Lesson Plan Menu
Critical Consumerism

The impetus for creating this unit on advertising analysis has actually been years in the making. Although I did not realize it at the time, when I began teaching four years ago, my relationship with mass media began shifting dramatically. My own latent discomfort with commercial television and film now rose to the surface as I saw my "consumer" self reflected in my ninth grade students. What I perceived as their unwavering allegiance to brand names and unabandoned consumption hit too close to home. While I saw my students and I as part of the same "market," I realized that media held even more primacy in their adolescent lives than mine; their image (that they attempted to project, anyhow) was frightfully slick and manufactured. Even more demoralizing than this phenomenon however, was their collective lack of imagination and individuality. Of course many of my students were bright and free thinking, but even those individuals seemed gripped by the condition known as "affluenza" Ća lifestyle centered upon the pursuit of material goods. I feared that many of them had bought the bill of goods that companies desperately wanted them to purchase. My ninth grade students were in the throes of that storm called maturation, and I wanted them to have some power over this process. I believe that by understanding media│s subjectivity and motives a person may choose to "unplug" or not.

At this time, I gave away my own television set; I had to get some relief from the advertising environment in which we were all immersed. Although television is just one vehicle for advertising, I needed to cut this cord to get some perspective on the influence of mass marketing on our society. As a lark, without much more than some magazines and a mission, I launched a media literacy unit on deconstructing advertisements. It was not only a success, but it was a blast! Students came to life as they deftly decoded and analyzed ads and their own roles as consumers. Our students are incredibly savvy when it comes to responding to electronic images; I found that I could use this very thing that I had formerly perceived as the "problem" as a stellar teaching opportunity. Instead of being unquestioning sheep, my students offered quick and incisive analysis of advertising techniques.

I was so pleased with the success of this unit, that I have focused and, at the same time, expanded the unit. This topic of media advertising is almost limitless, so first I had to choose a guiding question. I discovered that my greatest interest was the relationship between advertising and teen culture. I want to know, and I hope that students can tell me, if their behavior is influenced or reflected in advertising. I am most interested in issues related to body image and sexual behavior as it is portrayed in the media. I will have to wait until I teach this unit again to know whether or not the students feel they are in control or controlled by media advertising. What I do know, however, is that this is a greatly needed unit on media literacy that evokes high interest and engagement amongst students. Popular, commercial media can be used as an effective way to foster critical thinking skills. It also provides an outstanding vehicle for self-awareness and reflection that is so vital to the development of adolescent lives. I encourage teachers to integrate media, especially advertising, studies into their curriculum. Please use these ideas and improve upon them!
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