With all the talk of Black Friday (here in the US), I always like to do a short lesson on Buy Nothing Day around this time of year. One place to get materials is the Adbusters’ campaign page, where there are a number of protest ideas and posters. Developing Teachers has a 90-minute lesson based on these materials. They begin by looking at some spoof advertisements, then do a reading about Buy Nothing Day. One aspect I really like is the use of a checklist that encourages students to look critically at their shopping decisions. They also include a number of visual prompts that help convey the meaning of Buy Nothing Day.
My boycott activity would also work well as a lead-in to a discussion of Buy Nothing Day. I begin by with some pre-discussion questions, which are available in this summary of the lesson that I did for KOTESOL’s Global Issues SIG newsletter. Next, I introduce the concepts of boycotting and consumer responsibility. I then ask students to research some famous boycotts (Coca-Cola, Nike, Disney and Starbucks) and fill out this handout where they articulate the reason(s) behind the boycotts. We then go through some post-discussion questions (also available in the KOTESOL article). For a follow-up, I ask students to find another company that some people have boycotted and present a summary of this boycott to the class. A brief lesson on using Google or on looking critically at websites can be useful in preparing students to investigate boycotts.
If you want some more info on this activity, you can also check out a podcast I did on it back in 2007.
For another angle, this article on recent protests at WalMart also makes a strong counterpoint to the Black Friday hype.
As the holiday shopping momentum builds (in many countries), I think anti-consumerism / consumer responsibility messages are extremely relevant to our students.