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CareerStart lessons: Grade six
This collection of lessons aligns the sixth grade curriculum in math, science, English language arts, and social studies with potential career opportunities.
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Learning outcomes

  • Students will gain an understanding of how hidden messages are used in advertisements.
  • Students will explore possible careers in advertising.

Teacher planning

Materials needed

  • Two or three magazine advertisements copied as transparencies [Note: These will be used in a class discussion about hidden messages in advertising. Good choices would include ads with people in them, especially ads targeted at early adolescents. The authors have had success using “Got Milk” advertisements with this lesson. For background on analyzing advertisements and media literacy, see “supplemental information” below.]
  • Overhead projector
  • Student handout with advertising topics (Three handouts appear on one page, so these should be cut into three ahead of time.)
  • Bulletin board paper — one per group of three students
  • Art supplies (markers, crayons, etc.)

Time required for lesson

Approximately 75 minutes


  1. Conduct a class discussion about advertising. Ask the students to brainstorm different types of advertising and where each type can be found. Project the examples on the overhead and ask the students to identify the hidden messages in the ads. Lead the students by asking questions like the following: (10 minutes)
    • What is this ad selling?
    • What are the people in the ad doing?
    • What do their clothes and surroundings tell you?
    • What messages do their facial expressions and body language convey?
    • If there are two or more people in the ad, how are the people connected to each other?
    • If there are words in the ad, what do they say?
    • What do you think the advertiser wants you to conclude about the product without putting it in words?
  2. Discuss the careers necessary to create magazine and newspaper advertisements — “idea people,” artists, graphic designers, computer techs, printers, editors, etc. (5-10 minutes)
  3. Divide students into groups of three and give them space to work. Each group will work together to create an advertisement with a hidden message. Have the students assume the advertising careers discussed. Allow the students to use any available art supplies and encourage them to be creative. (10 min.)
  4. List the following requirements for the ad on the board.
    • The advertisement must:
      • include the product name
      • include a slogan
      • include a colorful illustration and graphic design
      • be neat and professional in appearance
      • contain a hidden message in the text or illustration
  5. Allow students to work on completing all the requirements of the advertisement in class. (30 min)
  6. Have the students present their ads to the class. Ask the students to pick out the hidden message after each presentation. (15 min)
  7. Close with a class discussion of which advertising jobs the students liked the best during the activity (artist, brainstormer, etc.)

Supplemental information

The PBS Teachers website provides a list of resources useful for understanding advertising analysis and media literacy.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Reading: Literature

        • Grade 6
          • 6.RL.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 6

  • Goal 4: The learner will use critical thinking skills and create criteria to evaluate print and non-print materials.
    • Objective 4.01: Determine the purpose of the author or creator by:
      • monitoring comprehension for understanding of what is read, heard and/or viewed.
      • exploring any bias, apparent or hidden messages, emotional factors, or propaganda techniques.
      • identifying and exploring the underlying assumptions of the author/creator.
      • analyzing the effects of the author's craft on the reader/viewer/listener.
      • Objective 4.03: Recognize and develop a stance of a critic by:
        • considering alternative points of view or reasons.
        • remaining fair-minded and open to other interpretations.
        • constructing a critical response/review of a work/topic.