Lesson Plan: Recognizing PropagandaLoaded Language
Student Resource: Ad
for Abdominal Strengthening Machine
Media Type: Print Advertisement
Health Topic: Consumer Health
After completing this lesson, students will be able to:
- Discuss strategies for toning muscles and controlling
- Recognize claims for weight-loss and exercise devices
that are too good to be true.
- Apply the media literacy skill of recognizing propaganda
(loaded language) to a print ad for an abdominal toning
Introducing the Lesson
If possible, videotapeor have a student volunteer videotapea
TV commercial for a product that seems too good to be true.
Possibilities include a magical stain remover, cleaner, or
weight-loss formula that promises results virtually overnight.
(Alternatively, you may ask students to clip or downloaded
print ads for such products). Have students analyze the claims
made in the ad. Ask: What does this product promise to do?
Is this a promise you think the product likely delivers on?
Why or why not?
On the board, write the acronym FCC. Ask whether students
know what these initials stand for (Federal Communications
Commission). Reveal that this is a government-funded independent
agency responsible for ensuring truth in advertising. Observe
that despite the efforts of this watchdog group, advertisers
sometimes stretch the truth. Note that one way in which they
do this is by using loaded language in their ads. Explain
that loaded language is a form of propaganda, the use
of false or misleading claims to achieve a specific goalin
this case, the selling of goods.
Note the following features of loaded language:
- Inflated or boastful language. Point out that
in print, such language can usually be spotted by the liberal
use of exclamation pointssometimes more than oneat
the end of sentences and phrases. Words such as amazing
and incredible are also examples of loaded language.
- Claims that sound too good to be true. Explain
that advertisers in particular will sometimes "stack
the deck" in their favor be promising immediate results
or other claims that fly in the face of reason. They will
be equally enthusiastic in their attack on competing products.
Assign the following to student groups to use in their media
analysis. You may either follow up the analysis with a class
discussion of group answers, or may assign the analysis to
be applied by individual students to another media construction
- Awareness. What specific group or individual do
you think this message is aimed at? Find language in the
ad that supports your claim.
- Analysis. List examples of loaded language you
can identify in the ad. Do you think the health information
is reliable and trustworthy? What information, if any, has
been left out?
- Evaluation. Do you think this construction is sending
a positive health message? Why or why not? What human weaknesses
is the message playing on? Explain.
- Communication. What is your overall reaction to
the ad? How would you reinterpret the last two words in
the ad if you were giving advice to a friend on whether
to buy this product?
Applying Media Skills
The claims used by the advertisers to promote the Ab-Grabber
are based on unsupported information. One such claim appears
in the final sentence of the first paragraph and is part of
an attack on competitors.
Working with a group of classmates and using reliable health
resources, compare other claims made in this ad with information
from your source about toning up abdominal muscles. In particular,
investigate the following:
- Whether all of the groups of abdominal musclesthe
upper abs, lower abs, and obliquescan be toned using
a single machine or device.
- Whether toning the abdominal muscles alone will give a
person who is overweight a lean, "rock-hard" look.
- How long it takes to tone out-of-shape abdominal muscles.
Concert your findings into a "counter-ad" for the
Ab-Grabber. Add illustrations to your ad to demonstrate the
facts you iclude.