Text and how do I teach it

What else is a text and how do I teach it?

Teaching Media Literacy:

Activities

1. Formulate a rationale for inclusion of media education in the curriculum.  A school district has decided to revise its entire overall language arts curriculum.   The district is under a lot of pressure to go “back to the basics” in order to improve tests scores in reading and writing.   The school board is therefore skeptical about focusing on media studies which is perceived to be as “outside” or a deviation from a needed focus on reading and writing “basic skills.”

You need to formulate a rationale for teaching media studies that you would present to the school board that identifies specific reasons for why media studies should be taught in the district.  To do so, you first need to provide a summary description of the nature of your district’s current curriculum in the subject matter you teach or are/plan to student teach and when as the school’s/community’s presumed attitudes towards the value of media studies (If you are not a teacher, create a fictional summary or use your own school as an example).

In your rationale, you may want to provide some formulation on how you would frame your curriculum content in a manner that serves to bolster your argument.  This would include:

– formulating the curriculum in terms of literacies students would acquire through participating in the curriculum.

– The ways in which components of your media studies curriculum would help students acquire these literacies.

– The value of acquiring each of these literacies in terms of larger curriculum goals and outcomes (“critical thinking,” “production and understanding of texts,” etc.,), particularly in relationship to the language arts curriculum.

2.  Identity uses of media texts.  List some of the different types of print and non-print media texts that you employ on a regular basis: television shows, Internet sites, radio, newspapers, magazines, etc.  Identify who owns the television stations you most frequently watch (also the cable network if you are on cable), your commercial Internet access (if any); the radio stations you most frequently listen to; and the newspaper (s) or magazine(s) you most frequently read; how do you think this ownership influences the content of the media you are exposed to?

3.  Analyze film technique.  In your journal: select a scene from a film video, DVD, or television program, describe what happens in the scene, the uses of camera shots, lighting, sound, and music to portray the meaning, relationships, narrative development, and representations in that scene.   Describe the purposes for the use of these techniques in terms of the program or movie’s larger purpose and positioning/creation of audiences.

You can analyze use of the following techniques:

– Frames.  One of the most basic concepts is the idea of the frame-what is included as well as left out of a shot.  This relates to what is known as “off-frame” action-the fact that an audience may be aware of someone or something that is outside of the frame-a lurking murderer.  The size and focus of the frame defines the types of different shots employed.  Shots also differ in terms of where they position the audience in relationship to the setting, persons, or objects portrayed.

– Establishing/extreme long shot.  A shot that serves to initially set the scene is an establishing shot often framed by an extreme-long shot of a landscape or locale in which characters are only speck in the scene.

– Long-shot.  In contrast to the extreme long-shot, people are now shown at the point to which the audience can view their entire body.

– Medium shot.   A medium shot portrays the people’s bodies from the waist up; in some cases, an over-the-shoulder shot with two people portrays one person looking up or down at the other person.  In the 1950s, females were often shown looking up at males, not only because they were often shorter than the males, but also because this shot implied a power imbalance.

– Close-up shot.  A close-up shot often fills the screen with only a face or an object for the purpose of dramatizing nonverbal reactions or signaling the symbolic importance of an object.

– Wide-angle lens.  If a filmmaker wants to emphasize the relationships between foreground and background aspects of a face or object, they will use a wide-angle lens that creates an exaggerated look.

– Telephoto lens.  If a filmmaker wants to give the appearance some a person or object is closer to the audience, even though they may be quite far away, they will use a telephoto lens.  This can be used in shots in which a person is running towards the audience, in a manner that seems like a long time.

– Low angle shot.  If a filmmaker wants to place the audience as looking up on a person or object, they use a low angle shot, often for the purpose of associating power with the person or object.

– High-angle shot.  In contrast, a shot down on the person or object places the audience in a dominant position over that person or object.

– Pan shot.  A pan shot is used to move or scan across a locale.

– Tracking shot.  A tracking shot is used to following a moving person or object; the camera itself is moving, on a dolly or moving car.

– Zoom shot.  A zoom shot is used to focus in on or to move back from a person or object.

– Point-of-view shot.  A point-of-view shot is designed to mimic the perspective of a person so that the audience is experiencing the world through the eyes of the person.

– Lighting.  Students could also study the uses of lighting to emphasize or highlighting certain aspects of people or objects, or through uses of different colors, based on the following techniques:

– Low-key lighting. Low-key lighting is employed in detective, mystery, gangster, or horror films to emphasize contrasts between light and dark images to emphasize the shadowy, dark worlds of these genres.

– High-key lighting. High-key lighting employs a lot of bright lights with little variation of dark and light; often found in traditional comedies.

– Backlighting.  Backlighting involves placing the light behind the person or object to create an halo effect.

 – Colored lenses.  Different colored lens are also used to set the mood in a film based on certain semiotic or archetypal meanings for colors.  Red or yellow can be used to create a sense of warmth while a bluish color creates a sense of coldness.  In Minority Report, the faces of the characters who could predict future events were shown as ultra-white to create a sub-human image.

– Sound.  Students could study the uses of sound and music to create a sense of mood or drama.  In a fast-paced chase scene, a filmmaker may employ a fast-paced score.  To add to a slow, romantic scene, a filmmaker may employ romantic violin music.

Then, using the same scene as in the previous analysis (or pick a different scene from a different film/video/show), and the scenes before and after that scene, analyze the editing techniques being used in those scenes. How is the editing being used to convey meaning, relationships, narrative development, and themes?

To share analysis of the use of these film techniques, students could bring in video clips and share their analyses with a class, describing their perceptions of the techniques employed.  In sharing their analyses, they need to be able to not only identify the types of techniques employed, but to also describe the purposes for using these techniques.

Students could also examine changes in technique over time, noting how new innovations in cameras, editing, and sound changed the medium.  For example, the early Charlie Chaplin films without sound emphasized portrayal of story conflict through characters’ physical movements.  With the introduction of sound, conflicts could then be portrayed through oral inflections and speech.  More recently, the introduction of digital cameras meant that filmmakers could more quickly and easily edits their films and that films could be produced at lower cost.

4.  Analyze media representations.  Select a certain phenomenon or type as portrayed in the media: teachers, men, women, nature, “the city,” the elderly, crime, adolescents, “vacations,” schools, love, religion, sex, sports, etc., and describe how that phenomena is portrayed in some television shows, films, magazines, or newspapers.   Describe the value assumptions underlying these portrayals.

5.  Apply a feminist lens to media texts.  Students could apply a feminist lens to examine discourses of romance/beauty in magazines for adolescent females on creating and establishing heterosexual relationships through fashions, cosmetics, flirtation, tips for attracting males, romance, marriage, etc. as well analysis of representations of masculinity in the media in terms of physical aggression, toughness, competitiveness, and domination as portrayed in ads and stories, for example, as explored in the video, Tough Guise.

6.  Analyze postmodern media texts.  Students could analyze postmodern films/media texts that parody or interrogate “modernist” “master narratives” and familiar notions of time as is in Pulp Fiction, Mulholland Drive, Run Lola Run, or Memento

7.  Analyze portrayals of race in the media.  Students could examine how people of color are portrayed on prime-time television programs or films, particularly in terms of the roles to which they are assigned.  They could also apply postcolonial theory to examine that ways in which colonial or imperialist conceptions of the world are portrayed in film/media texts.

8.  Conduct media ethnography.  Observe a person or group of persons who are viewing television, a video, films, etc., or playing a computer game, or attending a music event/concert.  You may also “lurk” on an online fan-club chat site associated with a television program or film.

9.  Analyze a film or television genre.  Select one of your favorite film or television genres (detective, mystery, science fiction, horror, romance, soap opera, musical, comedy; genres and historical/cultural contexts; reality-TV dating-game shows, evangelical talk shows, sports-talk shows, info-commercial shows, buying/auction shows, MTV-video tape shows, etc.).

Follow the instructions here that involve the following steps:

1. Decide on your communication objective
2. Decide on your target audience
3. Decide on your format
4. Develop your concept
5. The visual (you may want to select on-line images from art-clip files or from on-line images to insert into a Word or PowerPoint document).
6. The headline
7. The copy
Subheads
the signature

10.  Analyze a film adaptation.  Students could analyze a film adaptation of a book they are reading in terms of the degree to which the film altered the book and the specific techniques employed in adapting the book to the screen.  Students should focus on differences between the book and the film relative to differences between the two different media, as opposed to simply judging one as “better” than the other.  Students could compare their emotional reactions to and interpretations of a specific scene in the book and the film in terms of differences in their experiences of print versus film texts.

11.  Share favorite music genres.  Students could bring in songs representing their favorite music genres (pop, rap, heavy metal, punk, etc.). They could also describe their own personal, autobiographical experiences associated with the meaning and appeal of the song.

 

12.  Create a documentary. They could then edit their material to clearly frame the problem, reasons for the problem, alternative perspectives on the problem, and alternative solutions to the problem.

As an alternative, students could create a documentary, parodying a documentary or news broadcast.

13.  Creating a classroom or school newspaper.  Students could study their own school newspaper or other on-line school newspapers for either their classroom or for the entire school.

14.  Analyze local television news.

15.  Create a television news broadcast.

16.  Compare news stories across different media. 

17.  Integrate film/video with literature instruction. 

18. Involve adults and parents in media education.

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