Today as we begin our writing lesson, I start by showing students a commercial online. I had to search to find something but finally settled on a McDonald’s commercial with LeBron James, a professional basketball player. After watching the commercial, I asked students how the commercial made them feel. Most students said hungry. I asked students why they thought they felt hungry. Of course students talked about the way LeBron James held the burger, the sounds in the commercial, the look of the burger, and all the things that were said about the burger. So, I zero in on what is said in the commercial. I told students that all of the aspects of the commercial were important but I wanted to talk about what was said. So we watched the commercial again and paid attention to the words. Next, I gave students a copy of the script from the commercial. I told students to read the script and make any notes on the side that pop into their heads as they read it.
After students finished reading, we discussed what students’ thoughts were about the commercial and its script. Students discussed that the writer made you feel like a famous person if you ate the burger. They talked about how the author said this burger is a burger liked by famous people so others will like it too. Students talked about people who want to be like LeBron James or other famous people may want to go and try the burger if he likes it. So where does writing come in when trying to persuade someone to buy something from you or to let them perform a service for you is the question I asked students. We discussed how advertisers have to write in a way that persuades a buyer to buy their product. We talked about how the writing has to be really convincing because there are others who also have something to sell or share and you want to make sure you are more persuasive than they are. This way people will buy your product or pay for your service.
Now to the good stuff. Why do I have you guys looking at commercials and analyzing what they are saying, is the next question I pose to students. Well, I explain to students that I am opening a tutoring business where I will help students in reading, math, and writing and I need a really good website that will persuade people to use my tutoring service. So the next thing I say is “How can an advertiser use writing to help me get lots of customers?” I have students jot down what they think on a handout (see resources), and then have them share their thoughts. After students have shared, I tell them that I am so excited that they have so many great ideas of what an advertiser can do because they are going to become advertisers and create a website for my tutoring business. I explain to students that they will work with their advertising company to create a great website for me and I will choose the one that is the most persuasive to use as my website. Of course students are extremely excited. After they have calmed down, I tell them that I have broken them into groups and each group will be a different advertising company. After students have moved to their groups we move to the next step.
After students have gotten acclimated to their groups, I tell them that we now have to take a look at some websites to give each group and idea about what they need to do. We also need to look at our competition which is something businesses do in order to offer better or more products than their competition. I tell students to remember what we talked about in economics and apply that in this learning experience because it fits very well. I found three tutoring company websites. Giving students an observation sheet, I tell them to look at each website and write down what they liked about them and what they don’t like. I also want students to look at the writing and be mindful of how the writing persuades a customer to possibly use the service. I tell students to also look at how the sites are organized. As students work as a group to do this, I circulate the room and listen in on their conversations and have short discussions with students. I remind students to think as an advertiser and look at how persuasive the site is.
After students have had time to go through the other websites, I have each group share their observations with the class.
We have a brief discussion about what students need to be thinking about as they prepare for the next lesson and how persuasive writing is the focus of the sites. We also discuss how well they can do this as the unit progresses.