Ad Break is a simple activity which gets students working together in a project-like way. It can be completed in a longer lesson (say 2 hours).
The idea is that students will practice language they’ve been learning by putting it together to create a television commercial. You can tailor the subject, setting or specific aspects of the dialogue to suit the class.
The activity then allows students to practice all the four language skills in context. In other words, English is used as a medium rather than an end in itself. It’s good fun and encourages inventiveness.
Brainstorm some popular advertisements on television which the students are familiar with. Get them to relate the storyline and cover the main aspects. A good “standard” TV commercial can follow this general pattern:
- The situation is set up and there’s a problem
- The product is brought in to solve the problem
- The problem is solved and everyone’s happy
Elicit from the class the main rules a good commercial will follow:
- it’s 30 seconds long
- it’s simple
- the dialog is brief
- the product is emphasized again and again
If possible, you can show some advertisements on a PC, etc. for the class to analyze and discuss. (YouTube has plenty!)
Running the Activity
Once the class have a good idea of what a basic TV commercial will include, you can divide them into small groups and give them their products. You can choose to have all the groups use the same product or you can vary them.
- washing powder
- chocolate bar
- the English school
- chewing gum
- etc, etc
Ideally the product should be related to what the class has been studying recently and the kind of product the class is likely to use. As a class you can talk about the pros and cons of the product and the characteristics which are likely to make it a best seller; or you may want to leave this for the group to work out themselves.
First they need to create a script. The groups must come up with an idea, prepare some dialogue and so on. As you circulate, emphasize that the commercial is only 30 seconds long so they don’t need to go overboard here and they need to keep things simple and direct.
In this phase encourage them to come up with a slogan for the product.
Next the groups should have some time to cast and rehearse their advertisement. There is an option to film them, but for ease of use the class will act out their commercials as mini-plays. Encourage props and inventiveness here and one proviso – every member of the group needs to be in the commercial!
Finally the groups will perform their commercials for the rest of the class. They can be judged on whether they got the product over well enough, whether it was an entertaining and/or original and so on.
Variations on a Theme
- Of course the commercials can be filmed.
- Give each group a different product but don’t let other groups know what it is; after their commercial is shown see if the rest of the class could understand what was on offer.
- Extend the ad campaign into print/billboard
Plays in the Classroom – a longer type of activity