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Monday, February 8, 2016

The Power of Persuasion


      These past few weeks my class has embarked on an exciting journey as I started a Schoology group that is hosting six different classes of sixth graders from around the nation. Each weekend I have chosen a different writing prompt and all the students write and respond to each other on that prompt.
       Last week I chose a NewsELA article about raising the legal tobacco buying age. Every student read the same passage, at their level, we then had a lively classroom discussion and then students wrote their responses. They spent so much time on these and were so thoughtful in responding to their new online classmates.

      This week, in honor of the Super Bowl, I have chosen to focus on persuasive writing and the techniques many writers and advertisers use to hook consumers. Being that these students are 6th graders, and the target market for many of the products advertised, this seemed to be a great way to grab their attention and buy-in for this prompt and introduce persuasive techniques in writing.
      As they came in this morning I just posted the simple question, "What was your favorite Super Bowl commercial?" Of course we had everything from Puppy Monkey Baby to the Doritos ultrasound baby. It was great to hear some of their favorites, since those were a few of the ones I had targeted for this assignment. If you're interested in a similar writing prompt, here are some of the resources and quick links to the commercials I chose.
  Persuasive Techniques
          To get the conversation going, we first discussed what a target market is and what different types of products are marketed to different target markets. We watched a few commercials and decided on the target market for each.
          After that, we discussed the three types of appeals advertisers use to appeal to their target market.

        Ethos- an appeal to credibility or character
                 Advertisers use this type of appeal to show that their company is more reliable or credible than others. Often times they use a reliable source such as a study, doctor, or celebrity endorsement to make this point. 

        Logos- an appeal to logic or reason
                 Using this type of appeal, advertisers aim to show consumers the facts and evidence about what their product does. They try to be clear in presenting their facts to convince you. 

         Pathos- an appeal to emotion
                   Pathos is used to appeal to the consumers' emotions. Advertisers often show people being extremely happy using their product, or aim to show a sad situation in order to appeal to their emotion and gain a call to action.

   After discussing these three types, we came up with different companies, commercials, or ads that use each of these three appeals. (Trust me, the kids were at no loss for examples!)

       After that, we discussed different specific strategies that advertisers use. Here are the examples we looked at.

       Avante Guarde-  The idea that using this product will put you ahead of the times.

       Weasel Words-  Using words such as "virtually" spotless and "most" of the time. Giving the illusion of a guarantee, while not actually guaranteeing anything.

       Patriotism- Instilling the idea that buying or using this product will make you more American or patriotic to your country.

       Transfer- Using positive ideas, images, and words to imply that the product is also positive.

       Plain Folks- Showing that the product is used and needed by regular people and families.

       Snob Appeal- Suggesting that using this product will move you to a more elite status.

       Bribery- Offers you something "extra".

       Band Wagon- This technique suggests you should join the crowd in buying this product so you aren't the only one without it.

       Slogan- Having a catchy phrase that people will remember.

       Repetition- Repeating your slogan, an idea, or saying over and over with the hopes it will stick with people and they will remember your product.

       Testimonial- Using a satisfied customer to give their experiences with the product to convince others.

       Celebrity Endorsement- Having a celebrity use, advertise, and endorse your product. If they use it, so should you!

Super Bowl 50 Commercials
  After discussing each of the techniques and coming up with examples, we looked at the Super Bowl 50 commercials. Here are some of the more "kid appropriate" ads that I found. 

 FitBit               Jeep                Coca- Cola              Taco Bell                     
  Hyundai                Heinz          Honda

   After watching each commercial, the kids wrote down the major type of appeal that the advertisers used, and then the more specific technique they used to target their product.

   Finally, after all the prep work we got to our weekly question.

       "Which Super Bowl ad appealed most to you, and why? Which appealed least to you and why? Describe the different appeals and techniques that were used in each of the commercials you chose and how that played into your decision."

    This could be anywhere from a quick paragraph to a full on five paragraph essay. 

    We will use this a springboard to go into a larger persuasive writing project. Now that students understand that there are multiple ways to persuade others, they can tap into these techniques in their own writing. 

    I would love to hear how you implement this lesson or something similar. What will your students write about after learning about these techniques? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below!


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