Advertising on the Internet

This lesson focuses on teaching students to understand the role of identity in the online marketplace and online advertising, and advertisers’ intent to manipulate consumers.
Grade Level


Students will be able to:

  • Understand how advertising on the internet works
  • Understand their role in internet advertising and consumption
Essential Questions
  • How does online advertising work, and what is my role in it?
  • How do we recognize when we are being manipulated by advertisers and avoid it?


algorithm [ˈalɡəˌriT͟Həm] (noun) a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.

affinity [əˈfinədē] (noun) a spontaneous or natural liking or sympathy for someone or something

description of Propublica as found on its website—“ProPublica is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Our work focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with ‘moral force.’ We do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.”

Sources: Google Dictionary, propublica.org

Lesson Overview

This lesson focuses on teaching students to understand the role of identity in the online marketplace and online advertising, and advertisers’ intent to manipulate consumers. Students will listen to or read excerpts of an NPR podcast that provides examples of targeted advertising on the internet. Afterward, they will reflect on their own digital footprints and put themselves inside the mind of an advertiser. The lesson culminates with the creation a public service announcement (PSA) about internet advertising.


  1. Ask students to create a list of either everything they did in the morning before they got to school or everything they did the day before after they left school. Encourage students to include every little detail they can remember. After students finish writing, have them pass their lists to the person next to them.
  2. Based on the list they receive, each student will play the role of an advertiser and come up with a product that they would try to sell based on that list. You can help students get started by asking them, “If an advertiser were to look at your list of actions, how might they target your identity?”
  3. Read the transcript of podcast excerpts aloud to your class. Make sure to pause at the places marked in the transcript to emphasize important points. You may also want to explain unfamiliar vocabulary or write vocabulary on the board (see provided definitions).
  4. Initiate a class discussion by asking students, “What were some things that stuck out from the podcast?” Create a list of student responses on chart paper.
  5. Continue the discussion by asking, “How might you convince others not to be manipulated by personalized ads?”
  6. Have students find a partner and create a PSA about internet advertising. Tell them to imagine the PSA as a popup that helps educate online consumers on a social media site like Facebook.


Alignment to Common Core State Standards


Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.


Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.


Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.