I began the lesson, and the media literacy unit, today in the style of a carnival barker:
Ladies and gentlemen! I have something inside this box that will change your lives. It will blow your mind! 99% of students who used it said their academics improved. If you use this product, your grades will increase. People will like you more. Your life will be better!
What do you think is in the box?
The kids went nuts, yelling out what they thought was in there. It was loud but I certainly had their attention!
I asked them what had I just done. Immediately they responded, 'advertise.' I gave them definitions of and we discussed examples of media, advertising, and propaganda.
I quoted from a fascinating book the following ad for an advertising agency: it was a big picture of the president, with these big words: "If you have high ambitions, hire us. He did." Smaller print: "If we can produce advertising that persuades Hispanic Democrats to vote Republican, we can get them to buy your product."
The students were appropriately floored and shocked by this, and I led them in an analysis discussion, reading between the lines and inferring what the agency thinks about consumers.
Their favorite part of the lesson, however, is the homework: Watch television. I gave them the worksheet, the one I posted a while back, for them to keep track of the commercials they see while watching a show tonight.
I can't wait for class tomorrow, when they report and synthesize their findings!