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Lesson Plan

Decoding the Dystopian Characteristics of Macintosh's "1984" Commercial

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Decoding the Dystopian Characteristics of Macintosh's "1984" Commercial

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Minilesson
Estimated Time 50 minutes
Lesson Author

Junius Wright

Junius Wright

Charleston, South Carolina


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



In this minilesson, students explore the dystopian characteristics and symbols presented in the "1984" Macintosh commercial and analyze the comments that it makes about contemporary society. After discussing what they know about the year 1984, students read the voiceover text from the "1984" commercial and share their reactions to the passage. They then view the commercial and consider how their feelings have or have not changed since first reading the voiceover text. Next, they review the definition of dystopia and dystopian characteristics and then further explore the commercial, identifying dystopian characteristics. Finally, they summarize their learning by responding to a journal prompt. This activity is a particularly effective introduction to George Orwell's 1984 because of the direct allusions to the novel in the commercial. The lesson can also be used as a follow-up to the novel, as a way to discuss the lasting influence of Orwell's novel.

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"1984" Macintosh Commerical Analysis Tool: Students explore dystopian characteristics by reading the voiceover text and viewing images from the "1984" Macintosh commercial and responding to written prompts.

Dystopias: Definition and Characteristics: This sheet features definitions of Utopia and Dsystopia, as well as descriptions of a dystopian society, types of dystopian controls, and the dystopian protagonist.

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Exploring texts from popular culture in the classroom can open doors for students:

Because of their ties to students' world, these texts often result in a higher level of engagement and underscore the literacy skills that students bring to the classroom. Teachers can identify print, visual, and sound texts that students already read and compose; then, they can analyze and compose examples of such texts in class. Once students understand these reading, composing, and critical thinking concepts in familiar texts, teachers extend students' reading or composing practices to more traditional texts and additional examples and genres from popular culture. In this way, multimodal teaching practices provide a connection to more traditional literature and enable students to enhance and build sophisticated literacy skills that help them explore the cultural texts in the world around them. (Engaging Media-Savvy Students, 6)

This lesson models precisely this move from familiar text to less familiar text-students begin with an exploration of a popular film that many will already be familiar with and then are ready to extend the analytical skills and new ideas to less familiar novels or other texts.

Further Reading

National Council of Teachers of English. 2005. Professional Communities at Work: Engaging Media-Savvy Students. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

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