22 Storytelling

Arley Cruthers

Activity Guidelines

Suggested Course Level

Upper level undergraduate

Activity Purpose

  • Students will explore how advertisements both use and subvert storytelling techniques.
  • Students will apply these techniques into their own persuasive messages.

Materials Required

  • Handout
  • Projector with video
  • Small prizes

Activity Instructions

  1. I use this activity when teaching storytelling as part of a unit on oral presentations. I first discuss different narrative structures and talk about the Walter Fischer Narrative Paradigm.
  2. To begin the activity, choose 5 advertisements that contain strong or interesting storytelling. Ones that I have used successfully are: the “Thanks Mom” Olympic commercials, the Coleman Sweeney “Even an Asshole Can Save a Life” ad, the “Ghost Chips” drinking and driving ad, the Google ad about Partition in India etc. I’ve also asked students to submit ads with interesting storytelling.
  3. Watch the ads in class, then break students into groups of 4 or 5 and assign them one of the ads.
  4. Have them analyze the storytelling elements (conflict, desire, change, etc) and draw a diagram of the ad’s narrative. (See attached handout)  Each group will share their responses with the class.
  5. Then, ask students to take what they’ve learned and create the script for a short ad that uses storytelling to persuade the audience of a message. You can either assign students a message, or you can base it on an assignment they’re working on. For example, if students are writing recommendation reports, they can create ads that persuade an audience to accept one of the recommendations.
  6. Encourage students to use music and props. I sometimes bring small prizes to be the CMNS 3000 Oscars and give awards for best use of stories, etc.

Additional Resources / Supplementary Resources

Tags: oral presentations, oral communications, audience analysis / context analysis, persuasive messages, discussion, hands-on, small group, creating a product or document, corporate storytelling, advertising, narrative paradigm


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