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Overview

Objectives

Students will be able:
  • To define advertisement vocabulary.
  • To recognize scientific claims within advertisements.
  • To identify examples of real and implied scientific endorsement of products.
  • To be able to state conventions of commercials with scientific claims that sell products.
  • To produce a print advertisement for a fictional product using "science".


Audience 

The lesson is intended for middle to high school students learning about the nature of science, scientific method, nutrition or other related content.  Students should have prior knowledge of the scientific method and in particular the reporting of scientific findings.


Rationale

Many products marketed on television and in print advertisements claim to have scientific evidence of their effectiveness and/or have undergone some type of rigorous testing of the product's purported benefits.  Though the products are tested and statements reviewed by the FDA, companies have great leniency in the USA in regards to supposed salutory effects of products.  Students, therefore, need to be informed when purchasing products.  The PBS teachers website suggests that teachers have students study food labels and pharmaceutical ads as part of their media education in health and science.  Food products that portray pharmaceutical benefits are increasingly common and not well regulated.  Weaver (2009) suggests that curriculum include opportunities for students to not only analyze media, but also view media as an alternitive to text only.  In this lesson students can take advertisements (print and video) from their media experiences outside of school into school.  Students are therefore engaged in questioning aspects of the world they live in.

This lesson can be incorporated into a unit on either the scientific method or nutrition.  Computer technology is used in class to help bring parts of student popular culture into the classroom.  Students are engaged when using their own computer and the teacher can utilize a projector to show media to a class all at once as well.  The lesson, overall, is flexible and can be used in several instructional settings though the focus here is middle level science.  Also, the lesson can be used in part or in whole.  The print media section may be used without the video analysis if computers and internet access is limited or unavailable.  Teachers also need not fear that students merely "imitate" the commercials they view.  Buckingham (2008) emphasizes that imitation develops a high level of analytical and practical skills (p.134).  The final ad production is essential for students constructing their understanding.  Of greatest importance is the dialogue that develops concerning these advertisements between teacher and student, and student and student.  If discussions prove fruitful, focused, and pedagogically sound additional time should be provided to explore these emerging avenues of discourse.

References

Buckingham, David. Media Education: Literacy, Learning, and Contemporary Culture. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2008.

Weaver, John A. Popular Culture Primer. New York: P. Lang, 2009.


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