A Telecollaboration Lesson for 10th Grade Language Arts

Designed by
Carol Boehm
, Lucinda Leaman & Susan Connell

Introduction | Learners | Standards | Partners | Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion | Credits


This lesson was developed as part of the requirements for EDTEC 570, Advanced Teaching with Technology.

This is a project that addresses the need to develop media awareness and critical thinking skills in students in high school. There exists a disconnect between the academic curriculum and students' social curriculum. The study of advertising bridges that gap. Students learn to effectively use critical thinking skills to analyze, categorize, evaluate and produce advertising. Since advertising is ubiquitous and part of all of our social curricula, it serves as an intriguing and fascinating subject of study. Since advertising also represents our beliefs, values and culture, students need to closely examine the sources, construction and implications of media messages.

Collaboration is the core of constructing meaning in our schools and workplaces today. All of our students bring unique experiences, values and expectations to the classroom. By participating in collaborative projects students learn to share their perspectives and to respect difference. This lesson not only emphasizes face-to-face classroom interactions but also collaboration with students in another culture in order to enhance understanding of cultural differences and similarities.

For this project, writing is seen as a means of making meaning. It is also a process not simply a product. In this course students will be examining the language of images along with the language of writing. Active participation in this project will enhance and extend writing skills.


All our students have extensive experience with advertising. Even those who shun television are bombarded by ads. Because this prior knowledge exists we need few prerequisites or other prior knowledge to implement this project.

Because this is designed as a telecollaborative project, students with experience with computers and communication tools will have an advantage over those that lack that experience. By working in a group each student has the opportunity to excel at activities they have an aptitude for and to increase their learning in areas in which they have less experience or inclination. Our experiences with collaborative learning vividly illustrate that when students work together and are accountable to each other they all benefit.

The project is anchored in language arts, but extends to other disciplines and studies such as economics, social studies, second language study, and art. This is designed for students enrolled in 10th grade English but can be adapted and adopted by instructors in other disciplines and at other levels.

Curriculum Standards

SWBAT - Students will be able to...

  • Read a wide variety of print and non-print contemporary materials
  • Appreciate the culture of the United States and another country. They will learn to respect varieties of language across cultural, national, economic, ethnic, and geographic groups
  • Analyze media messages
  • Effectively use communication skills to communicate with fellow classroom students and with students from a different culture using standard language structures and conventions
  • Communicate with a variety of audiences for different purposes
  • Effectively use figurative language, graphics and sound to create coherent media messages
  • Use language for meaning making, communicating, persuasion, and reflection
  • Use databases, texts and popular cultural materials to gather and synthesize information

Link: National Council of Teachers of English

Types of Thinking

To participate effectively in this project, students will need to organize, interpret, predict, summarize, examine, illustrate and apply information. They will need to negotiate meaning, make inferences, evaluate validity of sources, and adapt and apply understanding to new situations and contexts.


The students involved in this project will be using synchronous and asynchronous communication tools, Their telecollaborators will be members of a writing course in Japan who speak and write English as a second language. Classroom activities are also collaborative. Students will work primarily in small groups. They will present their projects, hypothesis, and opinions to the class as a whole and to their corresponding classmates in Japan.


Peer critique

Action sequence:

  • Prefer** collaborate/ co-construct
  • Electronic publishing
  • Parallel problem solving

This lesson is based on the Activity Structure Global classrooms and the collect, share, and compare Action Sequence as described by Judi Harris.

This project is an introductory lesson in a series of lessons involving examining and evaluating media including television, newspapers, movies and other forms of media. A critical element is the production of new printed media through collaboration with students in another country.


Pre-Lesson Preparation

Telecollaborative Resources:

  • The instructor needs to post a notice on ePals at least 2 weeks in advance of the beginning of the lesson to arrange and confirm a class interested in participating in the lesson.
  • Ensure that e-mail accounts are established for each student.
  • Have a contingency plan in place to group students in case the collaborative class differs significantly in size.
  • Make sure each computer is functioning properly, that the software/browsers are uniform and accessible to each group.
  • Distribute lesson expectation/goals for the class in the form of a rubric.

Lesson Preparedness:

  • Prepare Graphing template(s) for compiling data related to target categories and information.
  • Introduce the topic and allow class discussion related to printed advertising in teen magazines. Items for discussion might include gender issues, misrepresentation in advertising, relationship of numbers of ads to articles in teen magazines.
  • Query the class for opinions as to whether or not the same relationship of ads to articles, gender issues relating to presentation of products and misleading claims exists in other commercialized countries.
  • Introduce the project and request that each student bring a teen magazine that they would like to use for their collaboration to class for the duration of the project
  • With the collaborative teacher, match student's magazine selections to assign partners or small groups. Those without a matching genre can then be paired to provide a product to audience comparison.
Day 1

Introduction of critical media literacy questions:

  1. Who is the author/originator of the ad and what is the purpose of the message?
  2. What techniques are used to attract your attention?
  3. What lifestyles, values and points of view are represented?
  4. How might different people interpret the message differently
  5. What and who are omitted?

Link: Babson College Media Literacy Project

Students will examine ads in a variety of teen magazines and

  1. Count the ads and compare with pages of content - what are the differences between content and ads?
  2. What products are advertised? Are they different in different magazines? How? Is the same product shown differently in another type of magazine?
  3. Students in small groups graph the number of pages of ads vs. number of pages of articles
  4. Students categorize ads by product and articles by topic
  5. Students graph the ads showing numbers and content by topic
  6. Groups compare their graphs
  7. Groups collaborate to create a graph for the average number of ads for a particular product and the number of pages for a type of article.

Discussion: Small groups at first then whole class. Media Literacy concept #1 All media are constructions and # 4 Media have commercial implications

Journal Writing: On topics of discussion

Distance Collaboration: Groups will email distance collaborators including graphs and explanations for reading the graphs

Day 2

Introduce persuasive strategies

  • Bandwagon: Join the crowd. Everyone is buying it/using it/doing it.
  • Testimonial: A famous person or authority claims the product is good.
  • Image Advertising: A product is associated with certain people, places, and activities. The implied message is one of attractiveness, wealth, enjoyment, etc.
  • Weasel: A promise is implied by using words like "usually" or "chances are."
  • Omission: Facts about the product are not told.
  • Repetition: Saying it again and again.
  • Scale: Making a product bigger or smaller.
  • Association: Promising adventure, attractiveness, quality.
  • Name-calling: Making the product seem better by using unpopular terms about the competition.

Link: Common Advertising Strategies from the Media Awareness Network

Teacher models some ads and showing how they use the persuasive strategies

  1. Students in small groups categorize the ads in their magazines by type of persuasion used.
  2. Students in small groups create and graph or chart using the information from #3.
  3. Students in small groups discuss the implications of the ads. Students in small groups, examine the ads and the context. What lifestyles are promoted? What values can you infer from the ads?
  4. Students choose one person from an ad and create a day in the life of this person. They will compare and contrast the 'day in the life' with their own lives.

Discussion: Students in small groups then whole class: Media Literacy Concepts #2 The media construct reality and #6 Media have social and political implications

Journal writing: on same discussion topic

Distance collaboration: Students send their charts and explanations to their distance collaborative group

Day 3

Introduction of media literacy key concepts

  1. All media are constructions
  2. The media construct reality
  3. Audiences negotiate meaning in the media
  4. Media have commercial implications
  5. Media contain ideological and value messages
  6. Media have social and political implications
  7. Form and content are closely related
  8. Each medium has a unique esthetic form

Link: Media Literacy Key Concepts from the Media Awareness Network

For this exercise students will study concept #7

Students examine the composition of the ads. What are the elements? People, posture, position, etc.

Main Elements to consider

  1. Product
  2. Placement
  3. Package
  4. Purchaser
  5. Pitch/persuasion

Also consider

  1. color
  2. composition


  1. Students in small groups look at ads and ask questions about the composition
    What common elements can they find?
  2. Students brainstorm all the places we can find advertising
  3. Students compare print ads with other ads such as commercials, product placements in movies, blimps etc. How are they similar and how are they the same?

Discussion: Students in small groups and then whole class list codes and conventions of print ads

Projects: Students create or choose a product and develop a print ad for the product using a word processor, page layout program or paper/collage techniques depending on the availability of resources.

Distance Collaboration:
Students photograph and scan ads to send with their email to their partners overseas

Day 4

Who is the target audience?

  1. Students in small groups examine a wide variety of magazines and the ads in each.
  2. Students compare and contrast the ads with what they discovered about teen magazines (content analysis)
  3. Students examine ads to determine the target audience (gender, age, socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, etc.
  4. Students graph numbers again
    Number of pages of content to number of pages of content
    Number of ads of each type of product
  5. Students determine target audience for each group of ads

Discussion: Students compare and contrast the strategies used to reach each target audience

Project: Students in small groups choose several ads targeting different groups, and change the ads so that they appeal to a different target audience (instead of adults, target children, etc.)

Distance collaborators: Students send scans of their altered ads to their counterparts overseas

Journal writing: Explain how ads target different groups

Day 5

Production: Students will examine the Adbusters ads at:

Link: http://adbusters.org/creativeresistance/spoofads/

Students will create anti-ads and post to their counterparts either through email or if possible by posting to a web site

Journal Writing: How much of a consumer am I? What do I buy and why? If I were in another country how would my wants and needs differ?

Day 6

Final exchange of tabulated data using Excel and conclusions

Are ads in teen magazines significantly different in Europe or Japan than the US? Students will support their conclusions.

Small groups discuss the similarities and differences between the ads their Japanese collaborators have sent, their writing and their conclusions about ads.

Students prepare a Venn Diagram showing the differences and similarities between ads for teens in Japan and the home group.

Students in whole class discuss their conclusions about Japanese and US teen ads and cultural implications

Post Lesson Wrap Up

Students will design Web Pages about their experience or map Web Pages on paper showing each stage of the learning, comparing and contrasting opinions, values, expectations and experiences. Using effective design and incorporating graphics and text students will illustrate their experiences. This will be included in their ongoing portfolios.

Group Work Adaptation

Students are paired according to the type of teen magazine they select for the project. Small groups may also be used, particularly if there are students that are not as skilled in computer usage. Those students or groups that don't have a matching magazine counterpart are then paired to provide contrasting data not available from the matching groups.

Possible challenges include the idiosyncrasies of technology, linguistic misunderstanding, and communication styles and aptitudes. Just as working in collaborative groups will help those students less familiar with technology so will they overcome language obstacles and cultural differences. It is up to the instructor to guide and facilitate insight into the challenges and to help students to surmount the difficulties

If there are problems with the collaborating school, a school or ePal within the US can be used for this lesson. If necessary, the lesson still has merit without the collaboration aspect, but is not optimal. If a partner is not available mid-lesson, the activities have enough flexibility for individual reassignment to a small group to finish the lesson. Nice!
What skills does a teacher need in order to pull this lesson off? Is it easy enough for a novice teacher? Does it require some experience with directing debates or role-plays, for example?


If enough computers are available the web sites provided in the lesson plan should be used by student groups. In this way they will develop ownership of the material and of their learning. If only a few computers are available then the instructor needs to present the concepts and model examples.

Resources Needed

Human Resources

This unit can be completed with one instructor. If aides are available, they can assist by moderating discussion groups and facilitating distance collaboration logistics.

The Tools

  • E-mail accounts for all students
  • Software:
    • Web browser for each computer (Internet Explorer 4.0/Netscape Navigator 4.0 or greater - or equivalent)
    • Text editing/word processing software
    • Page layout software such as Microsoft Publisher, Adobe PageMaker, AppleWorks (Optional, can use full featured word processor instead.)
    • HTML/Web Design Software such as Dreamweaver or Mozilla (Optional if sufficient resources are available. Traditional paper alternatives have been noted where applicable.)
  • Computers with internet connectivity, headphones and microphones
  • Links to ad sites
  • Links to clip art sites for ad creation projects
  • Print ad materials
  • Scanners or digital cameras



Evaluation of the students for the project will be based on the following items and grading can be determined using the rubric provided.

  • On-going formative evaluations
  • Self assessments
  • Portfolio (at the end of the unit on advertising)
  • Web Pages

Grading Rubric (100 Points Possible)

Ad Analysis

1-12 Points

Uses provided publication. Provide partial analysis of ads using either narrative or graphing tools. Incomplete categorization of ads and editorial content. Incomplete or superficial summary of findings.

13-17 Points

Select publication. Provide analysis of ads using narrative and graphing tools. Categorize most ad and editorial content by product type and topic respectively. Categorize types of ads. Describe findings coherently and in some detail.

18-20 Points

Select appropriate publication. Provide thorough analysis of ads using narrative and graphing tools. Categorize all display advertising (no need to do classifieds) and editorial content correctly by product type and topic respectively. Categorize types of ads. Concisely and completely provide an in-depth description of findings.

Distance Collaboration

1-9 Points

Student contact with ePals is limited to 2 or fewer e-mails. Not able to address more than one point of comparison with ePal input.

10-13 Points

Student exchanges moderate information with ePals in 3 to 4 e-mails. Provides information gleaned from those exchanges in ad analysis and discussion.

14-15 Points

Student actively engages in correspondence with ePals with 5-10 e-mails exchanged. Student demonstrates understanding of ePal perspective as indicated by providing 3 or more comparison points in ad analysis narrative.

Discussion Participation

1-6 Points

Student participates minimally in discussions.

7-8 Points

Student participates in at least 2-3 of the discussions.

9-10 Points

Student actively contributes to at least 3 of the 4 planned discussions.


1-6 Points

Student journal entries are limited and syntactically flawed.

7-8 Points

Student has 2-3 journal entries of 100-300 words demonstrating coherent views. Generally good syntax and vocabulary with some errors.

9-10 Points

Student has at least four journal entries of 100-300 words reflecting careful consideration of the subject, grade appropriate vocabulary, correct spelling and good grammar.

New Ad Project

1-9 Points

Project is incomplete, syntactically flawed and misses most of the key elements: product, placement, packaging, the purchasing audience and a persuasive pitch as well as color and composition.

10-13 Points

Project is a complete, syntactically adequate, ad that shows consideration of most of these elements: product, placement, packaging, the purchasing audience and a persuasive pitch as well as color and composition.

14-15 Points

Project is a complete, syntactically correct, ad that shows creative thought and consideration of product, placement, packaging, the purchasing audience and a persuasive pitch as well as color and composition.

Re-Target Ad Project

1-9 Points

Project is incomplete, syntactically flawed and misses most of the key elements from previous project or understanding of the target audiences.

10-13 Points

Project is a complete, syntactically adequate, ad that shows consideration of most of the key elements from previous project as well as some understanding of the target audiences.

14-15 Points

Project is a complete, syntactically correct, ad that shows creative thought and consideration of key elements from previous project as well as understanding of the target audiences.

Anti-Ad Project

1-9 Points

Project is incomplete, syntactically flawed and misses most of the key elements: product, placement, packaging, the purchasing audience and a persuasive pitch as well as color and composition.

10-13 Points

Project is a complete, syntactically adequate, ad that shows consideration of most of these elements: product, placement, packaging, the purchasing audience and a persuasive pitch as well as color and composition.

14-15 Points

Project is a complete, syntactically correct, ad that shows creative thought and consideration of product, placement, packaging, the purchasing audience and a persuasive pitch as well as color and composition.


Credits & References

Photos used on this web site are from Photos.com and used by permission.

We all benefit by being generous with our work. Permission is hereby granted for other educators to copy this lesson, update or otherwise modify it, and post it elsewhere provided that the original author's name is retained along with a link back to the original URL of this lesson. On the line after the original author's name, you may add Modified by (your name) on (date). If you do modify it, please let me know and provide the new URL.

Last updated on Sunday, June 15, 2003 8:30 PM . Based on a template from EDTEC 570 at SDSU