Mad Men advertising authority, Don Draper wasn’t born into power, he fought for it. Though Dick Whitman grew up impoverished, mistreated, and having never finished high school, he assumed the identity of deceased soldier “Don Draper” and became one of the most influential men on Madison Avenue. More than just a name, what Don really took on was the commanding, persuasive rhetoric of the man he wanted to be. By applying a few lessons from the marketing master himself, teachers can improve in-class language learning and motivate students to become the speakers they want to be.

Inspire Confidence

Don Draper commands attention and respect because he has total confidence in what he is saying. You too can help students build this kind of self-confidence in several ways. First, explore grammar and engage in discussion using familiar and interesting topics as a vehicle. Family, special occasions, travel or shopping may prove comfortable areas to start where most students will have access to the vocabulary and background knowledge required to express themselves with assurance. Polling students for their input on topics to cover in class will also make them feel at ease and in control. Further, you will find that some students may feel more confident completing tasks alone, in pairs, small groups, or even with the entire class. Give students the opportunity to work in groups of different sizes to benefit students of all learning styles.

Let Students Know Their Worth

There is not a shred of doubt in Don’s mind about what he’s worth to his firm and to clients. Your students might not be so sure. Regardless of whether or not your class abides by a grading system or not, giving students a little praise goes a long way. Thank and commend students for their contributions, efforts, and attempts in the classroom. Tell them what they are doing well, where they excel, and point out progress. When making corrections, be sure to do so lightly without over-correcting to the point that it becomes a demoralizing distraction. Address the class as a whole when amending errors as opposed to singling out individuals who may have made mistakes.

Get Students to Love what they Do

If the numerous late nights spent in the office pouring over mock ups and copy are any indication, Don Draper doesn’t only do his job but loves it. A love of learning can be cultivated for students when the process is enjoyable and engaging. Introducing ESL friendly games and out-of-book activities aid in a student’s commitment and devotion to the process. Try dialogue writing, performances, word searches, contests, cross word puzzles, scavenger hunts, sing alongs, reading real newspaper or magazine articles, physical ice breaker and team building activities, Jeopardy, MadLibs, Scattegories, or Apples to Apples just to name a few. Remember to modify and adjust all activities to best your students’ level and needs. Don’t be afraid to leave the classroom either! Trips to plays, museums, parks, and other attractions all present fun, alternative opportunities for learning.

An eloquent wordsmith in his own right, Don Draper proves language to be the most effective tool in securing success in both advertising and life itself, an invaluable example that lends itself to students of language and beyond.