Document Type


Date of Original Version



Communication Studies


This study documents how an ESL high school teacher working with new immigrants ages 14 – 20 supported the development of their critical thinking and English language skills by using advertising analysis activities. This paper examines the use of key critical questions for analyzing media messages and documents a variety of instructional activities designed to strengthen students’ vocabulary, reading, and discussion skills to build inferential thinking, and critical analysis skills. In this paper, we focus on four instructional practices used by the participating teacher, which all rely on strategies for applying critical questions to analyze advertising: (1) the cloze technique; (2) the question generation (“Jeopardy!”) approach, (3) practice in analyzing ads using critical questions in class discussion, and (4) a collaborative online writing activity resulting in the creation of a multi-paragraph multimedia document. By focusing on print, or magazine ads, the teacher was able to exploit the rich visual communication, limited use of words, and relative simplicity of elements as a means to promote language production, reception and comprehension. These activities provided a meaningful opportunity for students to practice their speaking, listening, reading and writing skills in English while supporting the development of abstract thinking, balancing the learning of new academic language and cultural knowledge and connecting with students’ prior knowledge, home cultures and everyday experience.