grab a torch or the torch on your mobile phone.

Here's some of my recommended videos: 

I just showed a little bit of this video, so students could see what it looks like behind the sheet - and they got to see a shadow puppeteer at work: 

Hand shadow puppets - animal shapes video: 

For those of you with the time, I highly recommend extending a shadow puppet unit to a performance. We performed with rod puppets but didn't have time to do much but experiment with shadow puppets. There are lots of cool shadow puppet theatre links online with instructions on how to make the stage for a performance.

Anyway, back to making puppets:
I got my templates for free from Education Asian -the site is so helpful. They offer puppet templates as well as some lesson planning ideas and history of shadow puppetry. The templates from their site are Indian puppets.

After downloading and printing the templates in black and white, I got some split pins and chopsticks (you can use wooden dowels instead of chopsticks). You'll also need scissors, a hole-punch or two and glue. I didn't have any card to print on, so I got students to glue their shadow puppet templates to another piece of paper to thicken them like card. Printing straight on to card would save time.

After cutting the puppets out and their limbs, we hole-punched where the circles are drawn on the puppet's body and arm pieces. In these holes, secure the split pins so that the puppet limbs can move easily. Then, at the back of the puppet tape or hot glue gun the chopsticks/dowels. The chopsticks should be placed strategically for puppet movement. So one chop stick in the centre of the puppet's body or at it's head. The other, on the arm that moves.

Below you can see how the chopsticks are secured by using layers of tape. If you have a hot glue gun handy it will be a bit easier and faster - but the students got the hang of the tape method fairly quickly. My split pins were too long, so when you buy them try for a shorter length.

It's actually very easy once students have got the idea. Just like the rod puppets, you can practice some conversation using puppets. We had fun with them, it was our end of year class so we just had fun with it. Have a look at our puppets:

Happy Teaching!

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Grade 8 Puppet Unit - Mrs. Baia is in China!

Hi all,

It's been a loooong time since I posted and mostly because I am not teaching ESL anymore, I am currently teaching secondary English literature & drama at an international school in China. Thus, the workload has been heavier and a lot less time to blog.

However, I really wanted to share what I have been doing with my grade 8 drama class (the babies of the school). I only see them once a week as drama is an option for them, and they're just having a taste. Thus, for the end of the semester I wanted to do a creative crafty project as we have just finished reader's theatre and mime was before that. So, what better than puppets?

Our first lesson we went through the different types of puppets - as they had little knowledge of puppetry and didn't know much beyond TV shows and of course they knew shadow puppets as Chinese traditional puppet shows use shadow puppets. I made a quizlet set for the class in order to do a mix and match activity and quiz - you can check it out here. Quizlet is a godsend for making review quizzes by the way! Plus, lots of other ready made quizlet sets to use for your teaching or studying.

After that introduction, we made rod puppets. I got instructions from BBC Norfolk Kids as this was the easiest puppet I could think of making besides sock or finger puppets. Instead of 'cane sticks' I asked students to bring in 2 sets of chopsticks - these are so easy to find in China, and cheap or even free as they come with any take-out meal. We decided not to decorate to make a face - our puppets are faceless, creepy, yes, but it wasn't needed for the learning side of things.

Take a look at the photos to see what we made:

As you can see, the puppets have 2 arms and 1 body - made with the chopsticks. The instructions on the BBC site I linked here are very easy to follow. We did this step by step as a class and I made sure to demonstrate everything as we went along. 

Now, after finishing the making we are going to do our first puppetry workshop where students will work in pairs and act out short script pieces using their puppets. They will also receive a worksheet to write their own mini-scripts with their partners and then we will share with the class, pair by pair. 

Next week, we will tackle a class play. 

Disclaimer - we studied mime and body language in particular, at the beginning of the term. Thus, I am not going into puppetry body language so much because we will revisit what we learnt as mime artists. If you are doing this lesson for the first time, without a mime background, you may want to spend some lessons looking at gesture and body. 

How to make this an English lesson? Simply swap the scripts of my worksheet with the dialogue/phrases and vocab that you've been teaching. It's a cool way to spice up conversation time and you can add this to an English camp easily. 

Happy Teaching!