Creating comprehensible input with commercials

Commercials are a really great way to infuse your language classes with a short burst of authentic language, but they are also really valuable as a vehicle for storytelling and discussion. Commercials are designed to be compelling and to elicit emotions. Paired with activities designed to make them comprehensible, commercials are wonderful for cultivating an environment of acquisition.

“Natural Approach teachers help make input  comprehensible by providing extra-linguistic knowledge in the form of pictures and realia, and by modifying their speech.”
“All that is required (for acquisition to occur)  is that the activity be interesting and comprehensible.”
─Fundamentals of Language Education,
Dr. Stephen D. Krashen 1992


If there are several unfamiliar structures, you should plan to pre-teach those structures before introducing the commercial. TPR, personalized questions and answers, and storytelling are great pre-teaching techniques.

If the commercial tells a story, it is great for movie talk. Simply play the video, pausing frequently to talk about what is happening. Ask questions, using circling questions if new vocabulary/structures are being presented. Be sure to write new words on the board as well to maximize comprehension.

After pre-teaching, you might show the video itself or you might begin with still shots from the video.


A good next step after movie talk is to do a reading. Some options are to type up a description of the story in the commercial or to transcribe the commercial itself and use as a reading. During or after reading, be sure to ask questions. Ask comprehension questions, opinion questions, linking prior knowledge questions. If discussion takes over, allow it to happen.

slide4 slide2

Want to assess the activity? Some ideas…

  • Take those still screen shots, make statements and have students decide which image you are describing.
  • Provide students with a list of events in the target language and have them put them in order.
  • Have students match written statements with images.
  • Have students with more proficiency do a “retell.” Have them describe the still images from the commercial.

Handout from my ACTFL 2016 presentation

Want to give it a try? FREE “La abuela” Verizon Commercial activity




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