5 questions students should ask about media

Help kids think critically about the media they consume and create

2. Which techniques are used to attract my attention?
Whether it’s a billboard or a book, a TV show or movie, a mobile app or an online ad, different forms of media have unique ways to get our attention and keep us engaged. Of course, digital media are changing all the time—constant of updates and rapid innovations are the name of the game. Help students recognize how this often comes in the form of new and innovative techniques to capture our attention—sometimes without us even realizing.

3. How might different people interpret this message?
This question helps students consider how all of us bring our own individual backgrounds, values, and beliefs to how we interpret media messages. For any piece of media, there are often as many interpretations as there are viewers. Any time kids are interpreting a media message it’s important for them to consider how someone from a different background might interpret the same message in a very different way. Model for your students how to ask questions like: What about your background might influence your interpretation? Or, Who might be the target audience for this message?

4. Which lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented—or missing?
Just as we all bring our own backgrounds and values to how we interpret what we see, media messages themselves are embedded with values and points of view. Help students question and consider how certain perspectives or voices might be missing from a particular message. If voices or perspectives are missing, how does that affect the message being sent? Have students consider the impact of certain voices being left out, and ask them: What points of view would you like to see included, and why? You could even have a discussion here about how popular media can sometimes reinforce certain stereotypes, values, and points of view.

5. Why is this message being sent?
With this question, have students explore the purpose of the message. Is it to inform, entertain, or persuade, or could it be some combination of these? Also have students explore possible motives behind why certain messages have been sent. Was it to gain power, profit, or influence? For older students, examining the economic structures behind various media industries will come into play.

As teachers, we can think about how to weave these five questions into our instruction, helping our students to think critically about media. A few scenarios could include lessons where students consuming news and current events, or any time we ask students to create multimedia projects. You could even use these questions to critique the textbooks and films you already use. Eventually, as we model this type of critical thinking for students, asking these questions themselves will become second nature to them.

Want to help your students learn these questions?
Download our worksheet: 5 Questions Students Should Ask About Media

For more information on bringing media literacy into your classroom visit these sites:

Center for Media Literacy
Media Education Lab
Media Smarts

 [Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Common Sense Education.]

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