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Is This Greenwashing?

Created by: Dan Castrigano
Date: Jul 30, 2021
Duration: 60 minutes
Grades: 6th, 7th, 8th
Subject: English Language Arts
Formats: Google Docs, Google Slides
Synopsis

This lesson introduces the concept of greenwashing, or "the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company's products are more environmentally sound." (investopedia.com)


Students learn about greenwashing, watch a series of videos, and write a paragraph arguing if an advertisement is greenwashing or not. 


Step 1 - Inquire: Students watch and discuss ExxonMobil's advertisement called "What Carbon Capture Can Do."


Step 2 - Investigate: Students watch a video describing greenwashing and answer guiding questions.


Step 3 - Inspire: Students watch a series of videos from various companies. Students select one video and write a claim-evidence-reasoning paragraph arguing if the video is an example of greenwashing or not.


Accompanying Teaching Materials

Inquire
10 minutes

  • Students watch "What Carbon Capture Can Do," an ExxonMobil advertisement.

  • Students turn and talk to each other after viewing the video, using the prompts provided on the Teacher Slideshow.
  • Teacher facilitates a full class discussion.
Investigate
15 minutes
  • Students watch Everything You Need to Know About Greenwashing.

  • Students answer guiding questions in their own document while watching the video.
  • Students turn and talk about their responses in their document.
  • Teacher reviews the answers with the entire class.
Inspire
35 minutes
  • Students watch a series of videos.

  • Students choose a video.
  • Students conduct research on that company and decide if their video is an example of greenwashing or not.
  • Teacher explains how to write the claim-evidence-reasoning paragraph.
  • Students watch "100% Green: Carbon Neutral by 2050," a United Airlines advertisement.
  • Teacher explains how to write a claim sentence, sentences with supporting evidence, and a closing sentence.
  • Teacher shares the following tips:
    • Follow the color coding in the example paragraph.
    • The more hard facts in the supporting evidence sentences, the stronger the argument. Include statistics, places, names, events, dates, etc.
    • This shorthand for paragraph structure:
      • Say what you will say (claim sentence)
      • Say it (supporting evidence sentences)
      • Say what you said (closing sentence)
  • Students write a paragraph in their own document.
Teaching Tips

Positives

  • This lesson teaches students to critically examine digital media. As digital citizens, they must be aware of how to tell fact from fiction.

  • Students get voice and choice in this lesson. Students select their own videos and are able to argue if it is greenwashing or not.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students will most likely argue that all the videos are examples of greenwashing.
  • Encourage students to dig around the corporation’s website to see if the claims are actually true.
  • Encourage students to scroll to the bottom of the corporations' websites. Students can usually find a site map, including pages like "sustainability."
  • Students can use the "More Resources on Greenwashing" slide to help them understand greenwashing.

Differentiation

  • In their paragraphs, weaker students can focus on music, the tone of the narrator’s voice, or imagery in the videos.

  • You can push stronger students to include more concrete evidence in their paragraphs.
  • Most students will benefit from color coding their sentences. Encourage them to keep their text highlighted as they write. They can even keep their paragraphs color coded after they finish.
  • Weaker students may write only five sentences. Stronger students may write more sentences by adding context to their supporting evidence sentences.
  • If students are struggling with their closing sentences, ask them to read their claim sentences aloud. Sometimes this helps guide their thinking.
  • Stronger students who finish early can edit one another's paragraphs for mechanical errors, read their paragraphs out loud to one another, or discuss their chosen videos and greenwashing in general.
  • Students may be interested in reading a series of fact sheets on greenwashing in the aviation industry, like this one on electric flight.
Standards
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 3: Gathering and Evaluating Sources
      • D3.1.6-8 Gather relevant information from multiple sources while using the origin, authority, structure, context, and corroborative value of the sources to guide the selection.
      • D3.2.6-8 Evaluate the credibility of a source by determining its relevance and intended use.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.2 Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.
    • Writing (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.1 Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

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