What knowledge and skills do you want to develop through this lesson? In order to effectively use media analysis and other media literacy approaches, it is crucial to start with your curriculum goals. In building the lesson, you'll also need to decide what vocabulary and background information students will need to have in order to navigate through this lesson - and whether the teacher will need to provide that information ahead of time, whether the students can gain that information from an assigned reading prior to the lesson, or whether the students will be able to get that information during the lesson itself.
Media literacy is an extension of traditional literacy that applies the concepts of "reading" and "writing" to include the wide range of media forms through which we get information, ideas and impressions today [SEE What do we mean by "media"? under Selecting Media Documents]. Media literacy skills include having access to relevant media content and technologies, awareness of our media choices and their impact on us, understanding basic aspects of media content and production, analysis of media messages, evaluation of a message's credibility and usefulness, creation of one's messages through a range of media formats, reflection on our reactions to media messages and the impact of our own media productions on others, participation in collective activities related to media analysis and production, and taking action based on these abilities.
- Media literacy goals in Project Look Sharp lessons include the following:
- Critically analyze and critique/evaluate media constructions/representation.
- Analyze credibility, bias and truth in in diverse media constructions.
- Identify, analyze, and discuss different views/perspectives in media constructions.
- Recognize the power of words and images to influence a target audience.
- Analyze media documents for key media literacy concepts relating to audience, authorship, message and representation.
- Analyze diverse storytelling techniques to convey messages.
- Identify the qualities/strengths and weaknesses of different media forms.
The Common Core Standards state: "The need to conduct research and to produce and consume media is embedded into every aspect of today’s curriculum. In like fashion, research and media skills and understandings are embedded throughout the Standards rather than treated in a separate section… Students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and report on information and ideas, to conduct original research in order to answer questions or solve problems, and to analyze and create a high volume and extensive range of print and nonprint texts in media forms old and new." [SEE: Common Core Standards] The emphasis on a close reading of informational text in the ELA Common Core Standard sand CCS for literacy in social studies and science is directly addressed through the deep reading and analysis of media documents that are part of inquiry-based approaches used in media literacy. [SEE: Common Core Relationship to Media Literacy]
Identify one or two rich and engaging examples of media documents (e.g. video clips, magazine covers, internet website pages, excerpts from newspaper articles or books). These can serve as "anchor documents" for the lesson, and will help in the identification of supporting documents and related activities. [SEE Selection of Media Documents.]
Having students create their own media messages develops both synthesis and communication skills, requiring them to apply content knowledge and understanding to the creation of their own messages, while keeping in mind their purpose, target audience, use of techniques for conveying information and holding attention, reflection on the impact of their message on others, etc. [SEE: Key Questions for Production] Media production can be low tech (e.g. poetry, posters, skits) as well as higher tech (e.g. PowerPoint, Prezi, videos, Photoshop).
When having students present information and ideas to the rest of the class, ask them to decide what form(s) of media are best suited for their purposes in presenting information and ideas to the rest of the class. While media production may require access to digital media technology and can be time-consuming for both the students and teachers, it can also be very engaging and empowering for students, and provides the opportunity to link their personal use of media (such as Facebook, YouTube, twitter, audio production, and internet sites) to academic content and skills. [SEE: New Media Tools for Teachers] for examples of media production tools.
A "deep reading" of a single, rich media document allows students to explore the multiple readings possible within one media construction [SEE Example: 2004: Swift Boat Veterans for Truth TV Commercial]. Paired documents allow for comparing and contrasting conflicting constructions in response to key questions about messages, meanings, authorship, and purposes [SEE Example: Economics kit, Lesson 3: Panama Canal]. It is an excellent way to address the complex question - "What is left out of the message?" Analysis of a series of documents teaches students to identify patterns, see connections, synthesize information from multiple sources, and develop a broader understanding of the topic [SEE: Sustainability kit, lesson 7]
There are a number of good sources of information about media literacy education, including the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) [SEE: NAMLE] and its Core Principles for Media Literacy Education [SEE: Core Principles]. The Teacher's Guide to Media Literacy (Corwin, 2012) [SEE: TGML] and Project Look Sharp's Summer Media Literacy Institute [SEE: Institute] will give educators in-depth exposure to media literacy integration.
Before developing your own lessons, it will be useful to look at other lesson plans that are designed for the same grade level(s) or curriculum area(s) as yours, and to explore the different ways in which educators have approached media literacy in the classroom. We recommend that you browse through some of the Project Look Sharp kits [SEE: PLS Kits] to look at media literacy lessons on websites such as the Media Literacy Clearinghouse [SEE: Clearinghouse] and the Media Education Lab [SEE: Media Education Lab].
Use the drop down menu bar for Curriculum Kits and Lessons on the PLS home page to browse through our curriculum kit titles [SEE: PLS Kits] OR click on the Subject Area buttons in the middle of the PLS home page OR use the Lesson Plan Index for Kit Documents beneath the Subject Area buttons to search by kit content, media type, and grade level OR use the custom search bar at the top of the home page to search for particular events, names or issues.
Further Questions and Extended Activities, included in the Teachers Guides for many of our lessons, prompt students to go beyond media-based analysis to discuss issues, make personal connections, conduct follow-up research or take social action. Teachers can add their own questions and suggestions to these lists as a means of encouraging a broader, holistic understanding of the topic. [SEE: Sustainability Lesson 2, Teacher Guide] Thematic Listings in the introduction to many of the PLS kits include broad thematic categories with listings of specific media documents or lessons that explore the outlined themes and issues. [SEE: Social Justice Kit: Thematic Listing, Focusing Ideas and Connections]
Decide on a lesson from a PLS kit you want to adapt. You may want to consider using a different media format than the one used in the original lesson. Consider having students bring in documents to contribute to the lesson. Keep an archive of media documents that you have collected, tagging each one with information that will be useful for future lessons. [SEE: Selection of Media Documents] in this DIY guide for tips in finding the right documents.
Most PLS lessons include a Further Questions sections near the end of the Teacher Guide. These are often open-ended discussion questions designed to deepen the students' abilities in media analysis, encourage reflection on a student's personal relationship with the topic, and to explore underlying values and motives of stakeholders in the topic area. They may be adapted as more specific and targeted questions, with evidence-based answers as the goal. You may also want to use the Key Questions to Ask When Analyzing Media Messages [SEE: Key Questions], or to hand out those questions to the students and ask them which questions they would ask about this media document (and why). [SEE: Question Design].