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Teacher Lesson Return to "Pretty Lies"
Pretty Lies
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Media/News Literacy Lesson: Analyzing Advertisements

Reading Comprehension, Discussion, and Written Response

• Students will read about how ad campaigns influence people.
• Students will examine and analyze arguments in both written and pictorial form.
• Students will present clear arguments in written form.

• Several full-page ads (4-5) from a magazine or newspaper that are for recognizable products and others for less easily recognizable products, conveying the message that the product endows a consumer with a particular personal quality or lifestyle (sexy, luxurious, etc.)
• A sheet of paper with the heading “Comments” to be displayed next to each ad.

• Exquisite
• Unattainable
• Inevitable
• Manipulate

Before the Activity
Ask students to describe their favorite (or least favorite) advertisement and answer the following questions:
• Why did it stick with them?
• What message did the ad send about the attributes of the product?
• Did they purchase the product? Why or why not?

Activity 1: Read the Story
Read the story with the students. Ask students to note why the author seems so upset by the way ads are presented on television. Record their responses on the board.

Activity 2: Gallery Walk
Instruct students to walk around the room to view each ad in silence. Tell them to think about each of the ads displayed: What emotions does the ad convey? What is its message? Then they should write down on the “Comments” paper their impressions of or reactions to that ad (Does it make them feel a certain way? Do they have a question? Does it remind them of anything?).

After the students have made it around to all the ads, they can then circle back and read the comments of their peers, still in silence.

Next, point out to the students that ads tend to focus on things that are unobtainable for most people. Advertisers often do this in order to give you a false promise that their product will provide whatever it is that you have not been able to achieve: love, money, success, sex, security, or a host of other intangible items.

Discuss the reactions the students had to the different ads. Prompt them with questions like:
• What emotional reaction did you have to these ads?
• What messages do you believe were implied in these ads?
• Do they remind you of your life? Do they make you feel confident or insecure? Why?
• What feeling or thought do you think each ad was trying to convey?
• Which ads were most convincing? Why?
• Do you believe the ads are manipulative? How? Why?

Activity 3: Write an Expository Paragraph
Ask students what they believe the intention of the advertisers had been when producing the ads. Take note of their ideas on the board.

Based on the reasons listed on the board and the previous activity, direct student to write a thesis statement answering the question, “What do advertisers hope to achieve through ads, and what are the primary techniques they use to achieve that goal?” The thesis statement should make a claim that they can support with materials examined in class, personal experiences, or literary references.

Explain that they must be prepared to defend their claim by referring directly to the ads examined in class.

Once students have a clear thesis statement—one that makes a claim and is defensible—ask them to craft an introductory paragraph to an essay that analyzes the use of ads in society. They should reference the ads from the gallery walk as well as quote from the story to illustrate the issue. They should also explain how these ads that prey on individual’s insecurities might affect not only individuals, but society.

Activity 4: Homework—Expand on Writing
Instruct students that for homework, they are to write a 4-5 paragraph expository essay based on the thesis (and introductory paragraph) that they wrote in class. In the essay they may want to address several of the following questions:
• What messages do you think the advertisers were trying to communicate? Did they succeed? Why or why not?
• Would you buy the products? Who would? Why?
• Were the ads emotionally manipulative?
• Why is it effective for advertisers to focus on our unfulfilled desires and insecurities to sell their products?
• What are the consequences of buying into the promise of something that a product cannot, in reality, deliver?

Aligned with Common Core Standards for English Language Arts 9-12

Common Core Standards for Reading:
Key Ideas and Details
RI.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says.
RI.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
Craft and Structure
RI.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
RI.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.
Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity
RI.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Common Core Standards for Writing:
Text Types and Purposes
W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
W.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
Production and Distribution of Writing
W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Range of Writing
W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening:
Comprehension and Collaboration
SL.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
SL.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.

Anchor Standards for Language:
Conventions of Standard English
L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
L.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
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