In this project, Michele Luchs and Janet Radoman worked with elementary Cycle Three students to produce a Public Service Ad. The purpose of the ad was to persuade people in the school neighbourhood to help keep the community park clean and safe.

Having an authentic context for the production of the PSA made it easy to get the students thinking about the best way to reach their target audience. They had something they wanted to say because they felt so strongly about the condition of the park.

The talk that went on in the teams was all about finding the strongest images, words and sounds, to move their audience into action.


  • Have students view and discuss some PSAs from the Internet.

  • In small groups, the students discuss some key questions and think about what they like/dislike about each PSA.

  • Help the students pull out some criteria for an effective PSA such as the creativity, the message, visual and sound effects, and whether or not it grabs the attention of the target audience.

  • At the end of this exploration ask the students to think about the following question. "What have you learned from viewing and talking about the PSAs that you would like to try in your own?"


Group students in small production teams of three to five members. Teams:

  • brainstorm ideas for their storyline, thinking about the best way to get their message across to their target audience

  • come up with a tag line, a concise memorable phrase that will convey their message.

  • share their ideas with the class, explaining how and why they think their PSA will get the attention of their target audience (What is the hook ?)

  • consider feedback from peers and teacher and give feedback to others

  • work to develop and elaborate on a detailed storyboard that includes drawings of each shot, camera angles, the kinds of shots, notes to the camera person etc. The more details included in the storyboard, the easier the actual production will be.

  • write a script of any narration or dialogue that will be part of the video.

Note: Before any team shot their video, their script and storyboard had to be complete, the script rehearsed, costumes and props gathered and roles for the production outlined (e.g. actors, director, camera person etc.). This made the actual video shoot much easier and faster. No group needed more than 20 minutes to shoot their footage.


Teach the students the basics of the digital camera you are using. Students who will be operating the camera should have time to practice the following :

  • shooting different camera angles and frames

  • working the zoom button.

  • trying out the microphone to decide how far they could be from the actors to pick up dialogue.

  • setting up the camera on the tripod

  • checking that the batteries are still good. (It is a good idea to have an extra battery ready to go.)

Encourage the students to maintain ownership of their productions by allowing them to make the decisions about what they want to do and adjust your teaching to their needs.

Students act out their scene according to their storyboard.The camera crews need to shoot more of a scene than needed in order to make cuts and add transitions during the editing process. Two or three minutes of footage will be edited down to about a 30 second clip.


Have students edit and revise their videos using a program like iMovie or Movie Maker.


  • follow their storyboards to cut their original footage together, add transition elements (e.g. fade-outs, dissolves, and freeze frames); record the narration; add music or sound effects and a tag line

  • share their work in progress with their peers and teacher for feedback

  • continue to make changes until they are satisfied with their PSA

  • reflect on how they worked as a group, the decisions they made, and how they feel about their finished product, including anything they would do differently in future projects

One of the interesting outcomes of this experience was to see how the students were able to craft their story in ways they were unable to do in print. In this short clip the students were able to reveal their character to their readers, by showing, not telling her feelings and thoughts. There is a definite beginning, rising tension created by the use of slow motion and the sound of the shot, as well as a powerful ending. We felt it was important to help students make this connection back to how authors construct narratives in print texts.

View one of the PSAs here.


Teachers, parents and students were invited to view the ads and to hear a presentation from each student explaining what they were trying to do and why and how they made particular choices. They also talked about the action they hoped their audience would take after viewing the ad. The audience reaction to the PSAs was very positive and the students felt a great sense of accomplishment. They were empowered and had a real world experience in how people can make change.


ReadWriteThink has an inquiry-based project for grades 6-8 in which students explore a range of resources on fair use and copyright then design their own audio PSAs.


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