Media Literacy Skills

Improving Media Literacy Skills for High School Students

Erik Poole, Secondary Social Studies Teacher


  Eric is  a secondary social studies teacher at Port Huron Northern High School. For his capstone project he created a unit to improve his students’ understanding of media literacy. The unit was spread over for three weeks. Each lesson was centered around one of the following questions about media center literacy.

  • ​​Who created this message?
  • What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?
  • How might different people understand this message differently?
  • What values, lifestyles and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?
  • Why is this message being sent?

  The first concept was about message construction. Author compared media construction  with the building ( plan, building blocks, people working etc). He asked students to think about what the text is about and compare it with others of the same genre. He asked them to look for what technologies were used and if it could have been done with a different approach. In the second question he asked students about the details about the message that they created such as shape, size, camera position, lighting. He also asked them if it talks about any story, symbols or metaphor. Finally students were asked what makes it feel real? The first picture shows the mcDonald statue which is a symbol of mcDonald store that went to shop at BurgerKing.With the picture presentation one may think about it as a humorous picture. Next nine pictures were about Macho,Family, Fun, Nature etc. Author claims that advertisers use these emotions and techniques to try to entice people into certain products. This was a two part project. In the first part students were expected to create a google slide using different pictures on each slide to represent these emotions, and for the second part they were asked to create a three minute Flipgrid video explaining each of the advertisements and how they fit into the specific category. This teaches students the media literacy creative techniques to grab the attention from users /consumers.

  For the next phase, students were asked to find the latest school appropriate news story and then create two different podcasts based on the same story but with two different viewpoints.The first one was expected with biased and second with unbiased viewpoint. Later these podcasts were shared with class groups to unfold which one is biased and which one is an unbiased story. This activity was designed to explain that every person may have a different understanding for the same message. Author claims that When students are able to think about others’ points of view, they will ultimately deepen their understanding of a topic. 

  The last part was designed for students to gain the necessary skills to effectively analyze any message or form of propaganda and be able to understand its underlying meaning and goal. Students were expected to follow a website with several examples of contemporary propaganda. Students were asked to pick any two and analyze those based on predestined questions about the main idea of the message, visual and verbal evidence in it, target audience, reason why this message was created, what are the potential benefits or harmful effects this message could have on individuals and society.

  To teach students how to properly utilize social media in order to raise awareness about an issue that they care about, students used twitter and use of hashtags. This activity was designed to teach students causes and effects of the recent hashtag movements on today’s society.

During this project students were asked to find different examples, message creation,  work on their own and then with the group with different viewpoints and during all these experiments they also used the technology such as flip grid, podcast, twitter  etc. Author explains that this project follows several ISTE standards.

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