Monday, January 31, 2011

Superbowl Commercials and Language Therapy

The Superbowl approaches this weekend- what a great topic to engage your students as you sneak in some language strategy teaching! The game itself is often, well, boring, and besides the food, the other thing about Superbowl Sunday that people love is the commercials, often expensive productions that cost even more to air. Commercials are short pieces of discourse that use specific structures and strategies to convey their messages; these correspond to text structures that our students need to master to access curriculum text: (story/narrative, list, sequence, compare-contrast, description, persuasion, etc- thanks to my pal Maryellen Rooney Moreau for making this connection some years ago). For example, last year's entry from Doritos is a funny context to focus on sequence or, on a more complex level, problem and solution (basically a story structure):

Or, probably the most famous Superbowl commercial ever- a perfect comparison of IBM's monopoly on personal computing to a totalitarian state (try making a comparison web on this, or simply a sequence again to provide the background knowledge, along with a little sequence of Apple's history):

I first started using commercials to review text structures some years ago on VHS tape- what a pain compared to accessing the video resources on the web today! Here are some ideas and strategies for using some commercials in your teaching:
  • Obviously, we never want to show anything that we haven't previewed ourselves!
  • Start with YouTube- anything you might want to use will be there! If you search for "superbowl commercials 2010," you'll find a whole bunch from last year, and you can search for other years as well. See my post on YouTube if you are concerned about distracting links or if it is blocked at your school- also, avoid showing comments below videos to students.
  • Check out a bunch of food or soft drink-related ads- they are usually pretty family-friendly (don't even bother with any GoDaddy ads)- with an eye to what structures they can be used to teach. Do you see a list? A sequence? A description? A story?
  • If you don't have time to pre-watch a bunch of ads, consider a post-bowl lesson. While you are enjoying your 7-layer dip, watch the commercials with an eye toward text structure. They are sure to be on YouTube within 24 hours, if they aren't already.
  • Check out Yummy Math's lesson plan on Superbowl Commercials for a different take on the topic!
  • Lessons on Superbowl ads can be a great precursor to having kids script and create their own ads for a product for language practice.
Enjoy the game, and let's hope for no "wardrobe malfunctions" this year!

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