'Create a Commercial' Activity to Break the Ice in Your Classroom

Students Taking Singing Class At Drama College
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The "Create a Commercial" activity can work for drama students, but it could also be incorporated into any class that involves writing, advertising, or public speaking. It works best with a full classroom, between 18 and 30 participants. This activity works great at the beginning of the semester because it not only serves as a great ice-breaker, but it also creates a fun and productive classroom environment.

How To Play 'Create a Commercial'

  1. Arrange participants into groups of four or five.
  2. Inform the groups that they are no longer merely students. They are now top-notch, highly successful advertising executives. Explain that advertising executives know how to use persuasive writing in commercials, making the audience experience a wide variety of emotions.
  3. Ask the participants to share examples of commercials they remember. Did the commercials make them laugh? Did they inspire hope, fear, or hunger? [Note: another option is to show a few selected television ads that are likely to evoke a strong response.]
  4. Once the groups have discussed a few examples, explain they will now be given an illustration of a strange object; each group receives a unique illustration. [Note: You may wish to draw these random objects—which should be odd shapes that could be a multitude of different things—on the board, or you could give each group a hand-written illustration. Another option is to select actual uncommon objects you may have available—for example, a pair of sugar tongs, an unusual workshop implement, etc.]
  5. Once each group has received an illustration, they must then decide the function of the object (perhaps invent a brand-new product), give the product a name, and create a 30- to 60-second commercial script with multiple characters. Tell participants that their commercial should use any means available to convince the audience that they need and want the product.

After the writing process is completed, give the groups five to 10 minutes to practice performing the commercial. It isn’t too important for them to memorize the lines; they can have the script in front of them, or use improvisation to get them through the material. [Note: Less outgoing students who do not wish to stand in front of classmates can be offered the option of creating a “radio commercial” which could be read from their seats.]

Once the groups have created and practiced their advertisement, it is time to perform. Each group takes a turn presenting their commercial. Before each performance, the instructor may wish to show the rest of the class the illustration. After the commercial is performed, the instructor may offer follow-up questions such as: “What persuasive strategy did you use?” or “What emotions were you trying to make your audience feel?” Alternatively, you may prefer to ask the audience about their responses.

Most of the time, the groups try to generate laughter, creating very funny, tongue-in-cheek commercials. Once in a while, however, a group creates a commercial that is dramatic, even thought-provoking, such as a public service announcement against smoking.

Try this ice-breaker activity out in your classrooms or drama group. The participants will have fun, all the while learning about persuasive writing and communication.