Implementation of ‘Advertisements – The past, present and future’ (SOI-MT-499)

This story of implementation was based on this learning scenario which was implemented with a class of Year 10 students (14/15-year-olds), at B2+ level, attending a secondary school for boys in Malta, during an English lesson. We adopt a thematic approach to teaching English, by teaching language skills in context. At the time of the implementation, we were dealing with the topic of “Marketing Strategies”, so this learning scenario was very relevant. This learning scenario was adapted as a reading and speaking lesson, and the tasks were aligned with the Learning Outcomes Framework at this level. In the digital age, where young people are constantly bombarded with adverts, it is important for them to think about this issue critically by exploring the evolution of adverts and to be aware that most adverts they see are specifically targeted at them.

The learning scenario was implemented as follows

Firstly, the students were asked to think about the role of adverts in our current context. They were shown a number of quotes by famous people and individually, they were asked to vote for the one they thought most relevant. The majority of the students voted for the quote by H.G. Wells – ‘Advertising is legalized lying’.

Figure 1 – Thinking critically about adverts in our lives

Next, the students were asked to discuss in pairs where they thought the first adverts appeared and what these were promoting. This helped them to develop a curiosity and give them a reason to want to read the text. Before moving on to the reading part of this learning scenario, the students were also shown this 1 minute video about the evolution of advertisements over time.

Figure 2 – Working in pairs to discuss the history of adverts

The next step was a reading comprehension about the history of advertising, which was adapted from here, and to which I added questions to assess the understanding of main ideas and subsidiary ideas of the text. Text and questions can be found here.

Figure 3 – Reading a text about the evolution of adverts and answering some questions to show understanding of the main points and subsidiary points.

After checking the answers with a partner, the lesson scenario proceeded to the speaking part. During this part, the class was divided into 5 groups of four students, and each group was given an advert from the early 20th century, downloaded from the Europeana website. Adverts used during the learning scenario:


During this phase, the students were given questions to discuss regarding their advert. These included questions about the advert’s effectiveness, intended audience, the culture of its time, and the appropriateness of the slogan.

The learning scenario in detail with all the questions used can be found in this PowerPoint Presentation.

Figure 4 – Evaluating photos from the past

Finally, the students were asked to ‘modernize’ the adverts they were working with. They were asked to provide an outline, description, or script, which they would use to create an advert that would be transferable to the current times, such as a reel, a TikTok, or a YouTube advert.
The work produced by the students can be seen here.

Figure 5 – Groups discussing the impact of an advert from the early 20th century

Outcomes: During this learning scenario, the students could critically engage in discussion about the role of adverts in our lives, and how these adverts have changed in tandem with technological advances. Having discussed marketing strategies and globalization in previous lessons, the students were able to appreciate the role of adverts and how they had to change, because the consumers’ attitudes have also changed. By discussing the culture of ‘old’ adverts, they were also able to see how cultures have changed and how, in general, most adverts depicted beautiful women, and most adverts were targeted at a specific audience. Moreover, they were able to modernize the adverts effectively, and they immediately started targeting the consumer’s problems, which showed that they clearly understood the concept and evolution of advertising.

Figure 6 – Groups discussing ways on how an old advert can be modernised

As a teacher, I learnt a lot from this experience, especially since I wasn’t aware of the Europeana website, and this has opened up a great opportunity for me as an educator. I also enjoyed adapting the learning scenario for the needs of my students, and I believe that the lesson was successful and enjoyable. The work produced by the students at the end of the learning scenario also showed that the reading and speaking learning outcomes were achieved.

Link to the learning scenario implemented: Advertisements – the Past, Present and Future (LS-MK-359)

Do you want to discover more stories of implementation? Click here.

CC BY 4.0: the featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana and has been provided by the Wellcome Collection.

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