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Propaganda in the Classroom
Why People Smoke

Suggested Lesson

Below is a suggestion for using the images from cigarette ads.  It allows students to practice visual literacy skills in a way similar to that in the activity, Cartoonist for a Day.

Before you begin, make a copy of one of the images from cigarette ads for each student.  Of course, if you prefer, make copies of a more recent image that you've found someplace else.  If you select a more recent image, remove (or mask) its text.  Doing so will help students more easily focus on the image and its meaning(s).  You should also make copies of the images demonstrating addiction for each student.

  1. Ask your students to take out sheets of paper and write down a list of reasons (one brief sentence stating each) why they think kids start to smoke.  Explain that they will have an opportunity to discuss their ideas shortly, but for now they are to think and write quietly.
  2. Give them up to 5 minutes to complete their lists.
  3. Taking volunteers, have students contribute from their list the one reason that has not yet been stated, that they believe to be the most important.  As each new reason is added, write it on the board, then move on to the next volunteer.
  4. Once all reasons are on the board, lead a group discussion in an attempt to reach a consensus on the most important.
  5. Explain that you are next going to give them an opportunity to seek an answer by looking at an image from a cigarette ad.
  6. Distribute a copy of the ad image you've selected to each student.
  7. Divide the class into groups of 4 or 5 students each.
  8. Instruct the groups that they are to examine the image and attempt to find a consensus on one or two short sentences that explain what the image says about why people might want to smoke.  They will have 15 minutes to complete their work.  The class will then reconvene, and each group will report its conclusions.
  9. Instruct your students to rearrange their seats into discussion circles and begin.  As they work, circulate among them, observing but not participating.
  10. Once the 15 minute period is up, reconvene the class.
  11. Allow each group to report.  Have all students note down the conclusions reached by each group.
  12. When all groups have reported, lead a discussion in an attempt to reach a consensus on a list prioritized from the most to the least important reason.
  13. If you use one of the images I've provided, and the promise I've identified for it has not come up, bring it up for discussion.  You might also want to share some of the additional information from the links I've provided for specific images.  I've chosen links to articles that I believe would make very good reading and discussion assignments.
  14. If you are satisfied with the outcome of this discussion, try it again with one or more of the other images.  You might even want to have students find ad images on their own to bring in to share and discuss.  The tobacco companies make certain that such images are readily available.

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copyright 2001-2005 All Rights Reserved.
original web posting: Saturday, October 27, 2001
last modified: Monday, January 31, 2005