Quebec Competencies Chart - Bias

Author: Roger Bird
Level: Secondary Cycle Two
Subject Area: English Language Arts
Lesson Link: Bias

Lesson Description: This lesson introduces students to the concept of bias or slant, in newspapers and in television newscasts. Students begin by comparing three newspaper articles about the same news event - each reported from a different perspective. They then explore the role the gatekeeper, or editor, in determining the slant of a story and analyze the titles of newspaper stories for slant or bias. Once students have looked at newspapers, they will use viewing logs to analyse television newscasts from two different television stations. These newscasts will be analysed based on language usage, story selection and story order.

Cross-curricular Competencies

Broad Areas of Learning

  • To use information
  • To exercise critical judgement
  • To adopt effective work methods
  • To use information and communications technologies for learning purposes
  • To work with others
  • To communicate appropriately
  • Media Literacy

This lesson satisfies the following English Language Arts Competencies from the Quebec Education Program:

COMPETENCY 1 uses language/talk to communicate and to learn

  • Compares the affordances of written, media and multimodal languages in achieving a specific purpose
  • Constructs criteria for choosing the mode of spoken language in a specific context, by considering audience needs and demands of the context

COMPETENCY 2 Reads and listens to written, spoken and media texts

Constructing a Reading of a Text

  • Focuses on a topic and/or issue that is of interest to her/him to construct an efferent reading, (e.g. makes sense of the text by coming to terms with the ways in which a topic has been developed by a writer/producer)
  • Focuses on the relationship between self as reader and the text to construct an interpretive reading
  • Activates relevant prior textual knowledge before, during and after reading text(s) to monitor the meaning(s) s/he is making, (e.g. uses what is known about a writer/producer and her/his style to make predictions, draws on knowledge of structures and features of a specific genre, applies knowledge of codes and conventions particular to specific texts)
  • Activates relevant prior personal knowledge and experience to make sense of a text which is frequently expressed in text-to-self connections, text-to-world connections, text-to-text connections
  • Determines the most important ideas/messages/themes in a text
  • Draws inferences from a text
  • Retells or synthesizes what s/he has read, e.g. attends to the most important information and the quality of the synthesis itself to better understand the text

Reader, Text, Context

Draws inferences about the view of the world presented in a text

  • Identifies dominant elements and interprets their use, e.g. point of view, specific literary conventions, structure and sequence of argument, patterns of cause and effect
  • Identifies the characteristics of the writer/producer and evaluates how these influence meaning, i.e. how stance, socio-cultural context, values and/or beliefs shape the world of the text
  • Explores how power relationships are constructed in the text
  • Examines how language (word, sound and image) is shaped to present ideas and information
  • Makes connections between the depiction of different groups in texts and the context or setting of a text

Distinguishes between “open” and “closed” texts:

  • analyzes the degree to which the text may be considered “open” to multiple perspectives/ interpretations (i.e. is complex enough to allow different perspectives to emerge) and interprets how these influence the view of the world presented.
  • analyzes the degree to which the text may be considered “closed” to multiple perspectives (i.e. runs along formulaic lines that indicate its lack of complexity and make only a limited number of perspectives possible) and interprets how this influences the view of the world, e.g. in a pulp romance novel or a comic book, recognizes some elements of plot structure that are formulaic and repetitive

Justifies her/his interpretation(s) of texts on the basis of own fluency as a reader

  • Evaluates the way specific codes and conventions of a spoken/written/media text are employed to have an impact upon the assumptions, actions, values and beliefs of readers:
    • codes and conventions of a specific genre that are employed to have an impact on readers in general or on a target audience in particular
    • mode(s) of representation (sound, word and image) that influence the message(s)/meaning(s) of a text and how these reveal the intention(s) of the writer/producer(s)
    • linguistic and textual features that situate or position the reader, e.g. connotations and denotations, stereotypes and bias, aspects of characterization and setting that evoke a specific emotion or response, appeals to mainstream values and beliefs
  • Interrelates characteristics of the writer/producer(s) of a text and self as a reader:
    • identifies characteristics of the writer/producer(s) of a text and applies this knowledge to determine how the text is designed to appeal to self as a reader, e.g. writer’s style, producer’s values or intent
    • evaluates a perspective or point of view and its impact on self as reader
    • recognizes how authors and producers of written persuasion and argument, whose views are accorded great respect in our society and culture, influence her/his interpretation(s), i.e. in particular, of what can be considered factual, objective
    • analyzes the representation of different groups, including interest groups, in the press in relation to controlling ideas, opinions, main ideas

COMPETENCY 3 Produces texts for personal and social purposes

Researching as a Writer/Producer

  • Develops topics that are personally and socially relevant:
    • looks at multiple perspectives on the topic, e.g. pros and cons of an argument, how different people perceive the issue
  • Researches aspects of the media and publishing industries to best produce, market and distribute their products:
    • investigates how texts are produced and under what conditions
    • examines how a text is vetted, marketed and distributed by a producer to its target audience, e.g. how a book gets published, how a trend is created
    • analyzes the impact of media ownership and convergence

Public and Private Space

Examines the difference between producing texts for private and public audiences:

  • considers effect the medium has on a genre, e.g. reality TV’s pretence of intimacy, journalism as the arbiter of truth
  • reflects on the differences between producing texts for a private versus public audience, e.g. weighs “the public’s right to know” in journalism against a person’s right to privacy

Conducts a genre analysis:

  • compares and contrasts texts within a social function, i.e. Why do people produce them? Who has access to these texts? Do they serve the same purpose? How do they communicate the values of a community?
  • evaluates the structures, features, codes and conventions used
  • examines how language (sound, word and image) is shaped:
    • to represent and/or exclude people, events, ideas and informationo 
    • to organize and develop ideas

Applying Codes and Conventions

  • Combines and/or manipulates codes and conventions of different modes (multimodal texts), e.g. the PSA draws on conventions of sound, word and image. It uses music to appeal to the emotions, includes a voiceover of a well-known person to draw attention to the cause and uses images to shock or jar the audience
  • Explores the representation of gender, race, appearance, culture, social class

Production Process

Media Practices

  • Examines issues of media ownership and control
  • Respects genre constraints, e.g. format, layout, target audience’s expectations, industry standards such as time allotment
  • Examines impact of production roles on final text, e.g. editor’s decisions

Planning and Drafting

  • Brainstorms ideas, clarifies and extends thinking by talking with peers and teacher
  • Uses strategies to work out ideas, plan and draft, e.g. concept map, free writing, storyboard
  • Makes preparations prior to production