Another Great Christmas Advert to Develop Emotional Literacy!

The TV is packed with some fantastic adverts in the build up to Christmas. I recently blogged about the Man on the Moon John Lewis advert with the help of John Murray.

We have found another brilliant advert that really pulls at the heart strings! It is another brilliant resource to help develop Emotional Literacy, something we discuss on our joint conference. We have previously blogged about using the song 'Wasn't expecting that,' to develop Emotional Literacy.

Here is the advert -

Before watching the Advert
Set the scene: It is Christmas and you need to phone your dad to tell him you can’t make it. Predict what the message might say and how it will be constructed: Will it be formal or informal? How will it start? What else might you say? How long will it be? How will the message end? Why do you think this? What might you say? How might you say it?

Sit children in pairs back to back. 

Give each learner a copy of the phone message.

Allow the children to read it silently to themselves.  Ask them to think about how they would say the words if they were leaving the message for real. Get them to think about their tone of voice, the pace at which they would speak, which words you would stress and why, would you pause at any point and if so, for how long.

Now practice reading the message to each other back to back. 

Transcript (The phone message translated)

Hello Daddy, it’s me.  
Hello Grandpa!  
I just wanted to call and let you know that we can’t make it for Christmas this year. We’ll try again next year. It’ll work out, I promise. Merry Christmas, Daddy. See you soon. 
Merry Christmas, Grandpa!
It is important that children do not face each other at this point in order that they focus on the pitch and pace of their speech. This technique is also an excellent way in which to develop a keen understanding of how aspects such as audience, purpose, main idea, language choice and style are often interlinked. 

Those learners who can empathise with the character will often demonstrate their better understanding of the text by bringing the text to life. By acting it out will increase their understanding of both the text as whole and specific elements within it. However, those learners who read the text out in a monotone and have difficulty bringing this text to life will often be those who have less emotional dexterity. These readers have often surpassed the decoding stage and are quite able to retrieve literal information. They may also be able to recognise key words and employ basic deductive reasoning skills. But it is with the higher order reading skill of inference that they will have real problems with and, as such, their appreciation and understanding of the text will be limited.

Comprehension Questions based on the answer machine message:

  • Who do you think left the message? To whom did they leave it? Why?
  • Do you think the phrase ‘Hello Daddy’ and ‘Hello Grandpa’ are said the same way? (Notice the difference between the use of a full stop and the exclamation mark). 
  • Why might this not be the case? What might this difference of voices tell us about the how the daughter and granddaughter are feeling and which of the two doesn’t really understand the situation fully? 
  • How old might this suggest the granddaughter is? 
  • Is this echoed again later in the text? How so? 
  • How else does the daughter show that she is trying to be warm and apologetic to her father, even though the message she is delivering is not a very loving one? 
  • What does her use of contractions show us?
  • Now imagine you have received that message. 
  • How do you feel? Why?

You are now ready to watch the advert:

  • Why did the old man miss the phone call?
  • Why do you think he has a dog?
  • When he is preparing his Christmas dinner and looks out of the window, what does he see? How does this make him feel? What do you think he is thinking at this point? Why?
  • How do we know the man was married? What do you think has happened to his wife? Why do you think that? How long has he been on his own?
  • How are you feeling at this point in the film: [A] towards the old man [B] towards his family? Why?
  • Why do you think we see him sat at the head of a long table alone?
  • Why do we see him dressed three different ways while he is eating his Christmas dinner? 
  • What does this tell us about the promise his daughter made?
[After 30 seconds]

  • What family does the old man have?
  • Why might they not be able to see him at Christmas?
- Eldest son: busy with important work as a doctor saving lives
- Youngest son: lives very far away in another country/continent
- Daughter: has a young family to look after
  • Each of his children receives a message:
  • Eldest son: text. Youngest son: phone call. Daughter: letter/card
  • Why do you think it is the eldest child who receives a message first? What do you think the message is? Is it the same message the other two children receive. Why might it not be? How will each of them feel? Why? What will they do next?
  • How does each of the old man’s children show their regret?
[53 seconds]
  • Why are the characters dressed in black outside a church?
  • Why does the daughter hug the youngest brother and not the eldest brother at this point in time?
[1 minute, 5 seconds]

  • When they arrive at the old man’s home, why are the candles on the dinner table lit? Who do you think has lit them? Do you think it is significant that the lit candles are on the dining table and not elsewhere? What might this suggest?
  • Why does the translator use ellipsis when the daughter says ‘Daddy…’ and the granddaughter says ‘Grandpa!’? What does this tell us about [A] How these two characters are feeling and [B] their understanding of the situation itself?
[1 minute, 27 seconds]

  • Why do you think it is left to the eldest son to carve the turkey?
  • Why do you think this is the first time we see the old man happy? 
[The End]

  • What is the last line of the advert?
  • What message/moral is it trying to teach us? Do you agree or disagree with this message? Why? Why not?
  • After you have watched the advert
  • If this had really happened, was the old man right to do what he did to his children? Discuss for and against his actions.

The Song can also be used to as a stimulus, here are the lyrics -

Comprehension Questions
  • The title of this song is Dad. Why do you think the song writer chose such a short and simple title for a song that is quite deep and meaningful? What do you think of when you hear or say the word Dad?

Verse 1:
  • Do you think it is important to tell the people you care about that you love them? Why might some people not do this if it is so important? 
  • It is often said ‘actions speak louder than words.'
  • What do you think this phrase means? 
  • Do you agree or disagree with it? 
  • Why? 
  • How might you apply this to the words left by the daughter in her phone message in the advert?
  • What lesson might this have about our promises?

Verse 2:
  • Lines 1-2: How is the passage of time shown? What is important to the singer at this point of time? What do you think her ‘goals’ were? Do you think they are the same now? Why? Why not?
  • Lines 3-4: What do you think these two lines mean? Explain them in your own words to a partner. How might this happen in your life?
  • Why do you think the singer says this is a sad song? Do you agree with her? Why?
  • Where do you think her Dad is?

Verse 3:
  • What is the difference between a house and a home? What really makes a home a home?

Verse 4:
  • Why do you think the last verse is a single line? 
  • Why do you think it starts with the statement ‘Truth is’ but then quickly uses an ellipses? 
  • Do we see a similar literary device in the advert? 
  • How effective is it? Why? 
  • What line from Verse 3 is repeated here? 
  • Why do you think the song writer chose to do this? 

Further links to the advert:
  • Do you think this was a good song choice to use for the German Christmas advert? Why? Why not? 
  • How does its message of the song link to the moral or the advert? What theme do they have in common?
  • Is there anything about the song and advert that are different? One ends happily whereas the other is sad throughout. Do you think using this song enhanced the overall idea/message of the advert in any way? How so?

Writing Activities - 

  • Imagine the Old Man keeps a diary, ask the children to write a diary entry as the Old Man talking about his feelings and what he decided to do.
  • Use this idea of text messaging to help children write a conversation between the brother and sister using direct speech.

  • Ask the children to write a heartfelt letter of apology using informal contracted speech as on of the old man's children saying sorry for their actions and that they understand why he did what he did.
  • Ask the children to think about what Christmas really means. Ask them to think about someone they want to spend Christmas with and get them to write a letter explaining why they are appreciated and loved. 
  • Allow the children to watch the German advert and the John Lewis ask them to write a discussion text where they decide which advert they prefer and why?
  • The storytelling technique used is a twist ending. Challenge the children to take a familiar story and rewrite with a twist at the end. This blog post may give you some inspiration. 
  • Use the old man character to encourage a discussion about growing old. Ask the children to think about what they want to achieve when they grow old. The children could even use an app to turn themselves into an old person and record themselves talking about their lives. Read about this here.

  • Ask the children to write their own persuasive letter to try and raise awareness about people who spend Christmas alone. Maybe use an app like Tellagami to turn it into a TV advert. 

A massive Thank You to John Murray for all his amazing ideas with this blog. If you haven't had John into your school to lead reading, spelling or SPAG training, you should. As you can see from this blog post his ideas are fantastic!


Please click the images to read more about what John can offer!

You may also be interested in the joint conference we are leading in Newcastle, Peterborough and South Wales in 2016 -



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