Let’s be inclusive this Noël Commercial Madness season

“Noël commercial madness” is a wonderful opportunity to provide input during the holiday season: created by the über-creative Dustin Williamson, the idea is to use Christmas commercials to provide input by doing Movie Talks, Personalized Questions and Answers, Games, Storytelling, etc. Oh, and your students get to vote for their favorite commercials. It is SO fun!

Christmas is definitely an exciting topic for a lot of our students, but it is also very exclusive because, well, not everyone celebrates Christmas, and also because French TV commercials in particular are traditionally very white and very hetero-normative.

So, as someone who did not celebrate Christmas as a child and as contributor to the 2019 Noël Commercial Madness, I am offering some ideas to run a super fun Noël Commercial Madness in a way that is as inclusive as possible.

1. Introduce the topic by talking about holiday traditions in YOUR classroom

I typically start talking about what we like and don’t like about winter. I draw two columns on the board: “En hiver, j’aime…” “je n’aime pas…” and I ask my students to help me fill the table. You can do this with Novice and Intermediates alike.

Then, I introduce the term “les Fêtes de fin d’année” and I tell them that while Christmas is fairly prominent in France because 50% of French people are catholic, we have a variety of traditions and celebrations. I may even share that I did not celebrate Christmas as a child. Not all French people celebrate Christmas!

Next, I ask my students “Est-ce que vous avez une tradition ou une célébration pour les Fêtes de fin d’année?” With Novice students, I will supplement a lot, and we might not get a lot of details. With Intermediates, of course we will get more details, and it is a great way to know our kids.

Finally, I introduce Commercial Madness in English by telling my students that Christmas commercials are often telling heartwarming or funny stories and we are going to use them as an excuse to have a bit of fun! I show them the bracket and explains quickly how we will vote each time we have viewed and “talked about” a commercial.

This usually takes a whole class period.

2. Choose commercials that provide mirrors for your students

In order to do this, you might have to give up on using French commercials and use commercials from countries/brands where diversity is more valued, such as the UK! To me, it’s ok and worth it.

So, this year, you will see two British commercials in the Noël bracket that have diverse characters (Argos and Marks & Spencer). I am adding a third one from the US here because it is a wonderful story! Story Listening would be a wonderful way to tell this story, and then we watch the commercial together.

Feel free to substitute a commercial from the 2019 bracket with this one or any commercial you feel provides more mirrors to your students!

H&M A magical holiday video

3. Choose commercials that may be be less about Christmas, more about community, or that bring about a different topic all together!

  • I love the H&M ad because it has a very diverse cast, and is about sweaters you wear in winter.
  • The Intermarché commercial is a good opportunity to talk about gender stereotypes.
  • The Argos commercial introduces Nandi Bushell, a drumming prodigy!

I have worked on lesson plans to accompany these commercials, they are included in Dustin’s 2019 Noel Madness package. I hope you and your students enjoy them.

And finally, why not replace “Noël commercial madness” with “Les Fêtes commercial madness” and celebrate different traditions? Or just most inspiring commercials in general, regardless of holidays? This is an aspiration at this point, but how cool would that be??

In the meantime, I would love to hear ways you are making this end of year activity more inclusive in your classroom.

Read more about rethinking winter holidays on tolerance.org (Thanks, Dawn, for sharing this resource on Twitter).

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