Do You Really Approve This Message?


While I appreciate (and did) my civic duty to vote this week, I am relieved that the never-ending political ads are gone!! But a spark of mad genius entered my mind when I thought about how these divisive campaign commercials could be a great learning tool for the concept of persuasive speech for my older students, formerly known as Aspergians, with high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Social Communication Disorder (SCD). Even if you turn off the sound (yes, please!), it’s a great way to look at body language and non-verbal intent as well (particularly with campaign debates). These activities align with several areas of common core for the reading/literacy/language arts strand through middle and high school,(**see list at the bottom of this blogBONUS! You could develop a lesson plan over several sessions to dig deep into these skills and it would be a great in class collaboration lesson if you have a teacher open to it! I might consider using this lesson during student council elections and during the next season of Presidential elections, which will be here before we know it! So how do we begin? You can choose any of the recent commercials such as these, or look up local candidates ads on YouTube (PLEASE preview first): (Gov. Deal) (Michelle Nunn/ David Perdue) (David Perdue/Michelle Nunn) (Jason Carter)

This is a great 3 minute synopsis of comparing campaign ads and the implications of what each commercial is trying to “sell” by an Emory University Poli-Sci professor. I might show this as an example of what we are going to talk about. You can then start your lesson by viewing one commercial and asking the students what they thought the main point of the commercial was. Next, show an opposing candidates commercial and ask the same question. This often leads to a great opportunity to talk about POV, perspective taking and persuasion. This is NOT the time to put your political two cents in the lesson, so be Switzerland and remain neutral!

The next step is to formulate some questions together (using the white board or smartboard is great for this):

1. What is the candidate’s platform (education, political reform, gun control)?

2. What is their opinion of the topic? How are they trying to persuade the listener they are right?

3. Who is the audience the candidate is trying to persuade?

4. What evidence are they giving to support their position?

5. Is it true? How could you check the facts? Should you accept what a commercial says at face value?

6. What bias does the candidate say their opponent has? (sexism, racism, and ageism were all biases discussed during this election)

7. Is it important to discuss the opponent’s point of view or offer a rebuttal? Does it impact the audience?

8. What is the tone of the advertisement? Combative or collaborative?

9. Do you think the commercials were effective considering the outcome of the election?

You can then break the students into smaller collaborative groups (with supervision) and let them walk through the steps above with an opposing candidate. It should generate some good discussions and opportunities to work through misperceptions that may pop up!

** aligns to the common core (Georgia) for English/Language Arts:

7 th grade:

ELACC7SL3: Delineate a speaker’s argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

8th grade:

ELACC8W1: a.Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.a. Introduce claim(s), acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.b. Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.c. Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.d. Establish and maintain a formal style.e. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.

9-10th grade

ELACC9-10SL1: Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions(one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively. a. Come to discussions prepared having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas. b. Work with peers to set rules for collegiate discussions and decision-making (e.g., informal consensus, taking votes on key issues, presentation of alternate views), clear goals and deadlines, and individual roles as needed. c. Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions. d. Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.

ELACC9-10SL2: Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually).

ELACC9-10SL3: Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, identifying any fallacious reasoning or exaggerated or distorted evidence.

11-12th grade:

ELACC11-12SL4: Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range or formal and informal tasks.

ELACC11-12SL5: Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.

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