The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that children spend an average of seven hours a day consuming various types of media. This data illustrates that society’s voracious appetite for media makes media literacy more important than ever.
How can you teach your students to interact responsibly with the media? The following resources can help you plan thought-provoking lessons on the subject.
Media Literacy Resources Made for Educators
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The following websites specifically aim to help educators bring media literacy into the classroom. You can use the tools that they offer to plot out meaningful lessons on media literacy for almost any grade.
- Frank W. Baker is a leading expert in media literacy, and the Media Literacy Clearinghouse portion of his website is a channel that he uses to help educators explore the subject. The section for “New & Revised Resources” provides the latest theories on media literacy. Below that, there are lists of media literacy subtopics that explore how to interpret the media from various angles. Mr. Baker’s Twitter feed is on the right-hand side of the page, and that gives a quick glimpse into the hottest issues related to media literacy.
- Canada observed Media Literacy Week in early November 2014. The website for the event explains what media literacy is and why teaching it is so important. Under the “Resources” tab, click on “Ideas for Educators” to view media literacy projects that are appropriate for different grade levels.
- The folks at Edutopia take five concepts of media literacy that were written back in 1987 and explain how they remain relevant for a world that centers on social platforms. Discussing these concepts can help students understand how the media molds public perceptions and the scope of the audience that may be reached when students post something online
- Media Literacy Now states that its mission is to “spark policy change in every state and at the national level to ensure all K-12 students receive comprehensive media literacy education and skills.” In keeping with that mission, their website provides a list of links to useful resources that include The News Literacy Project, The Critical Media Project, and Common Sense Media. Media Literacy Now’s blog explores the latest issues surrounding media literacy.
- This article on middleweb.com, written by expert Frank W. Baker, points out that because political ads are considered “free speech,” politicians have license to tell lies therein. Baker goes on to break down the aspects of political ads and provides questions that you can use to help your students think critically about what they see on TV.
- Melissa Hero, an educator in California, writes about how to help students find credible sources for their projects. Included in the article is a list of “hoax” sites that you can use to show students the difference between a reliable website and a shady one.
Interpreting Media Messages
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Sometimes, the sly techniques used by the media to convey their messages make Shakespeare seem easy to understand. The following resources discuss specific ways that businesses and individuals may dress up the facts to influence public thinking.
- The Houston Chronicle points out some of the top techniques that advertisers use to appeal to the public. The article gives brief consideration to repetition, claims, association, bandwagon, and promotions.
- Weasel words are among the top tools that advertisers use to say something that doesn’t say anything at all. This article, entitled “This post is 100% all natural, clinically proven, and you should only read it if you need to lose at least 30 pounds,” discusses some common weasel words that appear on health products.
- Although Darling Magazine’s content aims mostly to appeal to women, the content of their article “Are You Media Literate?” contains information that is relevant to both genders and all age groups. It encourages readers to analyze media messages by asking such questions as “Who created this message?” and “How might different people understand this message differently than me?”
Other Sources for Media Literacy
The following sources provide additional information and statistics on media literacy that you may find useful when you are planning your lessons.
- The Media Literacy Project’s blog delves into current happenings that relate to media literacy. For example, one recent post discussed Halloween costumes with negative connotations.
- The Palo Alto Medical Foundation released an article that discusses how the media affects teens and young adults. It explores areas that include obesity, school, violence, and stereotypes.
- A psychology clinic in Austin, AK Chase & Associates, gives details on the value of media literacy. The article points out that media literacy can help people “discover the part of the story that’s not being told” and “create and distribute [their] own media messages.”
- Social Media Week gives an example of how young people can use the media to affect good. This article discusses the power that social media can have when it comes to raising awareness of issues like modern-day slavery.
Today’s young people are growing up in a world that is saturated by the media. The inability to sift through media messages and get to the heart of a matter can prove crippling. Use the above resources to craft lessons that help your students become users of media and not victims of it.