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Analysis From the Inside Out

Assignment Summary

1.  Have students freewrite on American values.  Tell them to jot down as many as they can think of.

2.  Write them on the board.

3.  Compare the students' values with a master list (I came up with this list from surveys in popular magazines).

  • individuality 

  • scientific advancement 

  • utility 

  • economics 

  • patriotism 

  • family 

  • acceptance by others 

  • fun/hedonism 

  • financial advancement/success/comfort 

  • racial and gender equality 

  • altruism/generosity 

  • health 

(If there are two chalkboards in your classroom, you might want to write this list on one of them while your students are freewriting and then put their lists up on the other board.)

4.  Compare the master list with the students' lists.  Combine them to make one master list.  Optional:  rank these values--which do students feel are the most important, most emphasized in society, etc.

5.  Discuss how advertising draws on these values.  Go through the values and have students come up with examples of ads that embody them.  For example, "Patriotism" in the automobile or cotton industry; "Family" in breakfast cereal ads; "Fun/Hedonism" in beer commercials, etc.

6.  Make up a list of five products we usually don't see advertised, such as toe-nail clippers, sweat socks, dental floss, toothpicks, etc.

7.  Divide the class into five groups.  Each group picks a product and uses all of the values on the master list to come up with either:

  • a)  a script for a 30 second TV commercial that they will act out in class.

  • b)  a magazine ad--put together by cutting and pasting images from magazine ads. 

8.  (Optional)  Groups could switch projects and analyze each other's work.

Instructor's Comments

It is important to follow up this exercise with a discussion of how a similar process of analysis could be applied to other texts, including essays. This conversation could then lead to a discussion of how authors often use certain rhetorical strategies (appeals to the emotions, patriotism, the opinions of "experts," etc.) to sway their audience.

genre textual analysis, argument
course WRT 102
activity type class discussion, small group discussion, oral presentation, freewriting
skills analysis, voice, persuasion
duration 1-2 classes
blackboard or overhead projector, magazines with ads to cut up
handouts: none
contributor: Jay McRoy