Digital Media Literacy Framework - Grades 4-6

Students in the junior grades lack sufficient critical thinking skills to surf the Web alone, but MediaSmarts’ Young Canadians in a Wireless World research shows that almost a third never or rarely use the Internet with an adult nearby. This is also an age where kids may be easily influenced by media images and personalities – especially those that appear "cool" or desirable.

Because they are spending more unsupervised time online, these students need guidance about Internet safety and protection of privacy, and they also need to be taught about good citizenship and responsible Internet use.

As more of their school work requires Internet research, this is also a good time to teach students skills for conducting effective research and for authenticating online content including recognizing marketing messages, bias and stereotyping.

Students at this age are highly active in games and virtual environments, where they need to learn to apply empathy to their online interactions and to resist “upselling” techniques in those environments as well as to manage the amount of time they spend online.

Children this age are also increasingly sensitive to messages about body image and gender norms that they get from media, including digital media, and need help in engaging with these. Despite their growing awareness that media is constructed, they may still be frightened by realistic portrayals of violence, threats or danger – whether on the news or in television dramas. 


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Advertising All Around Us
Grades: 5-6

This lesson helps students to become more aware of the language and techniques used in print advertising, as well as the impact of advertising on their daily lives.

Avatars and Body Image
Grades: 4-6

In this lesson students are introduced to the concept of "avatars" and share their experiences creating and playing avatars in video games and virtual worlds.

Behaving Ethically Online: Ethics and Empathy
Grades: 4-6

In this lesson students are introduced to the idea that “hot” emotional states such as anger or excitement can make it harder for them to control how they act. They also discuss the concept of empathy and look at the ways in which digital communication can make it harder to feel empathy for other people.

Break the Fake: What’s Real Online?
Grades: 3-5 

In this lesson, students are introduced to the challenges of identifying what is real and what is fake online. After learning some simple steps to verify online information they create a poster that communicates the importance of questioning and double-checking online content. 

Break the Fake Lesson Plan: Verifying Information Online
Grades: 6-9

In this lesson, students participate in a workshop that teaches them four quick, easy steps to verify online information. After practicing these four steps they create a public service announcement aimed at teaching one of these steps and spreading the message that it is necessary for everyone to fact-check information we see online every time we are going to share it or act on it.

Calling Out versus Calling In: Helping youth respond to casual prejudice online
Grades: 6-8
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This lesson introduces students to the idea of “calling in” – reaching out to someone privately with the assumption that they didn’t mean to do any harm – and explores how this idea can be applied both to casual prejudice online and when responding to stereotyping and other negative representations in media. Finally, students explore the different benefits of “calling out” and “calling in”, and consider when the two strategies would be most appropriate.

Comic Book Characters

Using a Comic Book Analysis sheet, students will record the attributes of male and female comic book characters. As a class, students will record common attributes on a master sheet and discuss what messages about men and women are reinforced.

Comparing Real Families to TV Families
Grades: 2-5

Students learn how the media construct reality by studying the families portrayed on television, and comparing them to the real-life families they know: their own, and those of their peers.

Data Defenders
Grades: 4-6

This interactive game teaches children and pre-teens the concept of personal information and its economic value, and introduces them to ways to manage and protect their personal information on the websites and apps they enjoy.

Data Defenders: Understanding data collection online
Grades: 4-6

In this lesson, students explore the concepts relating to data collection that are introduced in the educational game Data Defenders. The lesson will underscore for students the idea that their data is valuable and worthy of careful management by analyzing the platforms, applications and websites they enjoy.

Earth Day: Maps as Media
Grades: 4-6

In this lesson, students analyze maps as a medium and discuss how they are created, things they can and can’t show, and their effectiveness at communicating environmental information.

Editing Emotions
Grades: 5-9

In this lesson, students learn about the history of film editing and how shot composition, juxtaposition of images and the use of rhythm and repetition in film editing can affect the emotional impact of a film.

Facing Media Violence: Consequences and Media Violence
Grades: 1-4

Students explore the absence, or unrealistic portrayal, of consequences to violence in the media. The class begins with a “what would happen if?” discussion of consequences to violent acts that might occur in real life. Students then complete work sheets where they compare TV depictions of violent acts to what would actually happen in real life. Students also begin to question depicted consequences of media violence based on feelings, responsibilities, injuries and results of actions.

Facing Media Violence: Counting and Discussing Violence
Grades: 1-4

This lesson helps children become aware of the types of violence that appear in media, the frequency with which these acts occur, and how they respond to these acts. It begins with a guided discussion about the different types of violence and then, how violence is portrayed in media.

Facing Media Violence: Rewriting the Story
Grades: 1-4

In this lesson, students explore how characters in media texts resolve conflict, then brainstorm alternative non-violent solutions to conflicts represented in media.

Game Time
Grades: 4-6

In this lesson students consider the positive aspects of video games as well as the ways in which games may take time away from other activities they enjoy. Students are introduced to the idea of balancing game and screen time with other parts of their lives and learn about the reasons why they may be tempted to spend more time playing games or find it difficult to stop playing.

Gender Stereotypes and Body Image
Grades: 6-7

This lesson makes students aware of the dangers of gender stereotyping and the media’s role in perpetuating gender stereotypes.

Getting the Toothpaste Back into the Tube: A Lesson on Online Information
Grades: 6-8

In this lesson, students watch a short video that compares getting rid of personal information online to getting toothpaste back into a tube. After a short discussion of how visual analogies like this work, students discuss the meaning of the video (that information online is permanent.) They then read a series of short scenarios that help them identify four further principles of information online: that it can be copied, that it can be seen by unintended audiences, that it can be seen by larger audiences than intended, and that it becomes searchable.

Girls and Boys on Television
Grades: 3 to 6

In this lesson, students discuss television programming aimed at children and how girls and boys are portrayed in it. Students illustrate what they dislike about portrayals of girls or boys and then create their own TV character who will counter the illustrated negative portrayals.

Image Gap
Grades: 5 to 8

This lesson helps students understand how self-image can influence lifestyle choices. Students begin by identifying those qualities they admire most in peers, and by comparing their self-image with these qualities. They learn to identify self-image “problems” and develop positive strategies for dealing with these problems.

Images of Learning
Grades: 6 to 8

This lesson begins with a class discussion about common television stereotypes that are found in the school-based television shows and films that students enjoy. Students respond to questions about television stereotypes and then write a short opinion piece about whether the teachers and students on TV influence their own attitudes about learning. In groups, students create a series outline for their own school-based television show and perform a scene from an episode.

Introducing TV Families
Grades: 2-5

This lesson encourages children to explore the differences between their real families and TV families by imagining how their own families might be portrayed on a television show. The lesson begins with a class discussion about different types of families. Students then assume the role of producers, and create a television show for their own families to star in.

Introduction to Cyberbullying: Avatars and Identity
Grades: 5-6

In this lesson students are provided with opportunities to explore the ways that digital media leave out many of the cues that prompt us to feel empathy and discuss the importance of using empathy and common sense when talking to others online.

Junk Food Jungle
Grades: 4-6

This lesson familiarizes children with how and why “junk food” is advertised to kids. The lesson starts with an introduction to advertising and a discussion of the gimmicks involved in food advertising to kids. Students discuss the various foods they see advertised in their daily lives versus the ones they don’t see, drawing important points from this data. With this information in mind, students complete an advertising log and also choose an advertisement and analyzing its subject matter in relation to what they have just learned. 

Just a joke? Helping youth respond to casual prejudice
Grades: 6-8

One of the barriers to youth pushing back against prejudice is not wanting to over-react, particularly if they feel their peers were just ‘joking around.’ Humour, however, can often be a cover for intentional bullying and prejudice. In this lesson, students analyze media representations of relational aggression, such as sarcasm and put-down humour, then consider the ways in which digital communication may make it harder to recognize irony or satire and easier to hurt someone’s feelings without knowing it. Students then consider how humour may be used to excuse prejudice and discuss ways of responding to it.

Kids, Alcohol and Advertising: Messages About Drinking
Grades: 4-8

Students look at the different groups in our society that deliver messages to the public about drinking and consider the influence of each of these groups on the attitudes and perceptions of young people. Beginning by brainstorming words or ideas associated with the word “beer,” the class develops a mind map of people and organizations that deliver messages to us about alcohol and drinking and the different messages that each provides.

Kids, Alcohol and Advertising: Interpreting Media Messages
Grades: 4-8

In this lesson, students investigate the importance of branding and messaging, especially as they relate to products such as beer and alcohol.

Kids, Alcohol and Advertising: Young Drinkers
Grades: 4-8

Students learn why the alcohol industry needs replacement (new) drinkers and how it exploits the needs and desires of young people in order to foster brand loyalty.

Kids, Alcohol and Advertising: Understanding Brands
Grades: 4-8

In this lesson, students learn about the importance of branding for developing customer loyalty and recognition of products. Through class discussion, students explore different types of brands and the ubiquitous nature of branding in North American culture. 

Know the Deal: The Value of Privacy
Grades: 6-8

In this lesson, students are introduced to the idea that privacy is a fundamental human right and that their personal information is valuable.

Looking at Food Advertising
Grades: K-6

This lesson introduces students to the ways in which advertising can affect their food choices. Working from television and magazine ads, students discuss the techniques used by advertisers to engage kids with products. Specifically, they assess the importance of “spokescharacters” and jingles as effective ways to build relationships with kids. As a class exercise, they create jingles and spokescharacters themselves for the foods they enjoy.

Looking at Newspapers
Grades: 2-4

In this lesson, students learn basic information about newspaper journalism through guided class discussion and group and individual activities. Topics include the front page, what’s inside the paper, how to find information, and what elements make up a newspaper story.

Looks Good Enough to Eat
Grades: 5-7

This lesson looks at food photography and the different techniques used by food stylists to make foods look appealing in advertisements. The lesson begins with a discussion about the challenges involved in food photography and how traditional elements of photography may be combined with «food tricks» to achieve the desired effects. After reviewing some food photography «tricks of the trade,» students plan and shoot their own food advertisements.

Media Kids
Grades: 4-7

In this lesson, students deconstruct gender portrayal and depictions of boys and girls in the media. They begin by looking at the appearance and mannerisms of boys and girls in TV, movies, ads and comic books and identify any stereotypes that are used. In a series of group activities, students explore gender stereotypes and representation in greater depth, as well as compare these representations to their own life experiences.

Media Literacy Key Concepts Introduction: What Is Media Anyway?
Grades: 4-6

This opening video to the Key Concepts of Media Literacy video series introduces students to the idea that the word media – which they may already know in the sense of the media industry (“the media”) – means channels of communication between a person or persons and their intended audience. Any form of communication that carries a message is a medium. This can include things students might be aware of, like magazines, television, radio and the Internet; and also less obvious things, like text messages and branded logos on clothes.

Media Literacy Key Concepts Lesson 2: Media are Constructions
Grades: 4-6

In this lesson, students watch a video introducing the media literacy key concept that media are constructions. They then explore this concept by considering a pair of cereal boxes and identifying the different elements of the box and the purposes they serve. In an optional final task, students pick a target audience and create their own cereal box to appeal to that audience. 

Media Literacy Key Concepts Lesson 3: Audiences Negotiate Meaning
Grades: 5-8

In this lesson, students watch a video introducing the media literacy key concept that audiences negotiate meaning. They discuss the idea that different media products are aimed at different audiences and that different people may react differently to the same media product, and reflect on the experience of liking something they aren’t “supposed” to.

Media Literacy Key Concepts Lesson 4: Media Have Commercial Considerations
Grades: 5-8

Students watch a video introducing the media literacy key concept that media have commercial implications. They then watch an ad for jeans which conceals its commercial nature, and discuss its purpose before and after being aware of its purpose. In an optional final task, students analyze an educational kids’ website created by the US National Dairy Council and identify the ways in which its different elements educate, entertain, persuade and advertise to youth.

Media Literacy Key Concepts Lesson 5: Media Have Social and Political Implications
Grades: 5-8

In this lesson, students watch a video introducing the media literacy key concept that media have social and political implications. They discuss the idea of explicit messages in media products and then, after watching the video “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” discuss the idea that media products may have less obvious implicit messages. Students apply this analysis to another media work familiar to the class and then, in an optional final task, identify how a favourite media work has influenced them.

Media Literacy Key Concepts Lesson 6: Each Medium Has a Unique Aesthetic Form
Grades: 4-6

In this lesson, students compare print and TV ads for the same product and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each medium to communicate a particular message. The class then brainstorms a public service message and discusses which medium would be a better way to communicate it and why.

Mirror Image
Grades: 5-8

In this lesson, students analyze their own body image and consider what they wish they could change. They discuss how smoking relates to body image, particularly for young women, and learn about the link between beauty and smoking.

Once Upon a Time
Grades: 3-6

In this lesson, students become aware of the idea of stereotyping and the role that stereotypes play in the stories and movies that they enjoy. They learn how media techniques can affect how we feel about a character and how that can contribute to stereotyping, and consider how stories may be different when told from different points of view.  

Online Marketing to Kids: Protecting Your Privacy
Grades: 6-9

This two lesson unit on online marketing explores the various ways companies use the Internet to target young people. The first lesson introduces students to the ways in which commercial websites collect personal information from kids and to the issues surrounding children and privacy on the Internet.  

Online Marketing to Kids: Strategies and Techniques
Grades: 6-9

The second lesson in the Online Marketing to Kids unit introduces students to the online marketing techniques that are used to target children on the Internet.  

Packaging Tricks
Grades: K-6

This lesson introduces students to the ways in which packaging is designed to attract kids.

Pay For Play
Grades: 4-6

In this lesson students discuss their experiences playing free online games and then learn the costs of these “free” games in the form of paying with money, sharing personal information or providing attention to advertising or branded content.

Prejudice and Body Image
Grades: 3-7

Through class discussion and activities, students begin to recognize how the media pressure us to achieve a certain looks and how media images may lead to prejudice against those who don’t conform to their standards of attractiveness.

Privacy Pirates: An Interactive Unit on Online Privacy (Ages 7-9)
Grades: 2-4

This tutorial introduces children to the concept of online privacy and teaches them to distinguish between information that is appropriate to give out and information better kept private – and to recognize how this may change in different contexts.

Privacy Pursuit: Protecting Your Privacy
Grades: 4-5
In this lesson, students review what the word “privacy” means in an online context and learn key privacy-related vocabulary. They explore different privacy risks and then learn practical techniques and strategies to manage and protect their privacy. Students then demonstrate their understanding of these strategies by illustrating them. Finally, students revisit material from earlier in the lesson and consider how their actions might put other people’s privacy at risk.

Privacy Pursuit: The Value of Privacy
Grades: 6-7
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In this lesson, students learn how their personal information is key to how most of the “free” apps and platforms they use make money. They learn practical strategies and tools for managing their privacy and plan how these can be used to limit what audiences have access to their personal information.

Scientific Detectives
Grades: 6-8

In this lesson, students use science and critical thinking to test the legitimacy of advertisers’ claims about their products. The lesson begins with students viewing and discussing a series of ads that make claims about their products. Students then conduct their own experiments to see if products live up to their claims.

Social Smarts: Nothing Personal!
Grades: 3-6
A new smartphone is a big responsibility for kids, who have a lot to learn about using them safely, especially when it comes to protecting their privacy.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has created a graphic novel, Social Smarts: Nothing Personal! to help young Canadians to better understand and navigate privacy issues in the online world. The 12-page graphic novel is designed to appeal to kids aged 8-10.

Stay on the Path Lesson One: Searching for Treasure
Grades: 5-6

This four-lesson unit on search skills and critical thinking teaches students how to target and specify their online searches to avoid unwanted results, how to judge whether a link, search result or website is legitimate or phony and how to find legitimate sources online for media works such as music, videos and movies. In this first lesson students learn how to create well-defined search strings and to use tools and techniques such as bookmarking, browser filters and search engine preferences to avoid unwanted material.

Stay on the Path Lesson Two: All That Glitters is Not Gold
Grades: 5-6

In the second lesson in the Stay on the Path lesson unit, students learn how to authenticate online information by comparing “facts” from the website with more authoritative sources.

Stay on the Path Lesson Three: Treasure Maps
Grades: 5-6

In the third lesson in the Stay on the Path unit, students apply what they have learned in the first two lessons to find and verify information online.

Stay on the Path Lesson Four: Scavenger Hunt
Grades: 5-6

In the fourth lesson in the Stay on the Path unit, students apply their searching and critical thinking skills to learn how to find legitimate online sources for downloading and streaming movies, music and videos.

Stereotyping and Bias
Grades: 5-7

This lesson helps students recognize and understand stereotyping and bias in literature and film.

Taking Charge of TV Violence
Grades: 5-7

Students become aware of the types and amounts of violence in children’s programming, and how media violence influences young viewers.

Teaching Media: Critically Evaluating Media
Grades: 1-6

In this lesson, students learn how media influence how we see the world and send intentional and unintentional messages.

Teaching TV: Film Production: Who Does What?
Grades: 1-6

In this lesson, students look at the equipment used to produce television and film, and learn about the members of the film production team and their duties.

Teaching Media: Learning With Media
Grades: 2-6

In this lesson, students learn about media as a source of information, and how this information is presented from a particular point of view.

Teaching TV: Television as a Story Teller
Grades: 1-6

Students explore the ways in which television tells stories.

Teaching Media: Media Techniques
Grades: 1-6

In this lesson, students learn how different media use different techniques to communicate meaning.

The Anatomy of Cool
Grades: 4-7

This lesson helps students become more aware of the media’s role in determining what, and who, are perceived as being cool. Through class discussion and activities, students explore the differences between superficial and real “coolness,” how marketers use cool to sell products, and how their own attitudes and perceptions are affected by media messages that reinforce specific messages about what coolness is.

The Constructed World of Television Families
Grades: 4-6

In this lesson, students identify the differences between TV families and real families by analyzing the conventions used by TV shows; and by comparing the problems and actions of television families to real world families.

The Hero Project: Authenticating Online Information
Grades: 4-8

In this lesson students are introduced to Internet search skills through researching a personal hero. By focusing on the early parts of the research process, students learn to select well-defined topics, ask relevant research questions and select effective keywords.

Tobacco Labels
Grades: 6-9

Students debate the effectiveness of health warning labels on tobacco products. They begin by looking at different warning labels from around the world, and then focus specifically on Canada’s new visual warning labels. Students discuss the elements of effective warning labels, and look at the difficulties of reaching young people with health messages.

TV Dads: Immature and Irresponsible?
Grades: 6-8

Students explore the nature of stereotypes by looking at the negative image of the TV dad as presented in situation comedies (sitcoms) and advertisements.

TV Stereotypes
Grades: 2-6

This lesson familiarises students with stereotypes and helps them understand the role that stereotypes play in television’s portrayal of life. The lesson begins with a discussion about the types of stereotypes that are common on television, why stereotypes are used on TV, and the possible negative influences of stereotyping.

Understanding the Internet Lesson 1: Using the Internet
Grades: 4-6

This four lesson unit looks at what the Internet is, how information travels online and how to use the Internet safely for a variety of purposes with a focus on communications. In the first lesson students explore their own experiences with online activities, build a common vocabulary of online-related terminology and identify purposes and methods of online interactions from the user’s perspective.

Understanding the Internet Lesson 2: Pathways and Addresses
Grades: 4-6

In the second lesson in the Understanding the Internet unit, students gain a greater understanding of how messages are sent and received over the Internet.

Understanding the Internet Lesson 3: Build Understanding
Grades: 4-6

In the third lesson in the Understanding the Internet unit students identify and classify their own interactions with the Internet and will engage in a collaborative critical thinking activity that will have them examine the Internet from a variety of perspectives.

Understanding the Internet Lesson 4: Communication and Social Media
Grades: 4-6

In the fourth lesson in the Understanding the Internet unit, students compare and contrast a variety of online social networking platforms and build an understanding of how they work to share messages. They will reflect on basic online rules and explore concepts of safety and privacy when accessing and sharing information online.

Villains, Heroes and Heroines
Grades: 3-6

This lesson introduces students to some of the myth-building techniques of television by comparing super heroes and super villains from television to heroes and villains in the real world and by conveying how violence and action are used to give power to characters. Students will also explore the use of stereotypes in the world of TV heroes and villains.

Violence in Sports
Grades: 3-7

The lesson begins with a class discussion about the sports that students participate in, and the rules and consequences that relate to unsporting behaviour. Students then discuss how professional athletes conduct themselves in TV sporting events, and whether the same consequences seem to apply.

What Do Hallowe’en Costumes Say?
Grades: K-5

This activity is designed to help students look critically at the Halloween costumes marketed to them.

Where’s The Line?
Grades: 6-8

This lesson promotes safe and informed online behaviour through encouraging youth to make safe, ethical and knowledge-based decisions online and helping youth to identify strategies and supports that are available to assist them with issues they may encounter online.

Writing a Newspaper Article
Grades: 6-9

The lesson begins with a discussion about freedom of speech and the important role it plays in journalism. Next, students will learn how to create news articles by developing ‘lead paragraphs’ and by using the ‘inverted pyramid’ model. Once this is done, they will be given time during class to select topics, conduct research, write their articles and proof read and peer edit their own and other’s works.

Winning the Cyber Security Game
Grades: 5-8

In this lesson students discuss their online experiences and learn how to minimize the potential risks that may be associated with them.