Students will develop an eye towards sponsored messages and an understanding of library resources

Students will be able to differentiate between authority and accuracy
Students will gain familiarity with public library resources
Students will explore the difference between an advertisement and content in print media
Students will learn to be critical when interacting with media--from viral YouTube videos to consumer magazines

Essential Question
How many advertisements/marketing messages do we see/experience every day, and where do they come from?

Middle School classroom.

Scissors, magazines, computer with internet access, projector, draft paper, glue/tape.

Special Needs
Students will be partnered so that their skills and needs can be arranged to complement one another. The lesson can be otherwise adapted to suit the specific needs of students. The classroom will be the students' usual classroom, and most special needs outside of the context of the lesson will have been provided for.

Outline of Lesson
Introduction to the Lesson (five minutes)
Begin the lesson by showing the students a viral YouTube video, without much introduction beyond asking casually whether they have seen the video. The video we have chosen for our purposes is a video created by Ray-Ban, though there is no indication on the video's page, unless you recognize the company's "Never Hide" tagline as the film producer's user name. The video can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-prfAENSh2k
After showing the video, ask the following or similar questions and allow some time for conversation:

  • "What is that video about?"
  • "Is that video entertaining?"
  • "Is it an advertisement?"
  • "Is there a way to tell that this is an advertisement?"
  • "What if someone re-posts it elsewhere? Can we still tell?"

New Skill or Knowledge (five minutes)
To transition to print media, show the students examples of media kits (available from most magazine websites--we are using Spin and Seventeen for this lesson) and talk about the demographics and market segments briefly. Show the students how to find the media kit online (you can access the Seventeen media kit from the website, here). This can also be an opportunity for them to see the little "fine print" links at the bottom of magazine websites, especially the links to "sister" publications. Did anyone know that CosmoGirl and Seventeen are both run by the same publishing company?

Explore/Experiment (twenty minutes)
Working in pairs, students will find and cut advertisements out of a variety of magazines discarded from the library. The magazines should have a wide range of genres and audiences. When they have finished cutting the ads out of the entire magazine, they will count the number of whole pages they have left (any?), the number of articles in the magazine, and the number of ads they cut out. Which takes up more of the magazine?

Have the students work together using the ads to create a visual representation of what they talked about with their partner as they were cutting out the ads. Some ideas to suggest:

  • Make a magazine using only ads--what is the target audience for your magazine?
  • Make a story using the ads
  • Sort the ads into categories or demographics
Introduce library materials to help them create their projects--books on zine-making, collage, and print design are a good start. When students are finished with their projects, collect and scan them to add to the class wiki so that their classmates can view and comment on each others' work.

Conclusion (fifteen minutes)
As a class, talk about what other media would look like if you cut them up like this magazine. (TV shows, movies, books, websites?) Show students websites like MySpace or Facebook, something they look at on a regular basis, and find the ads. How many are there? Which ones do they notice right away? Which are harder to find? What would the page look like if there were no advertisements? Show them a screenshot of an ad-less MySpace page. (You can block ads on Firefox using a plug-in like AdBlock Plus.)

Ask students why it might be important to know when we're looking at an ad and when we're not. Ask students what makes an advertisement in a magazine different from an article.

As a final activity, show the students another viral YouTube video that is not immediately apparent as an advertisement (for this lesson, we are using the "Guys backflip into jeans" video, which can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pShf2VuAu_Q). Ask students again: Could this be an advertisement? Or is it just for fun?

De-brief or Assessment
The students' participation in discussions and the projects they created using the ads can be used to assess how well they understood the lesson materials. By looking for ads on websites and in video as a group at the end of class, teachers can get an idea of how critically students are looking at media and whether that has changed, especially the difference in awareness when looking at the "sunglasses" video at the beginning of class and the "jeans" video at the end of class.

Additional Material:
Additional Lessons