Lesson 1
Take Action - Making Films

How to Study Public
Service Announcements (PSAs)


After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify the elements of a PSA
  • View PSAs critically, critiquing them for their effectiveness
  • Brainstorm ideas for their own PSAs


This lesson serves as an introduction to the production of PSAs, providing students with the opportunity to build an understanding of the characteristics of the genre.

Guiding Questions:

  • What is a Public Service Announcement?
  • What makes a Public Service Announcement effective?

Recommended Time:

90 minutes

Common Core State Standards:



PSA Examples:

Technology Required:

  1. Internet
  2. Projection Equipment

Lesson Design:

  • Explain to students that writers often study the writing of others critically to learn more about craft.
  • In preparation for writing scripts for PSAs, the class studies some examples from a writer’s perspective, considering the following questions.


1. What do we notice about PSAs in general?

2. Which PSAs do we think are especially good and why?

3. How can we create PSAs as powerful and effective as these?

  • Stopping after each PSA, the class focuses on the first question. Chart and discuss the characteristics of PSAs that students notice. (You might want to refer to the list below.)

Typically, PSAs:

– Are short (usually 60 seconds or less)

– Present one single issue

– Inform the viewer of key, relevant facts

– Have a clear call to action (usually indicated through text on screen)

– Might or might not include people

– Might or might not use music

– Sometimes use voice-overs

– Sometimes use special effects (like black and white)

– Might use transitions/editing to enhance the video

– Aim to leave a lasting impact

  • After building a list of characteristics, students will ‘Think-Pair-Share’ in response to Questions #2 and 3 above.
  • Consider keeping a class list of PSA  features, noting specific techniques that are most effective.
  • Provide time for students to reflect on what features they felt were most effective and brainstorm ideas for their own PSAs.