We also described recent student reactions to this video and the ways they “reread” the “text” to reach understanding. Such “Ahas!” upon rereading are the hallmark of close reading, but this lesson discussion lends fodder beyond the topics of close reading and complex text. The third Speaking & Listening Standard requires that students “evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.” For these purposes, advertising is the ultimate shared text.
Geico’s message is that saving hundreds of dollars will make one “happier than Christopher Columbus with speedboats.” As teachers, we can ask, “Is Geico successful with its reasoning, use of evidence, and rhetoric?” Of course, we expect students to defend their answers with their own reasoning, evidence, and rhetoric.
Students can see that Geico has little evidence for what they are claiming. Students can further infer that Geico is attempting to use humor to lure customers, which can invite conversations that will develop a generation of more informed consumers. All of this thinking and conversation connects to the “Evaluate the Speaker” Standard.
The Common Core Standards invite us as teachers to step outside of traditional definitions of text and remember that close reading is not exclusive to reading words. Text can be broadly defined to include things such as the television commercials flooding our children’s impressionable minds with suggestive images. If we help them realize that asking and answering questions about this genre of text is as important as asking and answering questions about books and articles, we enhance our efforts to improve critical thinking and in turn, raise our children to be more discerning consumers.