Changing minds, changing behaviour

This unit, Changing minds, changing behaviour, allows students to explore the persuasive power of advertising by analysis of a narrative television advertisement and a short animated documentary.

The unit, with an emphasis on media studies in English, has a strong focus on developing critical literacy and visual literacy by a close analysis of the social purpose of language in both written and visual grammar.

Photo by World Vision, children with a new water pump

Above: Children with a new water pump, photo by World Vision

Australian curriculum links

The general capabilities emphasised in this unit of work are literacy, information and communication technology (ICT) capability, critical and creative thinking, ethical behaviour and intercultural understanding. This unit addresses the cross-curriculum priority Sustainability.

See how this unit relates to Australian Curriculum: English content descriptions and NSW Syllabus outcomes.


This unit provides opportunities to explore the ideas that:

  • advertising to promote the social good, including sustainability, uses persuasive texts that provide factual information (logos), engage the emotions of the reader or viewer (pathos), and seek to demonstrate the integrity of the presenter (ethos)
  • grading modality and evaluative vocabulary in spoken and/or written language in advertisements and other persuasive texts allows us to understand how we are positioned as readers
  • print and television advertising harnesses the persuasive power of visual language that seeks to engage our minds and emotions 
  • narrative, humour and incongruity are all powerful devices used in advertising.

Teaching and learning activities

  1. Learning focus for the unit
  2. Can you live with dirty water?
  3. The story of bottled water
  4. Language and format in scripts; writing a narrative advertisement

For the teacher

The Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative website (archive) was and remains an excellent source of background information. Refer to Global Perspectives: A framework for global education in Australian schools (.pdf 4.3 MB) for guidance for global perspectives within and across learning areas, and for advice for teachers and school leaders on how to implement the framework. Refer to the Sustainability Curriculum Framework – a guide for curriculum developers and policy makers for how education for sustainability may be incorporated into curriculum from Years F–10.

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