Students will be able to:
- Distinguish between fact and opinion in advertisements.
In this economic lesson, students will explain fact and opinion in advertisements.
Introduce the lesson by explaining that advertisements can tell consumers about prices and other information that may help them make decisions about what to buy. Tell students that ads are slanted by sellers to show a product in its best light, and this lesson will help them understand how advertisers use words and images to make goods and services look their best. Hold up a popular fiction book that your students probably have read, such as one of the “Harry Potter” novels. Ask the following questions:
- Is this a fiction or non-fiction book? [Fiction]
- How can you tell? [A possible response is that students know from real-life experiences that some of the events in the story can’t be true.]
- Is the picture on the cover of the book fiction or non-fiction? [Fiction]
- How do you know? [Students might point out that the cover image is a drawing, not a photo or they may simply know that the characters depicted on the cover do not exist.]
[NOTE: If necessary, explain that works of non-fiction are intended to give a true account of something while works of fiction are not intended to tell the literal truth. Fiction comes from someone’s imagination.]
Explain that advertising, like books, contains words and images. Some of the words and images in advertising may be true, while others are fiction.
Tell students that sellers make a variety of claims in advertisements; some claims are factual and some are statements of opinion. Factual claims are statements that can be proven true or false. Use the lesson’s slides with notes to discuss these differences. After completing the slides, tell students that the federal government requires claims made in advertisements to be backed up with proof or evidence to protect consumers and to make sure that competition among sellers is fair. Even so, it is usually okay for sellers to talk only about the positives of their products and ignore the negative. Remind students it is ultimately the consumers’ responsibility to separate fact from fiction in advertising.
To debrief this activity, ask students the these two questions and discuss the answers as a class:
- Which is more useful to consumers—facts or opinions? Why? [A factual claim makes a statement that is true for everyone while opinions may only apply to the person who makes the statement. In general, facts will be more important.]
- Why do sellers prefer to focus on the on the good qualities of their products rather than the negative? [Sellers want to make their products look good so consumers want to buy them. Negative images and statements rarely encourage consumers to buy–except perhaps indirectly by saying something negative about a competitor.]
Put students in pairs or small groups to create advertising facts and opinions of their own. Distribute the activity sheet “Advertising Facts and Opinions” to the students with answers.Read the directions and ask if there are any questions.Directions: Pretend you work for a company that has cooked up a new dessert. You want to create an advertisement that will make people want to buy this food product. Think of some possible facts and opinions about this dessert that would make it appealing and list them on the grid. Be prepared to share your ideas with the class.
Upon completion, ask students to share their ideas with the class. If time allows, vote on the most honest fact and most outrageous opinion stated.
Remind students that sellers are competing with other sellers to get your attention and sell you their products. They use advertisements to make themselves and what they sell look as good as possible to encourage you to buy from them.
Distribute the Advertising: Fact or Opinion worksheet. Have students decide which statements are facts and which are opinions. Review the answers as a class. Tell the students if they get at least 8 of the questions correct they are on their way to becoming smart consumers.
Conclude this lesson by reminding students to look for factual claims that can be proven true, beware of opinions, read the fine print, read food labels carefully, and pay close attention to the words used in advertisements. Sometimes advertisements make more promises than the goods or services can deliver.
The assessment is based on the three pieces of advice the students offer to help people avoid being misled by advertising. Have students view the interactive activity Statements: Fact or Opinion and write down three pieces of advice that they would give others so that they are not misled by advertising claims and images.
Consider having students consolidate their answers into a class tip sheet they can share with their families about separating fact from opinion in advertising.
Distribute copies of an advertisement from a magazine or newspaper to students. Have them read each sentence in the ad to determine if it is a fact or an opinion. Tell them to put an F by statements that are facts, and an O by statements that are opinions.
Search for advertisements that seem to promise more than they can deliver. Have students analyze the ads, identifying the exaggerated or questionable claims. (Note: You may want to pre-record the ads for use in class. Younger students might relate more to ads promoting action figures, racing cars and dolls; older students might be more interested in promotions for clothing, cars, music, etc.
Have students do a research project on the rules and regulations for advertising. Potential agencies to consider include the Federal Trade Commission, the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the National Advertising Council, and the Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the National Advertising Council.