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'Buy Nothing Day' Lesson Plan

Thanks to Adbusters logo for permission to use the materials

Word version of the plan

buy nothing day logo

Preliminary information

Time: 90 minutes

Level: Upper intermediate/Advanced
The theme could easily be used for lower levels too. Follow the plan but miss out the reading, or do the Checklist reading instead.

To give extensive & intensive reading practice.
To give freer speaking practice.
To look at some of the language in the text.

That the stds will be interested in the topic -'consumerism'.
That the language will be mostly known & the unknown should not interfere with comprehension if it is not guessed from the context.

Anticipated Problems and Solutions:
The topic - you might be enthusiastic about Buy Nothing Day, or you might not. Careful if you are as your stds might not be & see this as pushing your ideas on to them & resent it. Treat it like any other topic & see how it develops.
The language in the text - depends really on the group. There is quite a lot of interesting vocabulary in the text. The selection in stage 4 is just that, a selection - choose to suit.

Spoof Adverts - this takes you to the Adbusters site.
Text about Buy Nothing Day & Pictures from the Buy Nothing Days webpages - with permission from Adbusters
Checklist for Shopping - from an article in The New York Times, 29.11.97

buy nothing day ad


Stage 1 - Lead in - To get stds thinking about the topic - for the adverts for this stage you'll need to go to the Adbusters Spoof adverts page, right click on the image & save it to as file on your computer.

15/20 mins

1. Elicit lexical set: ad(n), advert(n), advertising(adj), advertisement(n), & related: advertising agency/company, etc
2. Elicit & discuss: What's your favourite advert at the moment?
3. Handout the adverts - a couple for each pair.
Do they like the adverts?
Why are they ....
Can they think of any ideas for adverts that they know?
4. Discuss
5. Feedback - introduce the idea of a 'Buy Nothing Day' - have they heard about it? what is it? etc..

Stage 2 - Reading - Gist

20 mins

1. Handout the pictures that accompany the text - but not the text yet - stds discuss the possible relevance of the pictures.
2. Discuss.
3. Feedback
4. Gist reading - stds match the pictures with sections of the reading text. Give a time limit of 4/5 minutes.
5. Activity - read & match.
6. Stds compare their matchings.
7. Feedback.

Stage 3 - Reading - more intensive comprehension - you may feel this stage unnecessary & skip to the next stage, the vocabulary focus. Or you could do the vocabulary before the detailed comprehension.

10 mins

1. Give out question sheet - read & answer.
2. Activity - individual.
3. Stds compare answers.
4. Feedback

A few comprehension questions:

1. Why do the writers think Bush, Blair & Chretien want us to 'Shop like you've never shopped?'
2. Who is organising the Buy Nothing Day?
3. How often does this day happen?
4. Why is 23rd November chosen for the Buy Nothing Day?
5. Is the protest only for people in North America?
6. What do some people do to celebrate the day?
7. What do the writers feel is more important that shopping?
8. What is a Gift Exemption Voucher?
9. Do the organisers advertise a non-advert on American TV? Why/why not?
10. Why do the writers talk about September 11th?
11. Why was September 11th a 'good thing' for the economy?
12. Which do the writers feel is the way forward against consumerism?

Stage 4 - Vocabulary focus - look through the article for more for your particular group.

10/15 mins

1. Look at the expressions, they are in the order they appear in the text - which can you work out from the context of the text - check with dictionaries to confirm, if necessary.
2 Activity - in pairs.
3. Feedback

sinking in personal debt
a consumer fast
out of deep left field
breaking the trance
in the long run
shout from the highest rooftops
sparked (a) debate
made a pact
the consumer stream
marked the event
our consumer landscape
shopping sprees
to break ranks
make it clear who butters their bread

Stage 5 - Follow up activities - Speaking

There are various possibilities here.

1. A good start might be to hand out some of the messages from the forum about Buy Nothing Day on the Adbuster website - . These give opinions, mostly in favour of the protest but some against. this could then lead into a debate - for/against. Here are some of the messages from the forum.

If you're gonna shop, buy something for someone in Afghanistan. They need it more than you need that Xbox, right couch potato?
dude, sf, ca

we should continue with Buy Nothing Day. We need to show corporate America that we don't agree with the sweatshop produced goods that we buy. It would take the kid that made it 10 years to buy it because we import it and sell it for a thousand times more than its worth. Wave the corporate flag high and proud.
Tegan Hipple, Waldo

I am in a quandry about this. While it sounds delicious to me, I am an artist and I make at least 1/3 of my year's income between Thanksgiving and New Years. It's not much of an income at that. So, I suggest that people support local craftspeople. P.S. there's a middle ground between yes and no to Buy Nothing Day. I don't like having to choose "no" because it makes me look like I therefore do not support boycotting the malls and sweatshops.
Sandi Morey, Oakland CA

But, Buy Nothing Day is a misnomer. It's really just Delay Payment Day. Everyone involved is still consuming a product that must be bought; whether they buy it on BND or wait until the day after to pay for it doesn't change the fact that those resources were used, those by-products produced, etc. Gasoline, electricity, food, etc. all get used on BND even if they don't get "bought" on BND. This really defeats the purpose. No one is going to sit in the dark, not go to work, not eat for an entire day--and even if they did, they still go back to what they are doing the next day.
Peter, Canada

Adbusters uses advertising to combat advertising. Talk about a dumb idea! So, you wanna prove that it works? Just ignore it! (Simpsons anyone?)
Lewis Drake, DC

The squandering of money on sometimes cheap, sometimes not, unnecessary goods is what's wrong with the world. We keep people in the 'developing' world in penury through our use of scandalously cheap labour (with appalling working conditions) in order to maximise profits for the fat cats who run the consumer companies. If we think about the rest of the world for a change, they might not dislike us so much.
lynne roper, stirling

2. You could get the stds to storm a list of awareness questions for shoppers - they then compare with the list below.

Checklist for Shopping

(From an article in The New York Times, 29.11.97)

The Buy Nothing Day campaign in Seattle distributed this checklist to let shoppers evaluate things they were thinking of buying.

-Do I need it?
-How many do I already have?
-How much will I use it?
-How long will it last?
-Could I borrow it from a friend or family member?
-Can I do without it?
-Am I able to clean, lubricate and/or maintain it myself?
-Am I willing to?
-Will I be able to repair it?
-Have I researched it to get the best quality for the best price?
-How will I dispose of it when I'm done using it?
-Are the resources that went into it renewable or non-renewable?
-Is it made or recycled materials, and is it recyclable?
-Is there anything that I already own that I could substitute for it?

3. Roleplay between shopper & Buy Nothing Day activist. Give out cards:

You are a shopper. You love shopping & feel you have the right to spend your money as you wish. There are some strange looking people around the shopping centre today, you're tired & you've got some heavy shopping bags.
You are a Buy Nothing Day activist. You feel very strongly that people spend too much & that a lot of innocent people are exploited as a result. Talk to a shopper who has a lot of shopping bags. Use some of the arguments you read about in the article.

3. A straightforward discussion - this will probably be enough for a lengthy discussion

4. If the stds are enthusiastic about the Buy Nothing Day, they could storm different ways that they could take action.

buy nothing day ad

To the text used in the plan

To the pictures used with the text

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