Top 5 Media Literacy Lesson Plans & Resources
Media literacy is the ability to think critically about information from newspapers, websites, blogs, and social networks in order to determine its validity.
As a result, it can be hard to teach.
Media literacy isn’t just one skill. It’s a collection of skills, including critical thinking, information literacy, technology literacy, and a variety of other 21st Century skills.
Essentially, you’re teaching students how to be critical — but critical within reason.
By the time you’re done teaching media literacy, your students should be able to identify harmful fake news and propaganda on sight.
When they can, they’ll be much safer from the dangers of an ever-evolving Internet that’s become a spawning ground of misinformation.
So how can you actually teach your students this complex concept?
Check out these five lesson plans and resources to start!
Video : Media Literacy
1. Facts vs. Opinions by Common Sense Education
Common Sense Education is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping everyone learn about digital citizenship, professional development, privacy, and other hot-button issues.
One of their best lessons on media literacy is called Facts vs. Opinions.
This lesson takes about 45 minutes to teach, and it comes with free worksheets.
The lesson emphasizes journalistic fact and journalistic opinion, which is a much more formal setting than most other lessons on fact-finding.
In this lesson, Common Sense takes the time to talk about journalistic integrity while explaining what makes an opinion article different from a fact-based article.
Then, the lesson dives more into online phenomena like blogs.
At the end, students can talk about what they learned while discussing what makes something fact and what makes an opinion.
When they’re done, your students will have a firm grasp on how to read a journalistic outlet — or even a trusted online source — and understand the context of its articles.
This lesson is important because it informs students about the hallmarks of opinion. So while the lesson may focus on journalistic qualities of media outlets, the underlying principles will help students read, contextualize, and understand future information they encounter.
As a result, you’re helping your students become media-literate in a way that’s engaging, fun, and relatable!
But what if you want to take fact-finding to the next level?
2. Fact Finder: Your Foolproof Guide to Media Literacy by NewseumED
NewseumED is another non-profit that’s dedicated to spreading the good “news” of media literacy.
NewseumED requires you to create an account (it’s free) and log in before you can start getting their lesson plan materials.
But that’s a minor hurdle compared to the treasure trove of resources you get in return!
NewseumED’s Fact Finder lesson plan is a collection of dozens of different resources, including downloads, videos, and interactives.
Much like Common Sense, NewseumED approaches fact-finding in the lens of journalism. However, this lens isn’t just about journalism — it’s about information as a whole.
At times, this lesson plan actually delves deeper than information, too. It requires students to examine themselves and take a hard look at their own biases, the news that attracts them, and the information that repels them.
You’ll also get activity materials like the News or Noise? map that has students take a practical look at information they may find online. Still, that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
All told, NewseumED offers 11 lesson plans that are packed with additional resources so you can teach an entire week (maybe more) about media literacy.
But what if you want to create a blended learning classroom that uses computers in addition to traditional teaching styles?
3. Media Literacy Lesson Ideas by BrainPop
BrainPOP is another online resource with lots of lesson opportunities. BrainPOP does an excellent job of creating free online resources (although some require an account).
BrainPOP considers media literacy to be a part of a full digital citizenship curriculum.
As a result, it includes more digital tools than the other options on this list.
This is because BrainPOP approaches media literacy from the angle of “decoding” — looking at any piece of media and discerning its motives, biases, and implications.
That “decoding” entails learning how companies and advertisers make money and market their products. Sometimes, that means talking about common methods of manipulation like image doctoring and celebrity endorsement.
Altogether, BrainPOP has 19 helpful resources that you can use to teach your students. It even comes complete with supplemental lesson ideas that you can use to drive home certain points, like advertising strategies.
The end result is a more savvy and thoughtful student who learns a wide range of principles to live their lives.
The ideas presented in BrainPOP’s lessons may be focused on Internet media, but they’re true for television, billboards, newspapers, and other forms of media as well.
As a result, it’s an excellent way to prep your students for life in a world that’s saturated with advertising, especially when social media is concerned.
4. Media Literacy 101 by Media Smarts
Media Smarts is a Canadian education organization that’s focused on bringing teachers, students, and parents together to learn about all things digital.
That includes media literacy, which they cover in their Media Literacy 101 lessons.
These lesson plans are aimed at a younger demographic than most — up to sixth grade — but they still spell out lots of helpful principles.
Each lesson comes with a grade level attached, and it credits the author before jumping into the lesson “kit.”
These “kits” are actually one-page PDFs that lay out what the lessons’ resources do and how you can use them to teach.
At the end, it also gives you a list of resources you can include to emphasize different points. These resources aren’t included in the lesson, but they still make great supplements.
Still, if you don’t want to bother with supplements, you don’t have to go out of your way! The information, videos, and instructions are more than enough to teach your students what they need to succeed in media literacy.
That’s pretty much it for Media Smarts! While they may not come out and say it, it’s clear that this organization values simplicity in their lessons and instruction.
But simplicity isn’t always a good thing!
What if you want something a little more complex and academic?
What if you want to take a tough look at commercial advertising to give students a deep and thorough understanding of how they’re sold?
5. Critical Media Literacy: Commercial Advertising by International Literacy Association
The International Literacy Association (ILA) — published via Read Write Think — is dedicated to spreading literacy in all of its forms.
That could be someone’s literal ability to read, and it could also be a pragmatic approach to studying the effect of mass media on all of our lives.
In the case of this lesson, the ILA lays out four 45-minute lessons that you can use to fill a full week or two of class time with valuable content.
The ILA looks at media literacy through the lens of influence in this lesson plan. So while the previous lessons dealt with critical thinking, the ILA considers popular culture, marketing narratives, and even unspoken oppression.
The scope of this lesson plan is significantly larger than the other lessons on this list. The ILA takes a look at media literacy from a global (or near-global) perspective.
That means you may trek into other territory by using this lesson plan verbatim. You might wind up discussing poverty, the disparity of technology available in different parts of the world, and other topics that aren’t really related to media literacy.
Still, it’s a holistic approach to teaching this topic. After all, if students are going to comprehend the full scope of media literacy, they should know everything they can!
However, if you’re only looking for lesson plans that are specific to media literacy, then this lesson plan probably isn’t for you!
How Do You Teach Media Literacy?
So how do you want to teach media literacy?
Are you the kind of teacher who highlights major principles? Or do you take a more all-encompassing approach?
Regardless of what you’re thinking right now, it’s important that you know all of your options.
That’s why we recommend taking a look at the digital curriculum Business&ITCenter21 before you decide!
Check out what’s offered, how it works, and more!