It is nearing the festive season and as always our televisions are full of some Christmas themed adverts. They have almost a tradition in themselves. For a number of years, I have blogged ideas for using these adverts in class. Despite seeing plenty of other blogs, I thought I would share some ideas that have a unique text-centric approach.
Here are some of the previous blog posts about Christmas themed adverts:
Developing Emotional Literacy through a great Christmas Advert
John Lewis Christmas Advert 2015
John Lewis Christmas Advert 2014
Sainsbury's Christmas Advert 2014
With all the work I now do with John Murray, my approach to using visuals in class has changed somewhat. Film can be a very powerful tool in the classroom, I talk about how motivating it can be for children when it comes to writing. However, the more I see it used in classrooms and the more I see ideas being blogged and shared, the more I see it being misused and in some cases detrimental to learning in English.
As we talk about through our READWRITEPERFORM approach, visual literacy can enhance, it can give a reference and it can give context but it CANNOT replace text. Using these adverts and asking questions is not Reading Comprehension. Reading Comprehension is understanding text. Both myself and John are working with schools who have tried replacing text with film and are now finding that their students are struggling with reading comprehension. Through this blog post, I want to demonstrate the approach echoed in READWRITEPERFORM and provide some ideas for how to use these adverts with a text being king.
So let's start with probably the most famous and anticipated Christmas advert - John Lewis. It seems they have decided on a much more light-hearted approach this year. Initially, I wasn't going to blog about the advert. Don't get me wrong, I love it, I think it is a great advert. The problem is there is no text. Despite this, what I would suggest is creating your own. This is why I would be looking at Year 1/2 for this example. At this stage, pupils are still transitioning from the mechanics (decoding) to the understanding (higher order reading skills - DIAL.) Therefore, this video can allow children to discuss and think more in relation to those higher order reading skills. Once children have mastered the mechanics, understanding should come through text. For more on this, please read John Murray's notes in the Christmas Letter Teaching Pack.
So watch the clip and ask the following questions:
Pause at 10 seconds.
- What does the young girl love to do? How do we know?
- What might be on her Christmas List?
- What do you think the dog is thinking when he is watching the girl?
- Why does Mum tell the girl to stop?
- What has Dad built for the girl?
- Why has Santa not delivered this gift? (This is a tricky question and actually got quite a backlash online. I feel it is easily explainable by either suggesting Santa delivered it early for it to be built, it was too big to fit in the sleigh, the girl had already written her Christmas letter and this was a surprise from the parents)
- How does Dad feel as he is building it? How do you know?
Pause at 1 minute 25 seconds.
- Can we name all the animals that go onto the trampoline?
- Are there any similarities about the animal? This could open up a discussion about nocturnal animals. Are all the animals nocturnal? How do we know?
- How do the foxes feel when they first step onto the trampoline? Why do you think this?
- Do you think foxes and badgers usually get on? Why do they decide to be nice to each other?
- How does buster feel watching from inside? How do we know?
- What day is it? How do we know?
- How is the little girl feeling? How do you know?
- What do you think Buster will do?
- How does the girl and her parents react when Buster jumps on the trampoline?
- How do we know this?
- Why do you think they are so shocked? Link to Buster at the start and how obedient he is.
- Do you like the advert? Why?
- What is the message that John Lewis wants to get across through the advert?
Can we think of some words for what Buster does on the trampoline:
Jump, leap, bounce...
Once you have had the discussion about the film, we can now introduce some text:
Print out and photocopy the following sentences and in groups ask the children to put them into chronological order. The sentences are simple to support children with decoding.
Buster runs onto the trampoline and jumps up and down.
Buster watches the girl jump on her bed.
Buster is sad watching animals bounce on the trampoline.
Dad makes a trampoline in the garden.
This activity will start getting children to understand the structure of a narrative and ordering stories in chronological order.
One element I do like about the advert is the accompanying VR video. You could allow children to watch and view the 360 video as a way to inspire some writing.
You may want to turn the children into the nocturnal animals by using the app Chatterkid and allowing them to orally recount the night they went on the trampoline.
Here is a video of the app in action with children in Nursery:
Nursery as the Three Little Pigs from Davyhulme Primary School on Vimeo.
Aldi's - Kevin The Carrot
Love love love this! Why? Has text within that we can deconstruct and discuss along with the visual. So with this, I would be looking at Year 3/4 for this one.
Pause at 13 seconds.
'Twas the night before ChristmasA carrot gazed at the sky,Thinking..."I could meet Santa!When he gets his Mince Pie."
- What day is it?
- Look at the word 'Twas. What is unusual about it? Why has the author started with this word?
- How do we know it is a contraction?
- Do you know of any other stories that start that way? Make links to the poem, the Night Before Christmas. I will hopefully blog about this poem soon.
- What type of text are we reading? How do we know?
- What is the rhyming pattern?
- Look at the word 'gazed,' on a scale of 1-5 where would you put this, why?
- What has the family left out for Santa?
- Why have they left it next to the fireplace?
- What will Kevin have to do to get to the Mince Pie, can we make a prediction?
Pause at 30 seconds.
But a Christmassy Spread
Though a joy to us all,
Can be quite scary
When you're three inches tall.
- How does Kevin feel about his journey? How do we know?
- What is a 'Christmassy spread?'
- Can you find the adverb in the third line? Why do you think the author has chosen this word?
- On a scale of 1-5, where would you put the word 'scary'?
- What is the contraction in the last line?
- How big is three inches?
- On your whiteboards, can you write a simile to describe the roast potatoes chasing Kevin.
- What might the grater be used for at a Christmas dinner?
Pause at 47 seconds.
Still our carrot went forth,
On his dangerous quest,
And soldiered on bravely,
To the chimney breast.
He finally arrived,
Though exhausted methinks,
As he said to himself,
"Just a quick forty winks."
- What does the phrase 'went forth' mean? Does it sound formal? Have you heard it before? Why do you think the author has chosen it?
- Find the adjective to describe the quest.
- On a scale of 1-5, where would you put the word quest? What else could we have used? Why do you think the author chose quest?
- Why has the author used the verb soldiered? What effect does this have?
- What is the adverb used to describe it? What does this tell us about the quest?
- On a scale of 1-5, where would you put the word 'exhausted'?
- Discuss the word 'methinks' is this a modern word? Why has the author chosen to use this?
- What does Kevin mean when he says forty winks?
Then all of a sudden,
Young carrot awoke,
Flying high over London,
Or Glasgow, Or Stoke.
So the sleigh flew much faster
That cold Christmas Eve,
Powered on by a carrot,
We like to believe.
- What has happened to Kevin?
- Why has the author used the conjunction 'or'?
- Why do London, Glasgow and Stoke all have capital letters?
- Which word is used to describe the Christmas Eve?
- Why do you think the sleigh flew much fast?
- Do you think this story is real? What evidence in the text makes us think not?
- What does Aldi sell?
- Why do you think they chose a carrot as the main character?
- Why do you think they chose to name him Kevin?
- Do you like the advert? Give reasons for your answer.
As far as writing opportunities, I would do a similar project to 'Honey, I shrunk the class' greenscreen project we did, imagining what it must be like to be three inches tall.
Sainsbury's - The Greatest Gift
Love this advert! A whole song to deconstruct and enjoy so let's look at it:
Pause at 46 seconds
Another year over, where do they go to, it's a mysteryNow it's December, so much to remember before Christmas EveI'm already late, and my train is delayed, disruption on the lineI race into work and the place is berserk, yes it's Christmas timeI wanna find the greatest gift I can give my familyBut right now I don't have time to breathe
- What does the first line of the song imply? Time moves quickly
- Why does the singer use the word mystery?
- What does he need to remember before Christmas Eve?
- Why is he late?
- What does the word disruption mean?
- Why has he chose the word 'race' to describe how he went to work?
- On a scale of 1-5, how effective is the word berserk?
- Why is his work berserk at Christmas?
- Why does he want the greatest gift for his family?
- What does he mean by the phrase 'don't have time to breathe'?
Pause at 1 minute 57 seconds:
The streets are chaotic, the shops idiotic, there's a queue for the queue
A granny's taking her time at the front of the line ('Ninety-one... ninety-two...')
There's a party at work and the manager's twerking inappropriately
To top off the day, another train is delayed, it's a catastrophe
Christmas time is here, I'd like to spend the time with the ones I love so dear
I'm trying to find the greatest gift I can give my family
I don't have time, there's only one of me
Tell me how do people do it all, I'll never get it done
If only there was a way to be in two places at once...
Wait... that gives me an idea!
- What do the words chaotic and idiotic mean? Do you think they are effective word choices?
- What is 'there's' a contraction of?
- 'There's a queue for the queue' is a phrase to show what?
- Feel free to skip the twerking line 😳
- What phrase shows the singer is being sarcastic?
- On a scale of 1-5, how effective is the word catastrophe?
- How is the singer showing he is getting more desperate as time passes?
- Do you think he is a good Dad? Why?
- Do you think he thinks he is a good Dad? Why do you think this?
- Why has the singer used ellipses?
- Why has he also used an exclamation mark?
- Can we make a prediction about what his idea will be? Why do you think this?
Watch until the end.
If I wasn't alone, what if I had a clone, I could do so much moreIt would all be a breeze, with a couple more mes, I'd have time galoreI wanna find the greatest gift I can give my familyThe greatest gift I can give is meNow I can meet with the boss and empty out my inbox all simultaneouslyLeaving me time to spend with my family and friends, where I wanna beI wanna find the greatest gift I can give my familyThe greatest gift that I can give is meI wanna find the greatest gift I can give my familyThe greatest gift that I can give is meI wanna find the greatest gift I can give my familyThe greatest gift that I can giveThe greatest gift that I can giveThe greatest gift that I can give is me
- What is a clone?
- Why would it be a breeze?
- What does the word 'galore' mean?
- Was your prediction correct?
- Do you think the singer enjoys work? Explain your answer?
- What is the greatest gift?
- What is the message that Sainsbury's are trying to express in this advert?
- Do you like the advert? Why/Why not?
M&S - Love Mrs Claus
This clever advert has little text but a thoughtful message. Let's consider the text:
- How old do you think the child is who wrote the letter? How do you know?
Mrs Claus: Hot tea, cheese and pickle. Keep away from this mince pies!
Father Christmas: Any last minute requests?
Mrs Claus: No, no, just bills. Fly safe. Don't forget Australia!
Father Christmas: I won't. Easily done. Rudolf harrrr
- Why has Mrs Claus kept the letter a secret?
- What impressions do we get of her as a character so far?
- Why does she tell Father Christmas to keep away from Mince Pies? Do you think he will?
- Why might Father Christmas forget Australia?
Dear Mrs Claus,
My name is Jake and I am six years old. I've a big sister called Anna who is tall and sometimes angry. I also have a dog called Tiger who loves eating things. This Christmas, I need your help because I want something and I know can get it for me. You might think I don't like my sister very much but I do. I love her a lot and I want her to be happy at Christmas.
Ages 6 but 7 in two weeks.
- Why do you think Jake has written a letter to Mrs Claus and not Santa?
- How old do you think Anna is?
- Why might Anna be sometime angry?
- How do you know that Jake loves his dog Tiger?
- What type of opener is 'This Christmas'?
- How does Jake persuade Mrs Claus to help him?
- Why might Mrs Claus think Jake doesn't like his sister?
- What words can you think of to describe Jake? Can you back these up with evidence from the text and film.
- Can you find all the proper nouns in the letter. How many are there?
- How many contractions can you find? What type of contractions have been used?
- Why does Jake add the phrase 'a lot' to his last sentence?
- What do you notice about the name of the helicopter?
Watch to the end.
Father Christmas: Merry Christmas! So, how was your night?
Mrs Claus: Oh you know, quiet.
Father Christmas: How did that get there?
Mrs Claus: Well it wouldn't be fun if you knew all my secrets.
- Do you think Mrs Claus gets a lot of letters? Why/why not?
- Why does Mrs Claus describe her night as 'quiet'?
This would be a great advert to link into the READWRITEPERFORM Christmas Letter pack.
Others adverts to consider:
Heathrow Airport - Coming Home
Again with this advert I would focus on KS1 children and do a very similar activity to the John Lewis advert discussed above.
Waitrose - Coming Home
The advert is lovely and comes with a short story written by Michael Morpurgo. This would be perfect as a short class read for the last couple of weeks of term. Waitrose have also published a number of lesson plans to accompany the advert.
In this special pack, it is broken down into two parts. The first is aimed at KS1 where the students read, write and then perform their own letters to Father Christmas. These letters and videos are then passed to KS2 where the students read, write and then perform a reply as Father Christmas. These videos are then sent back to the KS1 pupils for them to watch and enjoy.
Here is a quick video showing the pack in action: