Even my students who “don’t have time” for homework spend 2-3 hours a day on Facebook, YouTube, and Netflix.
Our students consume media in amazing quantities, and it’s said that traditional advertising doesn’t work on their generation. As advertisers become more and more savvy in an attempt to break through to their younger listeners, it’s important that students understand how to identify the ways in which a speaker could be manipulating their emotions and instincts.
Here are some activities for helping students develop an awareness of persuasive techniques. You can use these to start a larger conversation about being an informed viewer (and citizen!) in today’s media-driven climate.
1. Introduction to Rhetoric
Use this activity to introduce (or refresh) ethos, logos, and pathos. Students watch two videos and complete a Doodle Notes worksheet, eventually synthesizing the concepts. My students really enjoy watching these short, animated videos a couple of times in order to make sure they “get it”, and the Doodle Notes provide a nice visual to help them remember the important ideas! You can grab them here.
2. “Buy My Pencil”
In this activity, students try to convince each other to buy a pencil. They will employ a variety of persuasive techniques, even if they do not yet have the names for all of them. This is because students absorb persuasion constantly, and demonstrate various techniques on a hunch. After a few minutes of letting them try to sell a partner their pencil, call students back together and have them describe the techniques they used.
To extend this, you can have students perform these impromptu skits in front of a larger group or in front of the class. This is a great way to get some informal public speaking practice, and I’m always a proponent of making public speaking less intimidating.
3. Introduction to Persuasive Techniques
I use this interactive PowerPoint will help students put names to the techniques they’ve grown up hearing and using. Students will be able to identify techniques in context and apply their knowledge of ethos, logos, and pathos.
To break up the term-definition monotony, I have students “buzz in” to identify the techniques in some example ads. I also include Think-Pair-Share to get them to generate more examples of various techniques they’ve seen in recent commercials.
4. Persuasive Tweets
A fun bellringer or exit slip activity for practicing persuasive techniques is Persuasive Tweets. In 140 characters or less, students can use one persuasive technique to sell something. I’ve had success giving all students one item (similar to “Buy My Pen”) and having them draw a persuasive technique from a hat. You can download my list of persuasive techniques for this activity here.
5. News Literacy Project
The News Literacy Project is a new tool that I would like to integrate into my curriculum throughout the year to help students determine the credibility and levels of bias in various news reports. I’m still in the early stages of exploring this project, but they have online modules that take students through the steps of developing media literacy. According to their site,
“As students progress through the checkology™ platform, journalists from The New York Times, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, NBC News and other news outlets are joined by experts on the First Amendment and digital media to guide them through each lesson’s core concepts. These e-learning experiences use real-world examples of news and information that test students’ emerging skills and lead them to mastery.”
This has huge potential to help our students become informed, discerning citizens! Wow!
6. Commercial Analysis
Lastly, my students really enjoy applying their new knowledge to commercials! This is a perfect activity to use in this post-football time of the year. Students are still talking about commercials aired during the Super Bowl, and you can find a “top ten” list of commercials to bring to class (vetted first by you for content). Have students choose a commercial, and follow this step-by-step analysis of persuasive techniques. They can complete this alone or in pairs, and can present in small groups. For an added bonus, let them show the commercials in class.
Persuasive Techniques are a great way to get students engaged and thinking. You can help develop their media literacy and challenge them to consider the incoming messages.
What are your favorite resources and activities for teaching persuasive techniques?
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