Sample Lesson (Secondary Art) Do You Know When You're Being Sold?


Examples of fast food logos/corporate branding

BIG QUESTION: What is media literacy? How do mass media, advertising, image-manipulation and corporate bias play a role in our daily lives?

UNIT/LESSON TITLE: Under Pressure (Lesson 3: Who Puts the “Me” in “Media?”)


SUGGESTED TIME ALLOWANCE: One two-hour class session

CENTRAL FOCUS/OVERVIEW: This lesson will introduce students to the concept of media literacy, and open their eyes to concepts such as brand recognition/corporate bias, the psychological/emotional impact of advertising (and video/image manipulation), and the various day-to-day pressures of living in a consumptive culture. Through looking at images/video/art exemplifying pop/media culture and creating their own artworks appealing to our consumerist nature, students will explore the relationship of media and power, start to question the source and impact of information (who disseminates information? why? what story are they trying to tell?) and think critically about the interplay between mainstream media and society.

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS: How much are we influenced by media/advertising? Can we be influenced without even realizing it? How does what we read, or see on tv/movies affect us/shape our societal norms? Does being aware of these pressures/influences make us less susceptible? What is the relationship between pressure and authority? Who has that power and why do they want it? Where do we see power in the media?


  • Students will understand how mass media and advertising help shape our cultural norms, and appreciate the importance of brand recognition, consumerism and corporate bias in our daily lives.
  • Students will learn the technique of thinking critically about media/culture, and will experiment with “branding” a product and marketing it to a specific audience.
  • Students will understand the relationship between culture and consumerism (as well as advertising and corporate bias), and learn what makes an effective ad campaign.

MATERIALS/EQUIPMENT: Projector or tv screen for displaying images; whiteboard, dry-erase markers; Flashcards (with logos, slogans, corporate mascots); posterboard (or large pieces of construction paper); scissors, drawing materials (markers, colored pencils, pencils, charcoal), glue sticks, magazines, letter stencils, product descriptions for art activity.

ARTISTS: Hiroshi Fuji, Barbara Kruger, Lega Delany.

ML-artists(three)        From left: Hiroshi Fuji, Toy Saurus; Barbara Kruger, I Shop Therefore I am (Exhibition at L&M Arts); Lega Delany, Plant for the Planet


I. INTRO ACTIVITY: Logos/Slogans/Brand Recognition Game (from Media Literacy reading): Reference last week’s lesson (eg “Last time we talked about personal pressure, and we’ve experienced it firsthand through our Chopped game and the making of our Pressure Portraits. Today we’re going to talk about media pressure”), then immediately jump into the game. We will run through a series of slides showing a variety of slogans, logos, and brand mascots as students try to recognize and shout out the name of the company, brand or product associated with each slide as quickly as possibly.



  • What makes an effective slogan? What is branding/why is it important? Are you more likely to eat somewhere — or buy something — from a name you recognize?
  • Extended discussion:
    ** If you were to buy car insurance, who might you go with? (Geico? Because of their catchy/memorable ad campaigns?) Ever watched the same channel for a while and seen the same commercial about 100 times? Will you see different kinds of ads on Lifetime than you would on, say, ESPN? When you go home and see an ad tonight, ask yourself ‘who’s this company’s target demographic? Am I part of it? How are they marketing to them/me?’

III. MEDIA PRESENTATION/DISCUSSION: A rapid-fire presentation on media influences — covering pop culture, consumerism, technology, fast food/obesity, politics/presidential campaign, standards of beauty — which should turn into a larger discussion. (Does media pressure exist in our society, & how does it affect us? What is the relationship between pressure and authority? Who has that power and why do they want it? Does being aware of media pressures/influences — consumerism, corporate bias, etc — make us less susceptible?)


  • Hiroshi Fuji (pop art, consumerism/consumption)
  • Barbara Kruger (consumerism)
  • Lega Delany (environmentalism/advertising)

V. ART ACTIVITY (“Marketing 101”): Break the students up into small groups, handing each one a description of a new product to market (14 year-old pop star, new energy drink, political candidate, etc) and ask them to create a poster introducing their product to the public. (Questions to consider: Who is your target demographic? What is the most effective way to brand your product while appealing to a wide audience? What aspects will you choose to accentuate/underplay? Are these “truthful” depictions? Are they effective?)

**The idea here isn’t to create new, more positive ads (ie the media literacy reading) or super negative ads (like Rob’s chocolate bars), but merely to get the kids thinking about what kinds of products are marketed towards THEM on a daily basis, and by what means.

ML-studentwork          Student work: Advertising 101 (Visionary Studios)

VI. PRESENTATION OF WORK/DISCUSSION: What were the students thinking about when they created their posters? Did they succeed in marketing their products? What products are being marketed to us on a daily basis? Where would you choose to display your ad/in what format, in order to reach your target market?
*Students will pitch their ad campaign to the rest of the class; after each presentation the rest of the class will quickly vote by a show of hands whether they think the ad is successful or not in reaching/persuading its target demographic.


  • Leave them with a final thought & a hook for week ahead! e.g. We asked about food allergies last week — and brought in snacks this week. ASK: Were we bribing them with food? Did it work? (Food for thought!)
  • Introduce homework – get students thinking about their ideas and interests for the final project – have them sketch/write about the 3 pressures that we have explored so far (or ones we have not yey explored) that are of the most interest. Tell them that this drawing/writing is a way of brainstorming ideas that may be expressed in your final project. Start thinking of materials you are interested in working with for your final project.

OPTIONAL MEDIA LITERACY HANDOUT (for anyone interested in exploring this topic for the exhibition):

  • If you’re watching TV (and not fast-forwarding thru the commercials!), pay attention to the ads you’re seeing & why. Are they for Food? Clothes? Technology? Anti-drug PSAs? If you can, write down what you were watching/who you think they were trying to reach.
  • Listening to music? Pay more attention to the lyrics (or what’s going on in the music video). What’s this artist trying to say/what image are they trying to project? Jot down 1-2 things of interest.
  • Following the debates/watching (or reading about) the news? What stories are/aren’t being covered by the various networks/news sites.    *We’ll talk more about politics/the presidential race next week

ML-threeimagepresentationExamples of media/advertising/celebrity.


Screen shot 2013-10-08 at 9.34.50 PM



Standard 1:

  • Know and use a variety of sources for developing and conveying ideas, images, themes, symbols, and events in their creation of art
  • Use the elements and principles of art to communicate specific meanings to others in their art work
  • During the creative process, reflect on the effectiveness of selected mediums or techniques to convey intended meanings
  • Identify and use, in individual and group experiences, some of the roles and means for designing, producing, and exhibiting art works and discuss ways to improve them

Standard 3:

  • Compare the ways ideas and concepts are communicated through visual art with the various ways that those ideas and concepts are manifested in other art forms
  • Compare the ways ideas, themes, and concepts are communicated through the visual arts in other disciplines, and the various ways that those ideas, themes, and concepts are manifested within the discipline

Standard 4:

  • Demonstrate the ways in which some particular art works and artifacts reflect important aspects of the diverse cultures of the United States