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Critical Consumerism

It is estimated that the average 20-year-old American has seen one million commercial messages throughout his or her life. This number is sure to rise, as teens are the fastest growing consumer demographic, spending billions ($150 billion to be exact) of dollars each year, and thus commanding the rapt attention of many companies and advertisers. These compelling statistics raise some vital questions to any concerned teacher, parent or citizen: what is the effect of advertising on our teenagers? Is there a connection between the increase in advertising and social unrest? Do cases of depression, self-mutilation, and eating disorders reflect plummeting self-esteem as children feel they can never be as happy, thin or beautiful as the people portrayed in ads? Would as many people want to divorce their partner if ads did not glorify casual trysts and sex appeal as the highest measure of worth? I do not purport to know the answers to the questions, just as I will try to avoid accepting packaged, slick answers provided by a statistic, study or ad itself. Instead, I would prefer to encourage teenagers to become literate media critics who may grapple with some of these questions themselves.

This unit strives to make explicit the persuasive devices of print and televised advertising so that students may analyze their messages. Once students have done this, they compare these messages about topics such as wealth, sex, joy and beauty with their own values. Lastly, they will be encouraged to develop an understanding of how advertising either reflects or influences their own behavior and value system. Students will write a persuasive essay defending this thesis. In addition to writing an essay, students will be required to create a "counter ad." This counter ad will use all the effective techniques found in real ads, but it will truly reflect the values held by that individual.

Do advertisements influence or reflect teenage culture?

3 weeks (Daily 50 minute periods)

Daily Lessons
 Lesson 1
  Lesson 2
  Activity: Assignment Review
  Activity: Corporate Alphabet
  Activity: TV Inventory
Lesson 3
  Activity: Techniques
   Activity: TV Ad Analysis
  Homework Assignment
  Activity: Print Ad Analysis
   Homework Assignment
  Activity: Ads Sell Image
  Activity: Cigarette Ads
  Activity: Adbusting
 Lesson 4
  What do Teens Value?
  Activity: Cool Is. . .
  Activity: Video Viewing
Lesson 5
  Activity: Music Video Analysis
  Activity: Videos vs. Real Life
  Activity: Deconstruction
  Final Projects
  Persuasive Essay
Teacher Commentary

Urban Dreams
OUSD Curriculum Unit
Critical Consumerism: Advertising and Teen Culture

Subject: Language Arts
Grade Level: 9th
Lesson Plan Author:
Jill Flaningam