Each Atlantic Province follows closely the Atlantic Provinces Education Foundation Framework for English Language Arts. In this Framework, media literacy is integrated throughout the English Language Arts curriculum under the general learning outcomes of Speaking and Listening, Reading and Viewing and Writing and Other Ways of Representing.
The following excerpt from Atlantic Canada English Language Arts Curriculum, Grades 10-12, details how media education has been integrated into the Atlantic curriculum.
For specific, media-related outcomes and supporting resources for individual grade levels, see the sidebar. (Note: as many of our lessons can be adapted to suit different grade levels, specific lessons may be listed for more than one grade. Teachers should also note that individual lessons will often satisfy a number of learning outcomes.)
The Role of Media Literacy in the English Language Arts Curriculum: Grades 10-12
A note on the role of information, media, and visual texts:
Today’s students live in an information and entertainment culture that is dominated by images, both moving and static. Information, visual, and media literacy are critical elements of English language arts 10-12. They have a significant role to play in helping students to select, assimilate, evaluate, and control the immense amount of information and the diverse messages produced every day in a complex information and entertainment culture.
Information Literacy: the ability to access, interpret, evaluate, organize, select, produce and communicate information in and through a variety of media technologies and contexts to meet diverse learning needs and purposes
Media Literacy: the ability to understand how mass media, such as TV, film, radio, and magazines, work, produce meanings, are organized, and used wisely
Visual Literacy: the ability to understand and interpret the representation and symbolism of a static or moving visual image—how the meanings of the images are organized and constructed to make meaning and to understand their impact on viewers
Media study is relevant to students. Media literacy deals with the culture and lifestyle of students. Students enjoy thinking and talking about media productions. For teachers, it is an opportunity to have students examine how they are influencing and being influenced by popular culture.
The media is a major source of information. Young people are increasingly getting their information from mass media sources such as magazines, TV, and Web sites. For teachers, media literacy is an opportunity to examine the reliability, accuracy, and motives of these sources.
Media study allows students to investigate issues of power and control. Mass media information, more and more, is being consolidated into the hands of a few people. There are relatively few decision-makers or gatekeepers to decide what and who gets heard. Local information is often overlooked because it is expensive to produce compared to buying a prepared article, broadcast, program, or news group. For teachers, media literacy is an opportunity for students to investigate issues on a local level in relation to the wider world.
Mass media is usually produced somewhere else for general consumption. It rarely reflects the culture of smaller groups of people. This is especially true in Canada due to the geographic proximity to the USA and its huge media production capacity. It is necessary for young people to see themselves and hear their own voices in order to validate their culture and place in the world. For teachers, media literacy is an opportunity to encourage young people to find ways into the discourse and decision-making that are affecting the world that they will live in. A major part of this is producing their own media and finding ways to get it to an audience. The mass media can then become a pathway from the local level and a means of personal influence in the wider world.
All forms of media have format and structures that are identifiable and open to critique. When media products are well produced they can contribute to students’ aesthetic awareness. For teachers, media literacy is an opportunity for students to understand and recognize quality in media productions and thus become an informed and demanding consumer of the media.
The key concepts provide the framework for designing activities for a media literacy curriculum. These concepts are often organized or stated in different ways, but the intent is similar. For example, there may be some confusion about the interchangeable use of the terms media studies, media education, and media literacy. For the purposes of this document, the term media literacy will be used. It is wise to note, however, that media literacy is a cross-curricular area of study.
- Media is produced by people who are following a format for a purpose
- Media present a construction of reality
- Media consists of narrative with identifiable texts
- Audiences interpret the meaning of media texts individually
- Media has commercial implications
- Media contains the ideological and social messages of the dominant culture
- Media both influences and is influenced by the social/political structure in which it operates
- The codes, conventions, and characteristics of media influence the content it produces
- Media has an aesthetic quality and style that can be critiqued
Media literacy is a form of critical thinking that is applied to the messages being sent by the mass media. Therefore, media literacy is more about good questions than correct answers. Media-literate people become self-filterers of the messages of the media. Here are key questions for discussion in promoting media literacy:
- What is the message?
- Who is sending the message?
- Why is it being sent?
- How is the message being sent?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Who benefits from the message?
- Who or what is left out of the message?
- Can I respond to the message?
- Does my opinion matter?
- Do I need the information?
Teachers need to plan learning experiences in which students
- develop and apply strategies for accessing information
- access and interpret data, information, and ideas from a variety of information sources
- select information from numerous texts from a critical perspective
- evaluate the reliability of information
- develop a range of transferable skills and strategies that they can apply to their learning in other areas of the curriculum
Experiences in English 10-12 should balance student involvement in both personal and critical response to media texts and the production of their own texts in a range of media. It is important that teachers plan learning experiences that relate language and literacy development to the media-intensive environment in which most students participate
- integrate visual media with other dimensions of the curriculum
- include hands-on activities involving the creation of media products
Experiences in the English 10-12 should give students access to a wide range of visual images and provide them with opportunities to respond to the visual imagery of numerous texts in a variety of media. It is important that teachers plan learning experiences that
- integrate visual imagery with other elements of the curriculum
- involve students in the critical examination of the symbolism of visual images
- encourage students to question the validity of the purpose of visual imagery in the texts they read and view
Many teachers are intimidated by the scope of media literacy and media education. It is not necessary to have a complete curriculum before starting. Indeed, most media literacy teachers have started with one small activity and gradually expanded it. Students should be encouraged to develop their own ideas and their own investigating and producing of media products. Because of the pace of change in an expanding communication industry, teachers will have difficulty assuming an expert role; it is important that teachers not be intimidated by the technology. The media world is one in which most students are very comfortable; this can be an advantage if the teacher encourages reflection and examination of media without being negative or critical. Some media productions may be hard to experience, even shocking, and these issues can and should be debated and critiqued in class by students. Teachers should try to lead the process rather than impose their own values. Teacher expertise and knowledge of students’ beliefs and values as well as those of the larger community will help to determine what issues are appropriate.
Atlantic Canada English Language Arts Curriculum Grades 10-12
Media Literacy Activities
(Appendix 8 of English Language Arts Curriculum)
- Compare the print version of a story to the film version.
- Compare a print poem to the sung ballad.
- Compare mythological heroes to popular culture heroes.
- Examine production techniques of newspapers and magazines.
- Write an article for a magazine.
- Write a letter to the editor.
- Produce a class broad sheet of poems, prose, or areas of interest.
- Produce a pamphlet on an issue.
- Critique a newspaper article.
- Edit an article from 500 words down to 250 words.
- Expand an article from 250 words up to 500 words.
- Compare news reports on a topic from several print mediums.
- Interview a media personality.
- Write a script for a five-minute play.
- Write a product advertising pitch to a fictional company.
- Write a pro and con article on the same issue.
- Examine editing codes and conventions.
- Write an article on a real sports event.
- List descriptor words used in the print advertising of various magazines.
- Investigate alternative newspapers and magazines, especially locally produced ones.
- Write in prose the narrative for a popular song.
- Examine the demographics and target markets of local radio stations.
- Examine stereotyping and sexism in popular music.
- Produce a radio ad.
- Produce a radio play with sound effects.
- Investigate short-wave radio and the social and political implications of Radio Canada International, etc.
- Investigate the use of violence in music to sell a product.
- Produce announcements for the school public address system.
- Learn how to set up and operate the school sound systems.
- Start a school radio station.
- Investigate community radio stations.
- Compare public and private radio.
- Examine the codes and conventions of radio broadcasting.
- Tour a radio station.
- Investigate the impact of Canadian content regulations on the Canadian music industry.
- Investigate world music.
- Investigate alternative music, especially that of locally produced artists.
- Compare controlled radio vs. Channel 2 in Serbia.
- Compare ad images to the product being sold.
- Examine sexism in advertising images.
- Create a billboard.
- Write the print captions for a variety of images.
- Investigate the computer enhancement of images particularly in the fashion industry.
- Examine the use of images in newspapers—what makes the front page and why?
- Make a collection of aesthetically appealing images.
- Write a narrative for an image.
- Examine the codes and conventions of still photography.
- Invite a professional photographer to class.
- Take a picture that tells a story.
- Make a collection of images that elicit a variety of feelings and identify the feelings.
- Examine the codes and conventions of TV.
- Investigate and practise the terminology of video, e.g., close-up, medium shot, long shot, point of view, pan, zoom, dissolve, shoot, slo-mo, montage, storyboard, cut, edit, scene, tilt, dolly in/out, etc.
- Tour a TV station.
- Examine the use of images in rock videos.
- Storyboard a video to accompany a popular song.
- Critique a music video.
Compare various visual technologies such as computers, TV, film, fax, photocopying, satellite, Imax, etc.