In their article, Commercials as social studies curriculum: Bridging content & media literacy, Shanendra D. Nowell (2019) explores the approaches and benefits of applying advertisements as an educational tool. Specifically, the author analyzes the use of commercials to improve students’ media literacy and content knowledge. The author argues that commercials can be a valuable tool for reviewing, teaching, and assessing students’ media literacy and social studies knowledge.
The purpose of the article is to show how commercials can be applied as a valuable education tool. The author emphasizes that the existing research extensively reviewed the role of commercials in arts, English language arts, and other areas of studies, with limited attention paid to their role in social studies (Nowell, 2019). As the article provides substantial information and guidance on the educational usage of commercials, the article’s intended audience is primarily educators, particularly social studies teachers. The author first presents the different benefits of commercials and elaborates on the various approaches to applying commercials in the classroom.
The author highlights the two significant benefits of commercials as educational tools. First, advertisements can summarize historical, social, or political events by connecting many social studies concepts (Nowell, 2019). Second, analysis of commercials can help students improve their media literacy by becoming more active, rather than passive, media consumers (Nowell, 2019). Thus, by understanding the production of advertisements, students can improve their critical thinking skills.
The author elaborates more on the methods of incorporating commercials into the curriculum. First, they emphasize that teachers should teach the anatomy of an advertisement (Nowell, 2019). Namely, students should familiarize themselves with print and television advertisements’ essential elements, including headlines, creative graphics, copy, or fine print (Nowell, 2019). Hence, the author stipulates the importance of emphasizing the profit-oriented purpose of advertisements for the students while analyzing these basic elements.
The second step is to teach students to analyze advertisements by asking key questions. Students should ask who created the ad and why and who is the target audience (Nowell, 2019). Moreover, teachers should prompt students to understand what emotional, and cultural ideas or values are communicated through the ads (Nowell, 2019). In addition, questions such as how different audiences interpret the ad and what techniques appeal to viewers are also essential to analyzing advertisements (Nowell, 2019).
These questions help students recognize how companies persuade consumers to buy their products. Students should be able to differentiate the emotional and rational appeal of the advertisement (Nowell, 2019). Lastly, teachers should encourage students to pay attention to the message’s credibility by asking whether the information presented in the advertisement is accurate (Nowell, 2019). Hence, asking these key questions enables students to deconstruct the purpose and role of commercials.
In addition, the author emphasizes that teachers can use commercials to assess students’ media literacy and content knowledge. For instance, Nowell (2019) gives an example of how they assigned Apple and Univac advertisements to analyze civilization and culture changes over time. Teachers can also facilitate student-created commercials as assessments to help students demonstrate their media literacy skills and classroom content. However, in assigning such tasks, teachers should first provide tools for commercial production, including basic video creation skills (Nowell, 2019). They also recommend print-based ads to be assigned to a single student while TV ads for a small group. Thus, the article provides extensive information on the benefits of commercials as educational tools and recommends the approaches to apply them.
Nowell, S. D. (2019). Commercials as social studies curriculum: Bridging content & media literacy. Journal of Media Literacy Education, 11(3), 91-97. Web.