10 Reasons to Refresh Your Lessons with Media Literacy in the New Year

I am really feeling the importance of teaching media literacy in my junior classroom.  Media Literacy is so positively engaging, relevant, and cross-curricular. I’m hoping to pass on some inspiration. This is the culmination of a three month long AQ course, so perhaps choose one or two ideas to get started.  They may not be new ideas, but they can remind and refresh. They are in no particular order.
  1. Critical Literacy and Current Events You can’t pass up a news story about Nelson Mandela or an ice storm for a reproducible reading comprehension text. Media studies is about tuning students into what is happening in the real world.  Knowing how to think critically about news media is such an important skill.  What is the author’s bias? Who is misrepresented, stereotyped, sensationalized, and/or omitted?  More examples and critical questions can be found here.  We can also look at the sources of news media.  The four newspapers in my hometown come from only two media corporations.  This Ted Talk explains why we need to teach our students to think critically about the news. news
  2. Pop Culture Pop culture in the classroom is not really the dumbing down of the curriculum that one might presume.  It can be a celebration of the comics, commercials, and video games that entertain us.  Pop culture is a look at media’s pervasive influence.  Ask your students if they have seen or heard anything about a fox today.  Media studies doesn’t always mean looking at commercialism and consumerism from a negative perspective.  Students can be encouraged to sort through the biases and assumptions that saturate our daily lives.  Here are some questions to use when looking at media messages.
  3. Easy Integration My timetable does not allow a separate time for each subject, so I am always looking for ways to integrate Science, Social Studies, Health, and the Arts into my Literacy block.  Media is the bridge that crosses into all subject areas.  For example, in Health, we will study internet safety and prevention, then create stop-motion animated PSA’S on the topic.  Here and here are some of the examples we will use for inspiration.
  4. Deconstruction Sometimes, I find it is easier to find an appropriate video or website for my lesson than it is to find an appropriate grade level text.  Showing a video, however, does not mean you are teaching Media Literacy.  Websites, videos, infographics, blog posts, photographs – they are all media that can be analyzed and deconstructed just as you would a piece of fiction or non-fiction text.  In fact, comparing different text forms with the same content is a great way to uncover the conventions and techniques used. sound
  5. Assess with Style Use media to assess media and give descriptive feedback with photos, video, audio, or annotated digital work samples.  Even better, have your students assessing themselves and their peers using media.  Comic Life,  Explain Everything, and Evernote are my suggested apps.
  6. Production What does go on behind the scenes?  Who is a Grip? Or a Gaffer?  I’ve just planned a lesson for Grade 4 Sound and Light Science where students watch this video of a Foley Artist in action.  They will investigate ways to create their own sound effects for a scene in Drama. Production doesn’t always have to be in the form of a time-consuming performance task.  Production improves our students’ ability to deconstruct media and engages them in hands-on learning.  In-your-seat viewing and media analysis can be balanced with media production activities, so that students will ultimately be literate consumers.
  7. Visual Many aspects of media production are artistic endeavours.  Infographics and videos use visual metaphors to represent complex ideas.  Here is an awesome Ted-Ed lesson that explains the process.  In our increasingly visual world,  students need not wait until high school or post-secondary school to learn the basics of design.  From poster layouts to storyboards, students can express themselves creatively by using fonts and camera angles as tools.  Here and here are some ways to stop using clip art and start using photos to enhance your lessons and your students’ work.  Remember to model and teach students how to give appropriate accreditation when using photos, or any type of media work, for that matter.camera
  8. Audience Membership Audience theories have changed over time – from passive to active to users of media.  We know not to believe and act upon everything we consume. Audiences want to get something out of the media they consume, and it is up to the producers to figure out what that is, so they can get what they want.  By putting our students in these roles, they can  identify the purpose of media in our lives.  The media triangle is a clear represention of the media text-audience-production relationship.
  9. Authentic Any special events, fundraisers, or classroom projects can be promoted with media.  Students can produce posters, commercials, announcements, newsletter articles, blog posts, and more.  Students can also create media messages for local community causes or global partnerships.  I have curated some links for teaching character education and creating an inclusive classroom environment here.
  10. Accessible Many of our students literally hold media in the palm of their hands.   Despite wi-fi hiccups, we have constant access to the Internet.  Students can curate research links and interests, collaborate and network with social media, and create and share media online without having to download software.  Applications like GlogsterThingLink, and TouchCast allow students to make their media productions live or ‘clickable’.  Using code in applications like Scratch is another way to make media that is interactive.
I must give credit to my brilliant classmates and savvy instructor for supporting my learning.  Many of these ideas are theirs.  The Centre for Media Literacy defines Media Literacy as “accessing, analyzing, evaluating, creating and participating with media content”.  The eight key concepts of Media Literacy are explained here.  If you are looking to dig deeper, here are a few more resources:
Photos via stock.xchng

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