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1 — What do we know about being persuasive?

In this sequence, the students will participate in a set of introductory interactive activities aimed at ascertaining their background knowledge of persuasive techniques. ACELY1804

The persuasive techniques identified by the students through the activities will provide a starting point for this unit that explores the masters of persuasion: advertisers. The overarching inquiry question and theme of this unit is consumer culture: are we being bought? Students will explore how advertisers use persuasive techniques to ‘buy our affections’ and in doing so make us want to buy their products and use their services. 

This sequence draws on the General Capabilities of Literacy and Personal and Social Capability.

Activity 1: Elevator pitch

Tell the students they will be working in pairs and will have 30 seconds (simulating the time one would spend in an elevator ride) to sell an idea to each other. Explain that the purpose of the activity is to be as persuasive as possible in this short amount of time. They will only have 10 seconds to prepare and must draw on their prior knowledge of persuasive techniques to assist them. Present the students with an idea and start the timer.

Example idea for student A: School starts too early. Persuade your partner that the school day should begin at 11.00 am. When the 30 seconds are up, call ‘time’ and explain that student B will now have a turn with a different idea. Once again, time to prepare will be limited to 10 seconds.

Example idea for student B: Chocolate makes the perfect breakfast meal. On completion of both pitches and working in pairs, ask the students to reflect on, and then list, the ways that they were persuasive. They can list the techniques and ideas on sticky notes. When the students have completed the task, the sticky notes can be placed on a whiteboard or a wall in the classroom and the different ideas can be shared with the whole class.

Explain that the students will now have another go at this activity using the inside/outside circle routine. This time, the topics will be more challenging and it may be harder to be as persuasive. This activity will reveal further techniques of persuasion, including hyperbole, parody and humour (note that the metalanguage applied to concepts such as figurative language may need to be made explicit).

Activity 2: Inside/outside the circle

In this activity the students will form two circles where the students on the inside circle (group A) will sit or stand facing those on the outside (group B). Once again the challenge will be, ‘You have 30 seconds to persuade your partner that ...’ Group B students will have paper and a pen and are to write down the persuasive techniques that the speakers use. Group A students will be doing the speaking. Give them some speaking prompts. The ideas can progressively become more challenging and after each prompt, the students in the outside circle will move clockwise to work with a new partner. Students could be presented with the prompt and then the position that they are going to take (either for or against), the idea being that those recording will have the opportunity to record ideas and approaches from different students in the class.

Note: To give all students the opportunity to experience both the inside and outside circle roles, the roles can be swapped every second turn.

Television makes people lazy.

Brushing your teeth with toothpaste is really not necessary.

We should be able to keep wild animals as pets.

We are overly reliant on motor transport and people should walk more.

Celebrities make wonderful role models.

Dangerous sports receive bad press.

Physical books are a thing of the past. E-books will replace them.

Activity 3: Sorting and grouping

The students return to their original pairings from Activity 1. Based on the notes taken by group A students and the experiences of group B students in the inside/outside circle activity, students will write any new ideas on sticky notes and add these to the whiteboard or wall.

With student support, rearrange the sticky notes so that they are classified in some way. For example:

Use this classification strategy to group and narrow down items and begin to create a classroom anchor chart or poster of persuasive techniques to display in the classroom. This chart will be updated as thinking grows in this unit.

There will be few, or many, categories at this point, based on the prior experiences of the students. This activity can be used to track student background knowledge and understanding at this early stage in the unit and to inform you of the level of teaching required in regard to specific persuasive techniques.

Photograph of a baby chewing on a credit card

Above: Food for the Wallet, photo by Dinkel CC-BY-2.0

Connection to the inquiry topic

Introduce the overarching inquiry topic: ‘Consumer culture: Are we being bought?’ Share the above image as a visual representation of consumer culture and the inquiry topic. Explain that advertisers use a range of persuasive marketing strategies to attract our attention, and often it takes less than 30 seconds for us to be drawn in. In print, audio and visual advertisements, techniques are combined cleverly to grab our attention. The language used by advertisers is persuasive and the key purpose of advertising is to persuade. Explain that the students will be critically exploring these techniques as we inquire into advertising and become more informed consumers along the way.