Monday, December 22, 2014

But wait! There's more! -- How I Use Infomercials in the Secondary ELA Classroom

Motivational speaking can prove a daunting task to self-conscious teenagers lacking motivation in their own lives.  My students often feel nervous that their peers will judge them for their opinions or that they will forget everything they meant to say.  My motivational speaking unit often lands between my persuasive unit and our team debate, so anxiety runs high as we reach this momentous speech.  A little nervousness is normal and expected, but I began to find students in tears over the pressure of yet another serious speech in front of their classmates.  This year I knew I needed to make a change.

Change does not come easily for me, but I felt sure that I could find a less-stressful -- yet equally valuable -- alternative to a motivational speech.  Then the idea struck.  Infomercials use the same persuasive strategies as formal speeches, and these often-hilarious videos even follow Monroe's Motivated Sequence, the format most widely accepted for motivational speaking.  I decided that an infomercial unit was just what my teens needed.

First, I introduced Monroe's Motivated Sequence to my students and played them several infomercials from YouTube (The Hawaii Chair, Snuggy, ShamWow, and Slap Chop infomercials are some of my personal favorites.).  I asked them to identify the attention, need, satisfaction, visualization, and action for each infomercial, and we discussed how the videos incorporated each of these aspects.

Then I presented their next speech assignment -- Monroe's Motivated Infomercial.  My students invented their own unique products, drafted prototypes, wrote scripts, and filmed their own quirky infomercials using persuasive and motivational techniques.

At the end of the unit, we had an infomercial party and watched the students' videos together.  We had such a fun time laughing together, and nobody felt overwhelmed or judged.  The balance between educational and entertaining was perfect.  You can watch one of their infomercials below:

The variations of this assignment are endless, but this project ranks as one of my favorites so far.  Comment below with your successful public speaking strategies.  I would love to hear your ideas!


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  2. Thank you, Sara! I appreciate your thinking of me, and I hope to have an acceptance post ready by the end of Christmas break. By the way, your blog looks terrific! :)