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Notes to the Teacher

Free Language Arts Lesson Plan:  Mass Consumerism

by Rebecca Thiegs Co-Founder

Free Language Arts Lesson Plan about Mass ConsumerismTitle o
f Lesson:  Creating essays on Society’s Stuff Obsession: Do We Need More?

Class time needed for this lesson: 3-6 days depending on length of classes, time you want students to journal / discuss / watch videos, and writing / conferencing time spent in class vs. time spent at home

Purpose of Lesson: To give students an opportunity to analyze their opinions on stuff and how to craft their opinions into an essay

Essential Questions of this Lesson Plan:

  • Is Black Friday bleeding into the heart of gratitude?
  • Why is our society so obsessed with stuff?
  • How do you feel about stuff?
  • How do I get my writing to a best yet / final draft?

Aspects of this lesson:

Writing Prompt - Do We Have Too Musch Stuff?1) Introductory journaling (Think / Pair / Share) / Time: about 10-20 minutes depending on time given to journal and discuss:
Ask all three of these questions or just one or two.  Have students journal for about 2 minutes per question, then share their responses with a partner.  Finally, hold a whole class discussion about these questions.

  • 1) What is Thanksgiving all about and how does your family celebrate the holiday?
  • 2) How do you feel about Black Friday shopping? Any rituals associated with Black Friday?
  • 3) Do you think we have too much stuff as a society already? Are we obsessed with acquiring more stuff? Or having the right stuff?

2) Take the Stuff Survey / Time: about 10-15 minutes depending on computer set up time, class discussion and journaling after the survey.  Take the Mass Consumerism Survey on the writing contest page.

*If you have access to computers for each student, allow each student to submit their answers to the survey.  If you don’t, ask the students each question and record a “class majority” vote for each response.  

After the survey: Have your opinions on stuff changed?  Why or why not?

Videos about mass consumerism3) Videos to Broaden the understanding of stuff:

Watch the videos about "stuff" selected by / Time: 5-45 minutes depending on if you decide to show all the videos, and how much time you allow students to journal and discuss after each video:

*Decide how many of the videos you want to show. View videos below.
  • We suggest that you start with The Story of Stuff / Basic information about stuff  (21 minutes)
  • Then, show Black Friday Crowds / Our obsession with stuff (found on the left side of the page) (1 and a half minutes)
  • Then, show Great Pacific Garbage Patch / Where does our stuff go? (4 and a half minutes)
  • Finally, show High End Hoarder / When shopping is out of control (2 and a half minutes)

After each video, allow students time to process and reflect on what they saw.  Does it change your opinion? What sticks with you? What did you learn?  

After you watch the videos and students reflect in their journals, discuss as a class - What do these videos teach us about stuff?

Videos about Mass Consumerism:

The Story of Stuff
  Black Friday Crowds


Great Pacific Garbage Patch
  High End Hoarder

4) Essay topic creation / Coming up with an original angle for the writing prompt: /Time: 10 minutes (or maybe use this as a homework assignment- each student needs to come up with a topic for his / her essay for the next class session)

Have students answer the question: “Do we have too much stuff?” in a quickwrite fashion - just 2-3 minutes. 

After the 2-3 minutes allow students time to “mine” their writing and opinions from all the journaling on the topic of stuff.  What seems to have the most energy or what calls to them to go more in depth?  

Students should be given freedom to answer this question in whichever manner they choose.  For those that are stuck, offer some ideas (remind them that not all stuff is bad, and they could write about why stuff is good instead):
  • Writing prompts on StageofLife.comAn item(s) that is (are) REALLY important to them
  • The meaning of Thanksgiving / personal anecdotes about Thanksgiving traditions
  • The craze of Black Friday
  • A Black Friday tradition or story that is meaningful
  • Why loving stuff is okay
  • Why our obsession with stuff is not okay
  • An essay about environmental impacts due to our obsession with stuff
  • An essay about hoarding or stuff overload

5) Stuff essay drafting / Conferencing / Partner sharing
- Time: 20-45 minutes

I love allowing students to have 10 minutes on the first day (after they all bring in their topics) to just write freely without over analyzing their writing.  After those 10 minutes, I put them in pairs to share what they are thinking, and as they share with their partner, I walk around the room to check in with everyone to see that everyone has a start.  After that, I give them another 10 minutes to keep going.  Once students are set on a topic, and I give them focused time in class, they can usually finish a really rough draft before going home.  

Assign students to have a full rough draft (about 200-500 words) for the next class session

6) Rough Drafts and Peer Review and More formal teacher conferences
/ Time: 1 class period (maybe more if you are doing one on one conferring with each student)

Free Language Arts Lesson Plan about Mass ConsumerismStudents should come prepared to the next class session with a completed rough draft.  Assign students to a trio (it is always good to have a 2nd opinion reviewer).  Set up the peer review session.  Explain to students HOW to give good feedback.  These are steps I usually take:

  1. Allow each student a chance to write about his/her own progress on the back of the draft.  What can someone help them with specifically to get to a more polished piece? What is going well with the writing?  

  2. Assign students into peer review trios.  Explain they should take turns.  Read over the questions on the back and focus on those questions while reading.  Students should not ask the author of a paper to clarify something while they are reading.  If it doesn’t make sense, they should mark that on the paper.  After the read throughs, students should put comments on the back of the paper that specifically answer the author’s questions and any other helpful comments they want to include.  When all reading and commenting is complete, students should discuss what they thought with each other.  

  3. As the students are immersed in their peer feedback sessions, conference with students individually or sit down with each trio to see how things are going.  This can be as formal or as informal as you want it to be.  I like to have at least 1 one on one conference with students during every writing piece, but if your class sizes are huge, you may want to sit with the trios and answer questions and provide feedback to the whole group rather than conference individually.  

  4. At the end of the peer review session and teacher conferencing, give students a due date for the BEST YET or final draft. free lessons plans7) Revision workshop before the final draft is due**
Depending on how many essays students have already crafted you may want to allow students time to work through their final touches on their own.  I usually try to have at least one revision workshop dealing with a surface level revision like a grammar technique such as sentence construction or commas, or a big strategy like how to do deep revision like Kelly Gallagher’s STAR revision strategies (S=Substitue, T=Take things out, A=Add, R=Rearrange).  

It is up to you to decide what kinds of skills your students need to work through in order to become better writers.  If you haven’t tried a writer’s workshop revision strategy, try one and see what happens.  You may get students to understand one skill that drives you crazy before the final draft.  

Share your essay on StageofLife.com8) Publishing / Final (Best Yet) Draft Sharing / Uploading Essays to
- Time: 1 class period

On the day that the final (best yet) drafts are due, I have students complete a “Dear Reader” letter which helps me hone in on what they want me to comment on specifically, what they are proud of, what they know needs work and what they thought of the overall assignment.  This helps to direct me when I am grading and gives me feedback, too.  

I also have students share a few lines (up to a page) for the class to get a sense of the other writer voices in the classroom.  

If you are uploading these to the writing contest, make sure you have students submit their final work to you BEFORE they upload it to the site or at least give you a copy of their paper (either electronically or hard copy).

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