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Using Advertisements in the Composition Classroom

A Beginning Approach to Critical Thinking, Rhetorical Appeals & Audience Analysis

Lauren Rinke

on 25 January 2012

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Transcript of Using Advertisements in the Composition Classroom

Part Two:
Critical Thinking & Engaging the Text Most students don't realize the effect advertisements have on them. Following the first activity, they can begin thinking about fact vs. interpretation of texts. The first part of this assignment allowed for a personal response to the ads, what the ads mean to them--an interpretation (beginning evaluation and critical thinking). How It Works:
The Basics This activity allows students to practice skills
in critical thinking and the "breaking down" of a text,
without the pressure of an academic piece with
unrecogonizable vocabulary. This lesson works well as an introductory unit in critical thinking and audience awareness. References & Further Reading Choose campaigns students can relate to
(age-specific items they are
interested in purchasing). For older students, consider
choosing ads with controversial
or striking images. Clare Lutkewitte reports that "advertisers spend more than $12 billion a year marketing to kids,” and the “average American child is exposed to 40,000 ads per year.” Victoria Purcell-Gates, professor of literacy education, notes that the youth of society is confronted daily by store signs and advertisements both in the physical environment and on television. She goes on to note that it is “within this literate context that these children [learn] much about the nature and forms of written language." Part One:
A Personal Approach
(Using “I” and “Me”) I choose 7-10 advertisements from various consumer
product types, and show them to students in a class meeting. My first approach is for them to begin thinking about
their sense of "self" and role as a consumer and "reader"
of the advertisement. This can be done as an in-class assignment or online module. The First Assignment Charles Hill, professor of Business at
The University of Washington,
comments that “what bothers many of us
[about the process of affect transfer] is that
our attitudes, opinions, and even our
actions are influenced without any
conscious processing on our part" (Carmichael). When students begin
thinking about the way
advertisements directly
impact their sense of identity, they
become very emotionally invested;
thus offering a window to introduce
the deeper concepts of critical thinking
and audience awareness. F. Niyi Akinnaso, professor of linguistic anthropology at Temple University states, “literacy is more than the act of reading and writing... [it now has an] extended definition to include ways of perceiving, thinking, speaking, evaluating, and interacting that characterize a group of individuals and set them apart from others” (Carmichael). In any kind of response/research writing,
the ability to think critically and engage with the text is essential.
Students cannot write about the text if they do not understand it. Part Three:
Let’s Have a Conversation
verbal reflection) Overview of basic rhetorical strategies:
Ethos (Ethics)
Pathos (Emotion)
Logos (Logic) Following the class discussion and overview of these three rhetorical strategies, I place students in small groups by the ads they chose, in which they have a chance to reflect and to look more deeply at the ads. They will discuss which ads seem to use ethos, pathos, and logos, either visually or with text. This is a way to get students to begin "articulating their thoughts about how advertisements persuade their audiences into purchasing products and services” (Lutkewitte). Part Four:
Let's Reflect in Small Groups Then, after students have had time to work through their ideas in small groups, we discuss why or why not the ads were successful in their appeal to the viewers. Questions to Consider: Think about context. Where would you typically see an ad like this?
What appears to be the intended audience? What suggests this?
What is the message being sent to the audience?
What significance might all of the ad’s features (objects, people, colors, etc.) have for the intended viewers/readers/listeners?
Which aspects use rhetorical appeals to reach the intended audience?
How might some people understand this advertisement differently from others?
What is the overall purpose of the ad? Do you think it is successful? Using Advertisements
in the Composition Classroom: A Beginning Approach to
Critical Thinking, Rhetorical Appeals
& Audience Analysis Lauren E. Rinke
Oakland University - Department of Writing & Rhetoric
Side by Side Symposium 2012 As a class, we discuss a few of the
ads, and compare notes on similar
and different emotional responses. enhance or develop critical thinking & reading skills
learn about audience awareness
engage with--and begin to utilize--argumentative strategies
develop an understanding of rhetorical analysis
increase media literacy & understanding of culture Using advertisements in the composition classroom
is an accessible and engaging way for students to: Part Five:
Audience Awareness Just as these ad executives must think about demographic and what appeals to a specific group of people, writers must think about their audience and who will be reading their piece. Purpose: to begin thinking about an audience beyond the classroom (peers and instructor). The next part of the activity allows them to discover the deeper ideas behind the ads (critical reading):
What the ad says
What the ad does
The original purpose behind the ad
The intended audience Using one ad as an example, let’s talk about the intended audience: Who: age, sex, education, economic status, political/social/religious beliefs
Level of Information: How much does the audience already know? Are they experts? Just starting out? Somewhere between?
Context: Where would the audience typically see this piece? When we speak to someone, we know our audience. We automatically adjust how we speak depending on who we’re talking to. For example: you probably do not use the same kind of rhetoric in a conversation with a five-year-old, as you would with your boss. What is strange is that most students do not adjust the style of their writing to fit their intended audience, because it is assumed that the teacher will be the only one reading it. Even though it seems obvious to us, it’s often difficult for students to really think about intended audience. The concept can seem intangible or abstract. Go back to thinking about intended audience, and consider your own writing. When you are writing, you should reflect on and try to imagine your readers:
Who they are, their level of expertise, and where they will read your work.
What does the audience expect? What are their reasons for reading your work?
Entertainment? Information? Solution?
Will your audience have any bias toward your topic/subject matter?
Do they have any presuppositions that you need to take into account as you write your paper?
Have you considered possible biases relating to race, gender, religious or age differences? We all write about things that are interesting or of value to us. Typically, even if the audience is only the teacher and peers, students probably have an idea in their minds about why they are writing. I’ve found there is typically a deeper purpose and meaning behind the writing, and drawing out the actual, intended audience is just a conversation or written reflection away. Remind your students:
All writing is important! So, to be sure that we communicate clearly in writing, we need to adjust our message—
how we say it and what information we include—by recognizing that different readers can best understand different messages. If students are going to make the effort to pre-write, draft and edit a piece of writing, they are assigning it valuable of their time, and should therefore consider the audience so their writing is clearly understood and effective in its purpose. Part Six:
Let's Be the Ad Executives
In this last part of the in -class activity, students look back at one of the ads, and determine how they would change it if the intended audience were different. • F. Niyi Akinnaso “Literacy and Individual Consciousness” (in The Psychology of Literacy)
• Misty Dawn Carmichael “Teaching Media Literacy in the Composition Classroom: Are We There Yet?”
• Claire Lutkewitte “Writing Students Should Write about Advertisements” (in Teaching in the Pop Culture Zone: Using Popular Culture in the Composition Classroom, 1st Ed.)
• Dr. Jennifer Richardson “Rhetoric, Composition, and Popular Culture”
• Chris M. Worsnop “Media Literacy Through Critical Thinking: Teacher Materials”
• Don Zimmerman “Interviews on Audience Awareness” Colorado State University, Writing@CSU Clare Lutkewitte says it best: "Any writing project that encourages students to engage/question/form judgment upon the experiences they have in pop culture can follow this ad analysis project, especially those which ask students to reflect upon the ways in which pop culture influences what, how, and why we write." Question Set:
1. Take a look at the ads in the slideshow.
Pick 2-3 that appeal to you as an individual.
2. Explain why each one appeals to you,
and why you think this is the case.
3. What about the ad speaks to you? Make notes
on specifics such as colors, facial expressions,
shapes, layout, text, etc.
4. How does it make you feel at first glance?
Sexy? Happy? Content? Inferior? Working as a large group, have the entire class
work backwards from the original assignment,
first discussing the specifics of the target audience,
then addressing what about the ad might change
with this shift. They should think about specifics in
color, models, layout, text, etc. just as they did at
the very beginning of the personal reflection and
critical reading assignments. At the end of the class meeting, assign the Advertisement Redesign Essay. The Final Project:
Advertisement Redesign Essay For the final project in the advertisement analysis unit, students choose their own advertisement from a magazine and create a hypothetical redesign for a new audience. Students may also choose
to use photo editing software
(i.e.: Photoshop) to create a visual
representation of their redesign. Assigning a follow-up, reflective essay
will allow students to connect the ad resign
process to audience awareness when creating
their own written work.
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