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?
Seductive...kiss...love...romance...sexy? 
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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 Science.com

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: digitalsynopsis.com 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 Adage.com 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!