Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Media Literacy Unit

I somehow ended up being about a month ahead of the rest of my team for teaching this year, so I decided to do an extra unit that I am VERY excited about: media literacy.  Given the common core focus on non-fiction text and the exposure that my students have to this daily, it seemed like the perfect fit.  My overarching goal for the unit is that my students will think, let me repeat that: THINK, critically about all of the media that they are exposed to.  They are bombarded with media messages every day and very rarley do they take the time to slow down and consider the source or underlying agenda fof these messages.  That will be the focus of this unit. 

I started with a form of media that they were all familiar with: food packaging.  I asked each of them to bring in a package with a nutrition facts label on it.  I raided my cupboards on the first day for anything processed and brought some of that with me as well, just in case kids forgot (which, of course, they did).  They were directed to the following two articles:
How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label:
http://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/labelingnutrition/ucm274593.htm
We read through this article together and they stopped frequently to apply the knowledge from this article to the food they had brought to class with them.  Many of the kids were honestly shocked to learn that a box of macaroni and cheese was not one serving, but three.  They really had never been taught how to do this.
FDA: Nutrition Labels Getting a MakeOver
http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/27/health/nutrition-labels-changes/
This article was about recent proposals to change the appearance of the nutrition label.  The kids read and annotated this on thier own.
After all of this reading and analysis, students were asked to do an extension writing activity that is explained below.
Here are the guiding questions sutdents were asked to answer as they were reading:

  1. Read the two articles.  Answer the questions below.

  1. Look at the packaging/label you brought with you today.  Answer the following questions:
    1. What food did you bring with you today?
    1. Using the 1st article as a guide and making certain to reference it directly, answer the following two questions in full paragraphs:
      1. What does the nutrition facts label reveal about your food?
      1. Is your food a good addition to a healthy/nutritious diet?
    1. Examine the packaging on your food and then answer the following two questions in full paragraph form:
      1. How is the packaging on this food meant to entice consumers to buy the food?
      1. Is the packaging at all misleading?  That is, does the packaging accurately represent the quality of the food as indicated on the food label?  Please explain.
    1. Using the second article as a guide, and making certain to reference it directly, answer the following two questions in full paragraph form:
      1. How would the packaging on the food that you brought be changed if the FDA's recent proposal came into effect?
      2. Are you in support of or against the FDA proposal?  Please explain.

  1. Homework: Write a letter encouraging the company whose product you brought in to engage in more accurate packaging practices OR write a letter to your local representative in support/against the FDA's change in food labeling practices.  These letters will be mailed and counted as a grade for this class.  You will need to locate the address for the company either on the packaging or online, you will need to address and stamp but DO NOT SEAL your envelope.

 

Here is information about your local representative:

If you want to send the letter to their representative in the House of Representatives, then you’ll need to figure-out which district you live in.  The Kent/Renton/Fairwood area is split between the 8th and 9th districts.  You can go look on the interactive map on this webpage to see which district they live in https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/WA

 Here’s the contact info for the Reps:

 Representative David Reichert

  • Washington, DC Office - 1127 Longworth HOB, Washington, DC 20515

  • Auburn Office -  21st Street SE, Auburn, WA 98001

Representative Adam Smith

  • Washington DC Office - 2264 Rayburn Office Building, Washington D.C. 20515
 
My next two days focused on analysis of print ads.  We looked at two ads that I selected at random and applied the CDC's analysis guide to them as a class.  Here are the two ads that I selected:

 
Next, I asked my students to locate their own ads and answer the questions below.I used the following to guide the students:
Select two print advertisements to analyze:
You could also take ads from the "Examples" subpage.
Hint: Try to find two ads that are distinctly different from one another.
Cut and paste your two advertisements here:
 
 
 
Read/browse through the following website: http://www.cdc.gov/bam/life/ad-decoder.html
 
Using this website as a guide, and making certain to reference it directly, answer the following questions:
  1. What "tricks of the trade" are being employed in the advertisements you selected?  Make certain to look at both magazines on the website in order to answer this question.
  2. Who is being targeted with each of these advertisements?  How do you know?
  3. Do you feel that the advertisement accurately represents the product/service?  Please explain.
  4. Are you at all enticed to participate in the cause/buy the product?  Please explain.
  5. Read the "Under the Microscope" section of the CDC webpage.  How does this data/information apply to your experience with media?  This is, are these statistics accurate for your life?  How do you feel about your current relationship with media?  Please explain.
  6. Complete the "Test Your Smarts" section of the website.  How did you do?  Was there any information that you were surprised by, please explain.
On the next day, students chose one add to present to the class.  They showed their ad and explained their answers to questions 1-4.
 
On the next day, we moved on to television commercials.  We did the first three commercials together as a class and then the students moved forward on thier own.  They worked in groups of three, chose their own commercials and then they presented them and shared their analysis.  This took about 2.5 class periods.
 
I used the following to guide my students:
Read the article on the subpage for this section.
Analyze the two commercials linked below according to the guidelines provided in the article.
Dumb Ways to Die:
  1. What is the product being sold?  Can you easily figure out what the product is?
  1. What is the general mood or feeling of the commercial?  Since we know the product or service being sold, what methods are the advertisers using to make us interested?  How do they portray the product or service in a positive light?
  1. How does the soundtrack play a role in your interpretation of the commercial?  Is the music cheery, dreary, suspenseful, whimsical, fun or exciting?  Does the music affect our perception of the mood?  Is there a voice-over with someone telling us something?  What is the voice-over trying to tell us?  Does the person speaking coincide with the overall mood of the commercial?  Would our perception of the voice change if the voice was a different gender or race?
  1. How do the actors playing the characters affect your interpretation of the commercial?  Would your interpretation change if the characters were of a different race or gender?  What is the characters dressed differently or spoke differently?  How would that change your perception of the character?
  1. How does the commercial try to get your attention?  Does it use flashy graphics with fast music?  Does it alter the way we see the world, either through the use of special effects or through the story line?
  1. Who is this commercial aimed towards?  Is it someone like you?  How do you know?  Why do you think the advertiser created this commercial the way they did?  Would it have been as effective if it was just black and white text on the screen?  Why or why not?
 
Dove Sketches:
  1. What is the product being sold?  Can you easily figure out what the product is?
  1. What is the general mood or feeling of the commercial?  Since we know the product or service being sold, what methods are the advertisers using to make us interested?  How do they portray the product or service in a positive light?
  1. How does the soundtrack play a role in your interpretation of the commercial?  Is the music cheery, dreary, suspenseful, whimsical, fun or exciting?  Does the music affect our perception of the mood?  Is there a voice-over with someone telling us something?  What is the voice-over trying to tell us?  Does the person speaking coincide with the overall mood of the commercial?  Would our perception of the voice change if the voice was a different gender or race?
  1. How do the actors playing the characters affect your interpretation of the commercial?  Would your interpretation change if the characters were of a different race or gender?  What is the characters dressed differently or spoke differently?  How would that change your perception of the character?
  1. How does the commercial try to get your attention?  Does it use flashy graphics with fast music?  Does it alter the way we see the world, either through the use of special effects or through the story line?
  1. Who is this commercial aimed towards?  Is it someone like you?  How do you know?  Why do you think the advertiser created this commercial the way they did?  Would it have been as effective if it was just black and white text on the screen?  Why or why not?
 
Meet the Superhumans:
  1. What is the product being sold?  Can you easily figure out what the product is?
  1. What is the general mood or feeling of the commercial?  Since we know the product or service being sold, what methods are the advertisers using to make us interested?  How do they portray the product or service in a positive light?
  1. How does the soundtrack play a role in your interpretation of the commercial?  Is the music cheery, dreary, suspenseful, whimsical, fun or exciting?  Does the music affect our perception of the mood?  Is there a voice-over with someone telling us something?  What is the voice-over trying to tell us?  Does the person speaking coincide with the overall mood of the commercial?  Would our perception of the voice change if the voice was a different gender or race?
  1. How do the actors playing the characters affect your interpretation of the commercial?  Would your interpretation change if the characters were of a different race or gender?  What is the characters dressed differently or spoke differently?  How would that change your perception of the character?
  1. How does the commercial try to get your attention?  Does it use flashy graphics with fast music?  Does it alter the way we see the world, either through the use of special effects or through the story line?
  1. Who is this commercial aimed towards?  Is it someone like you?  How do you know?  Why do you think the advertiser created this commercial the way they did?  Would it have been as effective if it was just black and white text on the screen?  Why or why not?
 
 
Homework: Analyze a television commercial of your choosing. 
Paste a link to your commercial here:
 
 
Answer the following questions in regard to your commercial here:
  1. What is the product being sold?  Can you easily figure out what the product is?
  1. What is the general mood or feeling of the commercial?  Since we know the product or service being sold, what methods are the advertisers using to make us interested?  How do they portray the product or service in a positive light?
  1. How does the soundtrack play a role in your interpretation of the commercial?  Is the music cheery, dreary, suspenseful, whimsical, fun or exciting?  Does the music affect our perception of the mood?  Is there a voice-over with someone telling us something?  What is the voice-over trying to tell us?  Does the person speaking coincide with the overall mood of the commercial?  Would our perception of the voice change if the voice was a different gender or race?
  1. How do the actors playing the characters affect your interpretation of the commercial?  Would your interpretation change if the characters were of a different race or gender?  What is the characters dressed differently or spoke differently?  How would that change your perception of the character?
  1. How does the commercial try to get your attention?  Does it use flashy graphics with fast music?  Does it alter the way we see the world, either through the use of special effects or through the story line?
  1. Who is this commercial aimed towards?  Is it someone like you?  How do you know?  Why do you think the advertiser created this commercial the way they did?  Would it have been as effective if it was just black and white text on the screen?  Why or why not?
 
We spent one day looking at commercials aimed specifically at children:
 
Here are some resources that I gave to my students:
 
Check out this infographic:
Check out this article:
 
Analyze as a class:
 
  1. What is the product being sold?  Can you easily figure out what the product is?
  1. In which ad was branding (images of food packaging, street views of restaurant, etc.) stronger?  Please explain.
  2. Why would the company be putting more emphasis on branding in commercials aimed at children?
  1. What was emphasized in each add?  In which add were the food images more prominent?  Please explain.
  1. Why would the company be putting less emphasis on the actual product in commercials aimed at children?
  1. Which words are emphasized in each ad?  Why would the company place the emphasis on these terms in each case?
  1. Do you feel that marketing in this way towards children is fair?  Please explain.
 
 
Now it's your turn.  Find two ads, both from the same company.  One aimed at children and the other at adults.  Paste the links here:
 
Children:
Adults:
 
  1. What is the product being sold?  Can you easily figure out what the product is?
  1. In which ad was branding (images of food packaging, street views of restaurant, etc.) stronger?  Please explain.
  1. Why would the company be putting more emphasis on branding in commercials aimed at children?
  2. What was emphasized in each add?  In which add were the food images more prominent?  Please explain.
  3. Why would the company be putting less emphasis on the actual product in commercials aimed at children?
  4. Which words are emphasized in each ad?  Why would the company place the emphasis on these terms in each case?
  5. Do you feel that marketing in this way towards children is fair?  Please explain.
 
Reflection Note: I was unhappy with the level of rigor that the CDC website asked of students when they were examining advertisements and I know my kids can do better.  Next year, I am planning to integrate some of the rhetorical devices they will be reading for in the AP class the following year into their examination of tactics.  Here is a list of the devices that I am planning to integrate next year:
AP-Style Literary Devices:
  1. Alliteration - The repetition of the same sound or letter at the beginning of consecutive words or syllables
  1. Allusion - An indirect reference, often to another text or an historic event.
  1. Analogy - An extended comparison between two seemingly dissimilar things.
  1. Anaphora - The repetition of words at the beginning of successive clauses.
  1. Anecdote - A short account of an interesting event.
  1. Antimetabole - The repetition of words in an inverted order to sharpen a contrast.
  1. Antithesis - Parallel structure that juxtaposes contrasting ideas.
  1. Aphorism - A short, astute statement of a general truth.
  1. Asyndeton - Leaving out conjunctions between words, phrases and clauses.
  1. Colloquialism - An informal or conversational use of language.
  1. Epigram - A brief, witty statement.
  1. Figurative Language/Trope - The use of tropes (artful diction; the use of language in a nonliteral way) or figures of speech; going beyond literal meaning to achieve effect.
  1. Hortative/hortatory sentence - urging or strongly encouraging.
  1. Hyperbole - exaggeration for the purpose of emphasis.
  1. Imperative sentence - A sentence that requests or commands.
  1. Irony - A contradiction between what is said and what is meant; incongruity between action and result.
  1. Juxtaposition - Placement of two things side by side for emphasis.
  1. Metaphor - A figure of speech or trope in which one thing is spoken of as though it were something else, thus making an implicit comparison.
  1. Metonymy - Use of an aspect of something to represent the whole.
  1. Oxymoron - A figure of speech that combines two contradictory terms.
  1. Paradox - A statement that seems contradictory, but is actually true.
  1. Parody - A piece that imitates and exaggerates the prominent features of another; used for comic effect or to ridicule.
  1. Parallelism - The repetition of similar grammatical or syntactical patterns.
  1. Understatement - Lack of emphasis in a statement or point; restraint in language often used for ironic effect.
This will most likely require a day or two of extra instruction to teach the terms that the kids are unfamiliar with, but it will be worth it in terms of exposure and the level of rigor of this unit.

My success story: small, but a victory and I'll take what I can get.  The other day I overheard a student talking to her friends in a typical high school whine: "I hate this stuff.  I used to be able to sit down and watch tv and now whenever I turn on the tv I have to think."  Success. 



Next, we examined prime-time television.  I divided the class into four groups and asked each group to watch critically for one group.  They read the articles associated with their assignment and then came together to answer the first question.  Next, we watched an episode of Modern Family.  I stopped the episode after the first two scenes and went through what was presented and the stereotypes/breakdown of stereotypes that I observed.  The kids did the rest on their own.
For homework, the kids watched a show of their choosing and answered the same question about that show.
The next day, the kids presented their findings about how their group was portrayed during prime time.
Here is the stuff that I actually gave to my students:

Each of you will be watching with a critical eye and examining for the treatment of a different group within this episode.  The groups that you will watch for are:

  • Men/Fathers

  • Women/Mothers

  • Latinos

  • Teenagers

 

Before you watch, you will need to read the article that pertains to the group you are being asked to watch critically for:





Answer this question:

 

  1. What are the traditional stereotypes about the group that you are being asked to watch critically for?

 

As you watch, consider the following:

  1. How many members are there in each family?  What does each family consist of?  How does this compare to the composition of your parents' or grandparents' family?

  1. Do the parents work?  What types of jobs do they do?  Compare this to your parents/grandparents.

  1. Describe the income level and lifestyle of the family.  Are they, for example, working-class, lower-middle-class, upper-middle class?  What evidence are you using for this judgment?

  1. Describe the environment in which the families live.  Is it rural, urban, or suburban?  Do they own their house, live in an apartment that they own or rent?  Compare this to your parents/grandparents.

  1. If there are any problems or conflicts in the program, make a list of them.  Are similar problems present in your parents'/grandparents' families?

  1. In what way is society, as depicted in this program, different from the world you live in?

  1. Does this episode further perpetuate the stereotypes about the group that you are watching for?  Please explain in detail.

  1. Does this episode challenge any of the stereotypes about the group that you are watching for.  Please explain in detail.

  1. Do you feel that this show accurately represents the group that you were being asked to watch for?  Please explain in detail.

  1. Does this episode represent accurate insights into the group that you were being asked to watch for?  Please explain.

  1. Which group do you believe is portrayed most accurately by this episode?  Please explain.

  1. Which group do you believe is portrayed LEAST accurately by this episode?  Please explain.

  1. Is this episode an accurate representation of the world that you live in?  Please explain.

  1. What impact do you believe portraying the group you were asked to view for in this way may have on society as a whole?  Please explain.

 

Homework: Watch an episode of your choosing - with the same sub-group in mind.  Answer all of the questions in relation to this show.

Which show/episode did you watch?

Answer these questions:

  1. How many members are there in each family?  What does each family consist of?  How does this compare to the composition of your parents' or grandparents' family?

  1. Do the parents work?  What types of jobs do they do?  Compare this to your parents/grandparents.
  2. Describe the income level and lifestyle of the family.  Are they, for example, working-class, lower-middle-class, upper-middle class?  What evidence are you using for this judgment?

  1. Describe the environment in which the families live.  Is it rural, urban, or suburban?  Do they own their house, live in an apartment that they own or rent?  Compare this to your parents/grandparents.

  1. If there are any problems or conflicts in the program, make a list of them.  Are similar problems present in your parents'/grandparents' families?

  1. In what way is society, as depicted in this program, different from the world you live in?

  1. Does this episode further perpetuate the stereotypes about the group that you are watching for?  Please explain in detail.

  1. Does this episode challenge any of the stereotypes about the group that you are watching for.  Please explain in detail.

  1. Do you feel that this show accurately represents the group that you were being asked to watch for?  Please explain in detail.

  1. Does this episode represent accurate insights into the group that you were being asked to watch for?  Please explain.

  1. Which group do you believe is portrayed most accurately by this episode?  Please explain.

  1. Which group do you believe is portrayed LEAST accurately by this episode?  Please explain.

  1. Is this episode an accurate representation of the world that you live in?  Please explain.

  1. What impact do you believe portraying the group you were asked to view for in this way may have on society as a whole?  Please explain.

You will work with your small group to present your findings about stereotypes presented on primetime sitcoms to the class.  As a group, you will answer the following questions in a Powerpoint (with images from the episodes that you watched):

 

  • Which group were you analyzing for?  What were the stereotypes that are commonly held about this group as presented in the articles that you read?  Cite the articles directly.

  • In general, does prime-time television perpetuate any of these stereotypes about the group you watched for?  Make certain to reference both the episode we watched in class as well as the homework.

  • In general, does prime-time television combat any of these stereotypes about the group you watched for?  Make certain to reference both the episode we watched in class as well as the homework.

  • Do you feel that your group was accurately portrayed?  Please explain.

  • Did prime time accurately portray the world that you live in?  Please explain.

  • What impact do you believe portraying the group you were asked to view for in this way may have on society as a whole?  Please explain.

 
In an attempt to build, we learned about the composition of and analyzed a box office hit next.  Here is the assignment/paperwork that I gave to the students:

Over the next two days, you will be asked to look critically at a movie.  You will need to read the article on the subpage, take notes about the elements that you notice during the film and then prepare a detailed analysis in regards to one of the elements.  You will be assigned to an element after watching the movie, so make certain to take notice of all of the elements.  Make certain to watch with a critical eye and take copious notes as you are watching.

 

Read the subpage and use the internet to complete the following table.

Provide a definition, in your own words, for each of the following terms :

Term
Definition
An example from a movie I am familiar with…
(Cut and paste an image from a film here)
Establishing/Long Shot:
 
 
 
Close-Up Shot:
 
 
Medium Shot:
 
 
Extreme Close-Up:
 
 
Dolly Shot:
 
 
Tracking Shot:
 
 
Pan Shot:
 
 
Point of View:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Low-Angle (tilt-up) Point of View:
 
 
 
High-Angle (tilt down) Point of View:
 
 
Posture:
 
 
Props:
 
 
Position:
 
 
 

 

For each element you will be asked to identify and provide analysis of the director's decision for its inclusion.  You should be asking: why would the director make this decision?  What impact does this type of shot/point of view/posture/prop/position have on the story overall/the audience?

Scene
Provide a detailed description of the scene you are examining here
Type(s) of Shots
Identify and analyze the director's decision for the use of particular types of shots.  (Establishing/Long Shot, Close-Up Shots, Medium Shots, Extreme Close-Up, Dolly Shot, Tracking Shot, and/or Pan Shot)
Point of View
Identify and analyze the director's decision for use of particular points-of-view. (Low-Angle, High-Angle)
Posture
Identify and analyze significant postures adopted by characters.
Props
Identify and analyze the director's decision to include significant props.
Position
Identify and analyze the director's choices for positioning of characters within a shot.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Machine generated alternative text: MISE-EN-S CENE: Reading Design and Composition in Movies
Taken from French film theory, the
concept of mise-en-scene (placement within
a frame) offers us a way to conceptualize the
visual composition of a movie and the con
tribution the image makes to the story and
our understanding of elements such as char-
acter, motivation, plot, and setting. Louis
Giannetti says, “Mise-en-scene in the mov
ies resembles the art of painting in that an
image of formal patterns and shapes is pre
sented on a flat surface and enclosed within
a frame” (1976, 149).
Types of Shots
Types of shots include the following:
1.
Establishing or long shot: Usually
used to establish the primary loca
tion at the beginning of a film or
to designate a change to a major
new location: Psycho, The Lost
Weekend, and West Side Story
open with excellent examples of
establishing shots.
2. Close-up shot: The character or
object fills most of the frame.
When used with props, symbolism
is almost always implied. Ordi
nary People, for example, uses
close-ups of the napkins and nap
kin rings to symbolize Beth’s need
for order, control, and neatness.
3. Medium shot: Sometimes desig
nated as medium close-up (MOU).
If a close-up shows a character’s
head and shoulders, the MCU
would show a waist-up view.
4. Extreme close-up: Camera comes
in very tight, concentrating on a
hand, eye, etc. The end of the
shower sequence in Psycho, for ex
ample, fills the screen with just
one eye of the murdered woman.
5. Dolly shot: Camera is mounted on
a dolly and moving.
6. Tracking shot: The movements of
the character are tracked, or fol
lowed, by a moving camera.
7. Pan shot: Abbreviated term for
“panoramic.” The camera swivels
in a horizontal plane to scan the
scene.

 

Machine generated alternative text: The Four P’s
1. Point of View (POV). “A frame
is not a neutral border; it produces
a certain vantage point onto the
material within the image. . . the
frame is important because it ac
tively defines the image for us”
(Bordwell and Thompson 1979,
109). POV generally refers to cam
era position/perspective approxi
mating the position of a character,
so the audience frequently sees the
action from the POV of one char
acter or another. POV can also be
understood as the perspective the
camera and director give us on a
character, location, or object. Two
common camera angles are the low
angle (tilt-up) and the high angle
(tilt-down). Neither perspective is
neutral, and both carry and activate
cultural codes and conventions that
shape how an audience constructs
meaning. The high-angle tilt-down
usually implies weakness, vulner
ability, and loss of power. The ex
pression “looking down on
someone” actually reinforces this.
The first sequence in the bar in
Nicholas Ray’s Johnny Guitar pro
vides an outstanding example of
POV in both the camera angle and
the dialogue. (“Look at her up there
staiing down on us.”) The low angle
or tilt-up, on the other hand, usu
ally conveys power and authority.
Those who are shot from a low angle
are typically those who are in con
trol. Once again the cultural con
vention “looking up to someone”
connects to this visual technique,
which has its origins in the Renais
sance and in the stained glass win
dows of cathedrals, which forced
our eyes upward to a higher
authority. Typically the tilt-up has
been assigned to men, but there
are examples of female characters,
especially femme fatales, who are
seen this way. Bffly Wilder’s Dou
ble Indemnity clearly introduces
Barbara Stanwyck this way. “Neff
is in the foyer looking up at the
white goddess; when Phyllis looks
down at him, his diminished size
suits the position of a thrall in the
goddess’ presence” (Dick 1980,
480). Superman II features a good
example of both high and low an
gle in the sequence when Clark
drops his glasses in the fire and
Lois discovers he is Superman.
+Low-angle perspective empowers the
threatening figure of the devil in the
fantasy Legend. Copyright © 1998 Gail E
Haley.

 

Machine generated alternative text: 2. Posture. Posture or body lan
guage are key clues in reading a
character’s mood and reaction. No
one can watch James Dean in East
of Eden or Rebel Without a Cause
without becoming aware of how
the actor used his body to convey
his inner conflict. Also watch Con
rad’s rapidly changing body lan
guage in the family photograph
sequence of Ordinary People.
3. Props. Analyzing the function of
props in a frame or scene promotes
awareness of metaphor and sym
bolism. On the most basic level,
this can be handled through the
western convention of white hats
for good guys and black hats for
bad guys. On a more sophisticated
level, it can be used to consider the
function of the baseball bat in The
Natural, the stuffed birds in Psy
cho, the dinner plate in Ordinary
People, and the milk bottle in Re
bel Without a Cause. One major
thing to notice about the use of
props is that the importance of the
object is usually signified by the
shot the director uses, typically a
close-up. When Robert Redford
closes in on the napkin rings in the
drawer (Ordinary People), we
know he is trying to tell us some
thing about Beth, in the same way
he does with the broken plate. Im
mediately before Nicholas Ray be
gins the classic confrontation
between James Dean and his par
ents (Rebel Without a Cause), his
close-up occupies the entire screen
with a shot of Judy’s compact.
When everyday objects are shown
from such a privileged perspective.
it serves as a visual exciamatior
mark, and the director is saying

 

Machine generated alternative text: “This is important; I am telling
you something with this object.”
By presenting the object to us in
this way, the director indicates
that it will play some pivotal role
in the story or that it has symbolic
significance. Composing the frame
in this way represents the use of
“an isolating device, a technique
that permits thé director to confer
special attention on what might
otherwise be overlooked in wider
context” (Giannetti, 1976, 53).
4. Position. Position refers to place
ment within the frame and is usu
ally considered in conjunction
with other elements. Placing a
character at the top of the stairs,
for example, usually involves a
tilt-up and promotes a different
response than placing the charac
ter at the bottom of the stairs. Ex
cellent symbolic use of staircases
can be seen in Johnny Guitar and
Rebel Without a Cause.

 The final aspect of media literacy that I was able to sneak in during this unit was on the news.  I had the kids read and annotate a short excerpt from Brooke Gladstone's The Influencing Machine about different forms of bias in the news.  This was really interesting in and of itself, because it was a graphic novel in format, which these kids had limitted exposure to.
 
After that we watched live news for about 40 minutes and the students completed the following graphic organizer:

Your assignment today is to critically examine an hour of news.  You will want to track the stories that are presented and the forms of bias that you believe might be at play in each story.


News Hour:

Story:
Here you will provide a brief summary of the news story that you watched.
Form(s) of Bias present (if any):
These should come from Brooke Gladstone's article
  • Commercial Bias
  • Bad News Bias
  • Status Quo Bias
  • Access Bias
  • Visual Bias
  • Narrative Bias
  • Fairness Bias
Your explanation of this bias: 
Here you need to clearly explain why you believe this type of bias is present.
Your analysis:
How could the network have presented this story in a more "fair/unbiased" way?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

We stopped after the first story and went through the biases that we observed together, then the kids were on their own with the last few.
I graded the graphic organizer that they turned in the following day.

One thing I would say about this unit is that everything took longer than I had anticipated.  I did not get to a lot of content that I was hoping to cover, but I did touch on some of the major forms of media out there: nutrition labels, print ads, commercials, prime-time televion, box-office hits and the news.  I would have liked to also cover: green advertising, political advertising, portrayal of careers on television, and social media.  Maybe next year.  I was also extremely impressed with the critical thinking skills that students were able to bring to the table in regards to this unit.  They were incredibly engaged with the content and the level of analysis they were able to do was truly impressive.



While I had to compile most of these resources myself, I did use a book for inspiration and ideas: Visual Mesages: Integrating Imagery Into Instruction, Second Edition, A Media Literacy Resource for Teachers by David M. Considine & Gail E. Haley

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