Inspiring Reading and Writing through John Lewis' Christmas Advert 2015

The latest John Lewis Christmas advert was revealed today and again they have delivered with their 'Man on the Moon' film. On the 'Improving Reading and Writing through Popular Children's Movies and Media' Conference with John Murray we discuss how powerful storytelling is and this shouldn't be neglected by focusing purely on the technical aspect of writing. I believe the John Lewis adverts are so popular because each one tells a story. You can read my ideas for the advert in 2014 here, also look at some more ideas on the Christmas Shed. Here is the advert -

What I love about this year's effort, is how powerful the music and the lyrics are. John Murray has kindly put together some questions based on the song and the lyrics, which were originally performed by Oasis. Here is a link to the lyric video -

Questions to consider, this can be used as a pre-reading task, aimed at Upper KS2 -
  • Why do you think the singer wants to leave ‘this city’?
  • Why do you think ‘this old town don’t smell too pretty’?
  • There is a grammatical error here. Can you spot it? 
  • Why do you think this error has been included? 
  • What effect does it have on how the listener feels towards the singer?
  • How do you think ‘this old town’ smells? Draw a picture of the things that might make it smell this way.
  • When somebody is alone and feeling lonely, why might they describe themselves as being on an ‘island’? 
  • How can people feel they are living on an isolated ‘island’ in a city when surrounded by lots of people? Do you sometimes feel this way?
  • Why might you want to leave this situation? What would you want to find/move to instead?
  • Why might this be described as a ‘soul asylum’?
  • Do you think the old man in the video once felt this way? Why do you think he left for the moon? Do you think he found the happiness and friendship he was looking for?
  • What dreams do you think he is still looking for?
  • Why do you think the line ‘half the world away’ is repeated so often.
  • Do you believe him when he says ‘I don’t feel down’? Why? Why not?

Here are some questions to consider for the video - 

  • In the first 5 seconds, how does the girl feel? How do you know? How old is she?
  • In the opening scene, what tells us that one of the characters might have an interest in space?
  • Who do you think owns the telescope?
  • Do you think the girl’s brother will have the same interest? Why not? What computer game might he be playing...Space Invaders?
  • Has she used the telescope before? How do you know?
  • How does she feel when she sees the man on the moon? Why does she wave? 
  • Who do you think the old man is? Why?
  • How old might he be?
  • At 43 seconds, how do we know she is desperate to get home to the telescope? 
  • Do you think the man is lonely? What makes you think this? Has he always been alone?
  • At 56 seconds, what is symbolic of this image and what does it make the girl think to do?
  • Why do you think the girl writes to the old man rather than Santa (which all the other children will be doing at this time of year)? What does this tell us about the girl’s character?
  • What do you think is in the letter? How might it be different to a typical ‘Dear Santa’ letter?
  • Can you think of a way in which she can get the letter to the moon? Predict whether these will work.
  • From which room in the house does she try and send the letter? Why?
  • How does she try and send it? She fails. How do both the girl and the old man feel? How do they show their feelings? Would you feel the same way?
  • What type of Christmas does the girl have? How is it different to the old man? Is this similar to your Christmas? What does Christmas mean to you?
  • What do mum and dad buy the girl for Christmas? 
  • Does the girl like her present? How does she show this?
  • If the girl likes her present so much, why does she give it away? What does this tell us about the girl’s character? Do you think this is a good way to be? Why? Why not?
  • What do you notice about the colour of the moon and the man? How are they linked and what effect does this have? How does this add to our understanding of the character? 
  • How does that change when the present appears? What do you think the present is? 
  • How does the old man feel? Why does he cry? Is crying always a sad thing? 
  • After Christmas is over, do you think the old man and the girl will keep in touch and continue their friendship? 
You could then look at links with other books, either focusing on the man on the moon by using - 

Man on the Moon (a day in the life of Bob) by Simon Bartram. 

Or focus on the relationship between a lonely outsider and a young girl and use something like Mr Stink by David Walliams.

As far as writing opportunities linked with this video there are so many possibilities. Here are a few that have come to mind so far -

  • Write a diary of the Man on the Moon, what does he do each day? How did he get to the moon? Why is he there?
  • What if the man is also the singer of 'Wasn't Expecting that?' plenty of links can be made there. 
  • Write the letter from the girl to the old man.
  • Write the reply from the old man to the girl.
  • Imagine the girl or old man found a rocket ship. Write the story of them visiting each other. 
  • Write a set of instructions for how to survive on the moon. 
  • Look into what it would take to really survive on the moon, create an explanation for why the video is fiction and couldn't happen in real life. 
  • After discussing it with John, he felt the ending could have been different and possibly better. Could the children write an alternative ending?
I think the most important message from the video is to think about people who may not have anyone to celebrate Christmas with. John Lewis have teamed up with Age UK to make this advert. t is important children realise that loneliness effects everyone, including old people. The interview on the Age UK website will help children develop their understanding and empathy with elderly people and consider how they should be treated (not just at Christmas) but throughout the year.

Get the children involved by asking them to write letters that you can take to a local shelter or even arrange a visit to sing Christmas carols or have children spend some time teaching older friends of the school how to use iPads and technology. You may also want to look at the official John Lewis resources here.

You may also be interested in taking part in our Christmas Around the World Project.

I would love to hear how teachers use some of these ideas, so please do share through or twitter @ICT_MrP. Another massive thank you to John for contributing some wonderful ideas. Make sure you check out his website for the CPD he offers. Make sure you join us in January in Newcastle for our next joint conference. If not, we are coming to Peterborough and Cardiff in June. 


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. I have already signposted all our teachers to it.

  2. Utterly inspiring. Thank you

  3. Utterly inspiring. Thank you x

  4. I've been really moved by this ad already, so I'm sure the children will be too. Thanks for all your ideas!


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