Using Commercials to Teach Perspective and Theme

Sonja and I talk and think a lot about ways to use digital texts in our classrooms. We are committed to balancing digital texts with print-based texts. In our blended-learning classrooms, we use digital texts as shared texts and mentor texts. We use these digital texts during our writing and reading minilessons in order to teach different concepts. For example, in writing workshop, I might show a portion of a classic Scooby Doo cartoon in order to teach “Creating Suspects” during my mystery fiction unit. In a fantasy fiction unit, I might use the prophecy scene in The Lego Movie to show students how prophecies are written and used in stories.

Digital texts, such as commercials, are also perfect for teaching reading concepts. They are terrific springboards for conversations about theme, perspective, and symbolism. The Amazon miniature horse commercial is perfect for teaching students how to make inferences, discuss multiple perspectives, or brainstorm themes. Here’s the ad:

5 Reading Minilessons Using This Digital Text: 

1. “Looking Closely at Characters’ Actions to Infer Their Feelings” – This text is terrific for teaching students to infer characters’ feelings based on their actions and body language. Students can cite text evidence from this clip about the actions of the horses and the woman, and then discuss how the animals and woman feel.

2. “Theme” – Students can brainstorm themes after watching this digital text. Many themes emerge from this digital text.

3. “Reading Across Texts”- Pair a print-based text with this digital text. Picture books such as The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi, Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, and Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson are just a few texts that might be paired with the “Miniature Horse” ad. Read across these texts for commonalities and what lessons and universal themes can be learned from these texts.

4. “Summary: Somebody Wants… But… So… Then…” – Students learning how to summarize or retell can practice using this quick, 60 sec text.

5. “Endings” – This digital text is perfect to use with a reading minilesson about endings. How do students feel about the ending to this ad? Why is this the ending to this ad? What is the perspective of the creators of this ad? Why might they create this ending? Do students hope to see a sequel? How would it go?

For more lessons using digital texts see:

Sample Mood Digital Bin

Friendship Digital Bin


Originally from Pennsylvania, Dana Johansen is hoping that Punxsutawney Phil will not see his shadow on Feb. 2 and there will be an early spring. In the meantime, she spends her time teaching fifth grade in wintery Connecticut, sitting with her yellow lab on the couch reading YA Lit, and watching the tv show, The Big Bang Theory. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop. She is the co-author of the books Teaching Interpretation and Flip Your Writing Workshop. 


2 thoughts on “Using Commercials to Teach Perspective and Theme

  1. Love this! And kids love this type of work too! Letting kids do the ‘heavy lifting’ and figuring out the theme through discussion and evidence-based argument brings the learning to life! Love to push them to think…what does the artist, musician, author, videographer want us to think? Gets right to the heart of persuasion too! Thank you for sharing this!


    • Thank you, Gael! We’re so glad you liked it. We love using digital clips to teaching reading and writing skills! We agree! Digital texts are accessible and students can do the heavy-lifting. Love that! Thank you for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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