Today’s definition of literacy is more than reading and writing as the world is increasingly dominated by mass media and communication technologies. Since we can reach limitless information through modern communication tools, the effect and control of media on the way we live and think has significantly inreased. Therefore, it is imperative for schools to prepare their students for real life by making them media literate. In order to be functionally literate, students are expected to analyze and interpret the messages that can influence people’s attitudes, behaviour, and values, produce examples to express their own messages through multiple forms of media. Media Literacy Now and Open Thinking Wiki offer a comprehensive list of resources you can use with different age groups to teach all these skills.
As part of our media literacy program, our students first study an introductory unit on what media literacy is and why it is important to study media literacy. For high school students, you can use the resources in the MLC website to discuss these issues. Students then identify, analyze, interpret, and evaluate media techniques and messages in different formats and create similar products. Please read this blog post for more ideas and download the Quick Start Guide that has great project-based ideas to teach media literacy skills to your students. My Pop Studio is another great site that helps students learn media literacy skills and promotes positive youth development with highly interactive creative play activities. Here you can see the project assignment sheet that we prepared for My Pop Studio.
We integrated news literacy, ad literacy, and film literacy units into our English program because they match so well with our learning goals. Before doing so, please make sure that your students know how to analyze non-fiction texts, write informative texts, use persuasive style, and distinguish fact from opinion. I can hear some people saying, “Why should I teach media literacy, after all I am an English teacher!” Please read this great post on the value of media education. Doesn’t our job also involve making a difference in our students’ lives and preparing them for the challenges of the era they live in? Integrating media literacy education into your curriculum will enable you to teach your students many of the Now Skills 21st century requires. Many teachers complain about disengaged students. One of the reasons of this disengagement and boredom is because students cannot relate to what they are learning in the classroom. The real life connections that media literacy lessons provide may increase the level of engagement of your students.
Image Source: Embracing Technology in Education Wiki
You can start teaching news literacy to your older students with this great TED-Ed lesson on how the opinions and facts (and sometimes non-facts) make their way into the news and how the smart reader can tell them apart. Like any other TED-Ed lesson, you can create a new lesson by changing the tasks depending on your students’ needs and level, using the tools the TED-Ed website offers. In this list you can find some resources that you may use to teach news. Start by giving your students news reports that you think will interest them. Here you can find a graphic organizer, a recipe, and a checklist for news writing that your students can use. This 5 W’s and H graphic organizer and The Inverted Pyramid graphic organizer will help them understand the format and style of news reports better. Teach your students all the ingredients of news reports (how to write a headline, a lead, how to use quotes, bias in writing, etc.) before they start writing their own news. This assignment will familiarize your students with the format and style of news reports and magazine articles. The news unit is also a good time to teach or revise Reported Speech as your students will use it while they are writing their news reports. We always try to teach each grammar topic when there is a need for it and never teach it in an isolated fashion.
After they master all the ingredients, you can give your students a collaborative news writing task using Google Drive. My students love the news writing competition activity when I give them the headline and the lead of a news report and ask them to work in groups to predict and write the rest of it using everything they have learned about news reports. After they finish writing their piece, groups exchange their news reports and give each other feedback. Then, I share the original version with them and they choose the news report that is closest to the original version. They then compare their style with the original version and choose the best news report in terms of style. Another creative collaborative news writing task can be given in Literature classes. Ask your students to choose one part in the novel they have read and write a news report based on it.
Students also love the ad literacy units because of their real life connections. Just like the news writing unit, they first learn how and why ads are designed, how the features of a magazine advert are different from that of a TV commercial or a persuasive advert like a flyer. They learn about the different techniques and styles to use for different types of ads, the significance of catchy slogans and the target audience. In this list you can find resources you may use for your ad literacy units. There are several game-based, interactive websites among them like Admongo and Don’t Buy it! Get Media Smart! Your students will enjoy playing the games here and learn a lot about advertising while doing so. Please visit the Teachers’ pages in both websites where you can find resources to teach ad literacy. After students learn about the techniques on designing ads, you can assign them a task like this one or give them a list of target audience to choose from and ask them to design a product and an ad for that specific audience.
Film literacy is the most popular media literacy unit among students. The main goal of film study in the classroom is to make our students active viewers of films rather than passive ones. Students, as critical viewers learn to analyze what is in the frame, how it is constructed, what is left out and apply the techniques they have learned in their own products. The basic principles of the film study in English classes across levels can be:
* Elements of film language
* Features of different genres
* The rules of filmmaking
* The difference between still and moving images
* How the sequencing of shots can create a narrative
* How the use of camera angles, light, music, sound effects, etc. change the meaning of a moving sequence
* The critical role of screenwriting
In this list you can find some resources you may use while designing your own lessons to teach film literacy and you can find great media literacy projects created by Global Digital Citizen in this guide. In the video below, the famous filmmaker, Martin Scorsese talks about how ideas and feelings can be expressed through a visual form and the importance of visual literacy.
The ability to appreciate and analyze film is a critical skill for our learners as it also teaches them how to make their own products to be able to tell their own stories. Of course, film is not the only medium for the students to practice these skills. The fact that young people are surrounded by visuals today, has transformed the way they learn and perceive the world. They read, analyze, interpret and create graphic novels, comics, and cartoons to make sense of the visual world and to express themselves. Here is a sample task we prepared for our 7th grade students using the resources in Cartoons for the Classroom.
Combining images with text is a fun way for learners to demonstrate understanding and be creative. Today, there are many tools for the learners to show what they know using different forms of media. Especially learners who cannot fit into the traditional classrooms with one-size-fits-for-all type of education, benefit a lot from using sequential images and text together to tell a story or relate their understanding of learned materials.
Digital media offers us a great learning tool by bringing text, images, sound, and music together: Digital storytelling. The reason why digital storytelling has become so popular is because students love expressing themselves using different forms of media.
Here you can find a great post by Silvia Tolisano on creating new forms of digital storytelling using digital media. One of these forms is transmedia storytelling, in which the narrative is told across multiple platforms, and may include sound, images, text, movie and gaming elements. All these elements contribute to the meaning of the narrative and the reader cannot fully understand the text without interacting with each element. Inanimate Alice, Pottermore, Rockford’s Rock Opera, Collapsus and Ruby Skye are some transmedia examples. Here you can see the summer homework we prepared for our students on Inanimate Alice. The students were expected to read all 5 episodes of Inanimate Alice and after completing the assignment on episode 1, we asked them to choose another episode and prepare a digital worksheet about it like the one we did and post it on their blog. As the last step, we asked them to continue Alice’s adventures by creating their own digital story, episode 6 and post it on their blog. If you want to use Inanimate Alice in your classes, please check these lesson plans and student resource pack and this starter booklet.
Here you can find the summer homework we prepared for our 6th grade students on Rockford’s Rock Opera. Both of the resources are amazing examples of creativity and imagination and serve as perfect models for our students who are also creating their own digital stories. As Jason Ohler says, “Today, digital expression is the new literacy and creativity is the new fluency.”