How To Teach Media Literacy in the Classroom

As more an more parents demand their children receive some media education in school, and as more and more school districts realize the benefits of teaching children how to become active media consumers, more and more teachers will be teaching media literacy in schools.

But how do you go about teaching something as intangible as media literacy if you're a teacher? Media literacy isn't like math in which 1 and 1 equals 2. Media literacy certainly isn't like science where a test conducted by one person or organization will have the exact same outcome as if the same test was conducted by someone else. And although media literacy shares a lot of the same outcomes as reading (the understanding of signs and symbols and how they create meaning), media literacy requires a bit more thought and introspection on the student's behalf.

So how does a teacher impart this important knowledge onto students, especially young ones? By asking questions. There's no time in our lives when we're more curious about how the world works than when we're children. And by teaching kids to ask questions about the right things, they'll be on the path to a lifetime of critical thinking.

So what kind of questions should we teach children to ask about the media? A good start is by using the five key questions of media literacy, and then adapting them for use with children.

Take for example the question "who sent me this message?" Teachers can expand this question when discussing television with students by asking "who was involved in the creation of this television program?" What devices did they use to create this program? Why did they chose to show a certain action instead of another action (great question for analyzing violence, gender issues, etc.)? Is this program similar to others on the same channel or on at the same time? How is it the same? How is it different?

Teaching children to ask questions will not only teach them about media using sources they experience every day, but will also help build the foundation for a lifetime of critical thinking.

Don't forget that children should find the lessons fun, so let them analyze things they're interested in. Here are some examples of media children might be interested in analyzing:

Products

* Candy
* Cereal Boxes
* Fast Food Pictures

Advertisements (on TV, in Magazines, etc.)

* Fast Food restaurants
* Toys
* Candy
* Cereal Boxes
* TV Show Commercials

TV Shows

* Cartoons
* Live Action Kids' Shows

 

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