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Reading Between The Lines

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TOPIC: Advertising

CONCEPT: Pressures to use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs come from many sources. One of the most powerful pressures to use alcohol and tobacco comes from the media. The ads portray things that young people want. Popularity, sex appeal and fun are esteemed by kids, but they can be deceiving. The ads do not tell the truth about the effects of using alcohol and tobacco. Young people need to learn how to analyze advertisements to tell the difference between fact and fiction.

GRADE LEVEL: 3rd - 5th

Method: Class room activity
Time Frame: 20 minutes plus "Discussion"
Material: Butcher paper, colored markers, masking tape, alcohol and cigarette ads.


ACTIVITY: Collect a variety of alcohol and cigarette ads from magazines. Lead the class in a discussion about ads. Ask the class why alcohol and cigarette companies would spend so much on ads. Explain that advertising can also be misleading and encourage people to do things they really didn't need to do. Divide the class into groups of four or five. Pass out an ad to each person. Have the students look at their ad and figure out what the ad is trying to get them to do. Ask several volunteers to hold up their ad and tell the class what their ad is saying. What does the advertiser want you to think about the product? Working in their small group have the students select an ad to re-write so it tells the truth. For example: Hold up a Virginia Slims ad that says: "You've come a long way, baby". It could be changed to, "You're on your way to cancer, baby". Have the students re-write just the slogan or they can re-draw the whole ad. When the students have completed the re-write, have each group select a reporter to show the class the re-write. The reporter should tell what the original ad says then read the re-write. Hang the pictures on the wall.

DISCUSSION: After the activities, facilitate a discussion utilizing the following questions. Be sure to emphasize that we are all influenced by advertisements and need to be aware of how deceptive ads may be.

Discussion ideas:

  • How is advertising a form of pressure?

  • What is happening in the ad that makes students want to try the product?

  • How do ads mislead us?

  • If you buy the product will you look like or be like the people in the ads?

  • What should we look for when they read an advertisement?

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