Quebec Competencies Chart - Thinking Like a Tobacco Company

Author: Nova Scotia Department of Health, Drug Dependency and Tobacco Control Unit
Level: Secondary Cycle One
Subject Area: English Language Arts, Physical Education and Health
Lesson Link: Thinking Like a Tobacco Company

Description: In this lesson, students learn how the tobacco industry targets the needs, wishes and desires of young people in order to sell cigarettes. Students begin by looking at the reasons why the tobacco industry needs to recruit “replacement” smokers. Then they assume the roles of marketing personnel in a tobacco company and use a 1987 youth survey conducted by R. J. Reynolds Tobacco to create their own marketing campaigns to sway various sub-groups within the youth demographic.

Cross-curricular Competencies

Broad Areas of Learning

  • To use information
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To be creative
  • To adopt effective work methods
  • To use information and communications technologies for learning purposes
  • To work with others
  • To communicate appropriately
  • Media Literacy
  • Environmental Awareness and Consumer Rights
  • Health and Well-Being

This lesson satisfies the following English Language Arts Competencies from the Quebec Education Program:

Competency One: Uses language/talk to communicate and learn

Production Process:

  • Uses strategies to generate, clarify and expand ideas
  • Explores a structure that will help the audience to receive the intended meaning:
    • Selects an organizational structure suitable to function of text
  • Presents the spoken text to audience 

Classroom Drama

  • Uses drama to explore complex problems and to extend the range of learning contexts
  • Engages in on-the-spot improvisation and role-play in order to:
    • Represent different views
    • Experiment with possible social roles and power relationships
    • Link several scenes to create a longer improvisation
  • Uses physical movement and nonverbal language such as sounds, images, gestures, facial expressions

Social Practices of Classroom and Community

  • Examines the discourse used to present information in selected spoken, written and media texts

Competency Two: Represents his/her literacy in various media

Production Process


  • Immerses self in the text type to be produced in order to deconstruct some of its textual features, codes and conventions:
    • Analyzes samples of text type
    • Carries out a content analysis or inquiry into some aspect of media text
  • Rehearses production process:
    • Creates criteria for guiding production, e.g. features of an effective poster or advertisement
    • Discusses the purpose, context, target audience and their needs
    • Decides about medium, mode and code
    • Writes script, storyboard or rough draft


  • Communicates information, experiences, points of view and personal responses to a familiar audience
  • Inter-relates the characteristics of media text in a specific context drawing on:
    • Specific communication strategies and resources
    • Images, symbols, signs, logos and/or words to communicate meaning(s)/message(s)
    • Knowledge of structures and features of other media texts brought into own productions
  • Reviews and edits text to focus on meaning(s)/message(s)


  • Presents text to intended audience

Information and Communications Technologies (ICT)

  • Uses different available technologies in order to construct own texts

Text, Audience, Producer

Textual Features, Codes and Conventions

  • Interprets media texts:
    • Draws on knowledge of production process and codes and conventions of texts produced
    • Explores the codes that construct media texts, e.g. headlines, captions and photographs in newspapers
    • Constructs message(s) and meaning(s) using familiar codes from media texts
    • Identifies functions of media discourse: to entertain, to persuade, to promote, to inform
    • Makes connection(s) between images, signs, symbols, pictures and printed text and meaning
    • Confirms, by talking with peers and teacher, that a media text can contain more than one message
    • Identifies and discusses some of the ways in which pictures, illustrations, symbols and images enhance the message
    • Explores the use of “formulas”
    • Recognizes purpose and function of stereotypes


  • Identifies some aspects of representation and exclusion, i.e. deconstructs:
    • Age, gender, family, culture, race, location, such as: portrayals of teens, depictions of a student’s neighbourhood in local news

Audience and Producer

  • Explores self as individual member of audience (use, personal biases, prior experiences) and as part of a larger target audience
  • Examines how media target specific audiences:
    • Identifies ways that different familiar audiences use the media
    • Identifies and generalizes aspects of familiar audiences
    • Identifies subjects of interest for specific audiences
    • Explores how the structures and features of texts shape meaning for an audience
    • Explains how own productions are adapted to interests of familiar audience chosen
  • Discusses characteristics of producer:
    • Explores where, when, why, by and for whom texts are produced
    • Considers the stance of different media texts on issues and concerns of interest to young adolescents
    • Identifies connections made by producers between media texts, e.g. references to Disney in fast-food commercials
    • Identifies aspects of media industry related to marketing and promotion

Competency Three: Reads and listens to written, spoken and media texts

Reader’s Stance: Constructing a Reading of a Text

  • Focuses on the world of the text to construct an aesthetic reading of text
  • Focuses on making sense of information in a text to construct an efferent reading, e.g. reads print and visual information with the intention of remembering details/examples and/or of following instructions, rereads to verify meaning(s) s/he is making, relates to personal experience and prior knowledge
  • Focuses on the relationship between own world and world of the text to construct an interpretive reading, e.g. elaborates on story world or information in text, connects literature or nonfiction to life experience(s), recognizes familiar textual features, codes and conventions that confirm own meaning(s)/message(s)

Reading Strategies: Text Grammars (Structures, Features, Codes and Conventions)

  • Constructs meaning(s)/message(s) by reinvesting her/his knowledge of the text as social construct, i.e. language-in-use:
    • Draws on cues in familiar structures, features, codes and conventions to make sense of texts
    • Identifies connotation and denotation of words, images and their referents
  • Applies contextual understanding when meaning breaks down:
    • Socio-cultural: draws on understanding of values and beliefs to make sense of incidents, events or message(s)

Reader, Text, Context: Interpreting Texts

  • Interprets the text for a familiar audience by drawing associations between own world of personal experiences and knowledge and the world of the text by considering:
    • Own characteristics as a reader and the constructed world of a text, e.g. comparison of own values and experiences with those presented in the text; issues, ideas or questions the text raises for her/him; experience with similar texts; attitudes towards subject/topic/character; personal interests
    • Predictions and inferences about the view of the world presented in text
    • Features, codes and conventions of known text types/genres
  • With guidance, examines text in its literary and/or socio-cultural context:
    • Identifies features, codes and conventions used to achieve a recognized social purpose and/or function and/or effect and impact on self as reader, e.g. in a popular television commercial, in a humorous text
    • Connects, in a trial-and-error fashion, her/his understanding of some characteristics of narrator/writer/producer to what s/he notices about the view of the world presented in the text, e.g. reads “between the lines” to locate apparent values/beliefs of a character/narrator in a story, understands the intent of a fast food ad, sees that an opinion excludes certain points of view 
  • Communicates interpretation(s) of a text in an individual voice, referring to prior experience, own reading profile and understanding of texts as social constructs:
    • Follows a process to compose, i.e. writes or produces own interpretation(s) of a text
    • Expresses own interpretation(s) with clarity, openness and confidence

Other subject-specific programs

Physical Education and Health

The Cycle One program states:

The messages conveyed by the media can have major repercussions on the behaviour of adolescents. Therefore, it is important that students be encouraged to maintain a critical distance with regard to the media. For example, during a big sports event, certain networks show violent images involving the athletes. Reports on doping, which some athletes resort to, raise ethical questions about respecting rules and about honesty and fair play. Advertising uses an infinite amount of female body images to demonstrate the effects of products that enable you to obtain the perfect body with no physical effort. This sometimes contradictory information cannot help but challenge students, who must exercise critical judgment when they situate this information in relation to the various contexts in which they develop the subject-specific competencies.

The broad area of learning Media Literacy is thus part of this program.