Curriculum Module

Reading/Language Arts: Bias in News and Popular Media Project

by Ryn Lewis

 This project was individually developed for a School Library Media Center class. It required the creation of a collaborative unit for a core content area teacher and the school library media specialist, utilizing library materials and information resources.  All materials included in the project were created in Microsoft Word and converted in Paint Shop Pro X2.

INFORMATION LITERACY SKILLS OBJECTIVES:

AASL STANDARDS FOR THE 21ST-CENTURY LEARNER:

  • Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge: 1.1.1, 1.1.2, 1.1.5, 1.1.7, 1.1.9, 1.2.4, 1.3.2, 1.4.2.
  • Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge: 2.1.1, 2.1.6, 2.2.4, 2.3.1,
  • Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society: 3.1.1, 3.1.4, 3.2.3

 

CURRICULUM (SUBJECT AREA) OBJECTIVES:  GRADE LEVELS: 8 – 10

 OHIO ACADEMIC CONTENT STANDARDS / ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS

 Reading Applications: Informational, Technical and Persuasive Text Standard

Topic B: Students will:

  • Assess published works for adequate and accurate details
  • Identify bias and faulty logic used as a persuasive technique

Communications: Oral and Visual Standard

Topic B: Students will:

  • Interpret messages of speakers and writers in news and popular media.
  • Determine the credibility of speakers/writers and identify bias and faulty logic used in publications.


 RESOURCES

Resources for teaching bias and faulty logic

Books

(Silly poems about the bad things of school are an easy introduction to bias.)

  • Lansky, B. & S. Carpenter.  (2004). If Kids Ruled the School. New York: Meadowbrook.
  • Lansky, B. & S. Carpenter. (1997). No More Homework, No More Tests. New York: Meadowbrook.
  • Silverstein, S. (2004). Where the Sidewalk Ends. New York: HarperCollins.
  • Goldberg, B. (2002). Bias. Washington, D.C.: Regency.

 Web Sites

 Collections of Advertisements

(While this lesson does not explicitly teach persuasion in advertising, ads often contain good examples to begin helping students understand bias and faulty logic.)

 News and Media sites

 Open-Source Alternatives to Windows Movie Maker

 Sound Editor

 Creative Commons Music and Sound Files

 

INSTRUCTIONAL ROLES:

 The language arts teacher begins the unit with 1-2 days of classroom instruction on bias.  The next 2-3 days are spent in the library media center, where the librarian teaches or reviews the purpose behind giving credit to outside work.  The teacher and librarian work together with students to assist their initial research, collection of articles, and credits pages.  The teacher will teach persuasive techniques and logical fallacies in the classroom over the next several days as students analyze their articles.  Students will then return to the library media center; the librarian and teacher will co-teach presentation techniques, and the librarian will teach and support technology skills for student-created videos.  Both the librarian and the teacher will assist students as they complete their video projects.  At the end of the unit, students may present their projects in the library media center or the classroom depending on available space and technology.

 

ACTIVITIES AND PROCEDURES FOR COMPLETION:

 Students will come to the library media center on the third day of the unit.  During the first two days, the teacher has introduced the concepts of bias and slant and demonstrated them to the students in as many forms as possible, including news and popular media articles, both print and nonprint.  Teacher should also introduce the first part of the bias project, in which students select one event that has occurred within the last six months or is occurring currently.  They will research this event, finding six to ten Web publications from different sources that discuss it.  Students will then be analyzing these sources for possible biases.  Topics can be current news events, political events or controversial events in popular media.  For example, in the past two years, students may have chosen to examine material surrounding the McCain/Obama Presidential election or LeBron James’s decision to leave Cleveland for Miami.

 

DAY 3

 RESEARCH LESSON

  • Discuss with the students times when they did not receive credit or someone else received the credit for something good they had done.  Have students share results, consequences and their feelings about such scenarios.  Include discussion about what happens when people take credit for work that is not theirs in school and the possible consequences.  Chart feelings and consequences on chart paper for display in the library during the project.
  • Link student experiences to the idea that as writers and producers of work to share, it is important to give credit to work they use that was created by others.  Have students discuss why it might be important and the possible consequences of not doing so.  Continue charting responses.
  • Explain that for the purposes of this project, they will simply need to give credit to the sources for the articles they find. To do that, they will build a credits page on their computers as they do their research.  Have students sit at their computers and open a prepared credits page template (Fig. 1), which should be on the desktop.  Demonstrate how to copy and paste a URL and enter an article name from a Web site.
  • Have available a digital list of links for news and professional popular media sites such as CNN, Sports Illustrated and People.  Remind students that their sources must come from professional news or media sites; they cannot be personal Web sites.  Students should work with a partner on the same topic, but each must find at least three unique articles for a minimum total of six.
  • Teacher and librarian support students in researching, downloading, and recording Web sites.  Students should save all articles to a Google.docs site or flash disk, including video media, and should print copies of articles for classroom use. 

 

Days 4 – 6 will be spent in the classroom.  The language arts teacher will have students work with partners to analyze articles and media for any signs of bias, slant or hidden agendas.  Students should log their findings on a worksheet (Fig. 2).  Teacher should also teach at least one day on major types of fallacious reasoning, and students will examine their article to record any examples of these as well (Fig. 3). The second part of the project will be introduced, which is the objective reporting video.  Students will take all the information they found and become objective reporters.  They will create a short video presentation about the issue they have researched.  The video should fairly address all sides of the issue discovered by the student and be as neutral as possible, free from bias or faulty logic.  Students will process their movies with a video editing program such as Windows Movie Maker and may include images from their articles or clips from videos they found, so long as they present the story fairly as a whole.  Students will end the presentation with a rolling credits log which credits all sources used in the making of their report.

 

DAY 7 - 12

 MULTIMEDIA LESSON

  • Review the elements of the project with students and chart them for easy reference during the work time.  The librarian and teacher should also brainstorm and have students demonstrate appropriate presentation techniques, such as volume and rate.  Students must complete, at minimum, the following steps:
    • Storyboard a video.  This can be done in any format, but should include some outline of the issue being presented and how all sides will be addressed.  It should also include space and time for outside visual or audio elements that will be inserted later.
    • Draft and rehearse a script.  Both partners should participate in the filming of the video. 
    • Videotape presentation against a blank wall.
    • Use video editing software to insert captions and other textual information, music if desired, still images and video clips, and credits.
  • All students must first storyboard their videos and draft their scripts.  When they are finished, they should have their work reviewed by the teacher or the librarian.  Once they have received an approval, they may sign up to film their projects.  The teacher will be at the filming station to assist students in filming their projects.  Students who are waiting to film may begin working with the library media specialist to construct their video projects. 
  • At the beginning of Day 8, the library media specialist should have all students sit at computers and give a hands-on overview of the basic tools in their video editing software.  The library media specialist will give students a basic overview of the video editing software at their library media center and will assist students as needed during their project creation.  The librarian should also have resources on hand such as written tutorials, Web links or video links to help students find quick answers to common software questions.
  • Students will work in the library media center for the next 3-5 days to complete their projects.
  • Students will present their projects to the class.  After each video, the audience should have the opportunity to voice positive critiques and questions.  Audience members should particularly watch for signs of bias or faulty logic in the reporter’s narrative and be prepared to offer constructive ideas for improvement.

FIGURE 1: EXAMPLE CREDITS LOG

FIGURE 2: EXAMPLE BIAS WORKSHEET

 FIGURE 3: FAULTY LOGIC LOG

EXTENSION

  • Spotlight sample videos to class Web site or library Web site for the students, administration, and community.  Showcase samples at Literacy nights and parent open houses. 
  • A unit on persuasive techniques in advertising can easily precede or follow this unit.

STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTION:

After presenting their projects, students should complete a self-assessment to reflect on the work they did (Fig. 4).  Student assessment will be a combination of student self-assessments, partner assessments (included in self-assessment), video presentations, and bias and logic logs/analyses. Students should have a folder with a checklist in it for all major project components (Fig. 5).  Students will turn the folder in when they present their videos.

 

FIGURE 4: EXAMPLE STUDENT SELF ASSESSMENT

FIGURE 5: PROJECT CHECKLIST

 

PROFESSIONAL REFLECTION:

 Effective teachers always take the time to reflect on their lessons – successes and areas for improvement.  Teachers and librarians should take the time to reflect on the project together.  The following set of questions may be helpful in assisting both teachers and librarians to critically examine the results of this unit and improve upon it in future implementations. 

 Teaching concepts

  • What went well on this project?  What concepts did the students grasp readily?
  • Where were the trouble spots in concept learning (i.e. bias and faulty logic)?  What were common confusions of the students? 
  • How can I address these better next time?
  • What resources worked particularly well?  Which ones received a positive response? 
  • Which resources did not work as well or frustrated/confused students? 
  • What additional resources might be useful in teaching this lesson?

Technology

  • What went well on this project?  What areas were the students already comfortable with?
  • What problems did the students encounter with the technology that caused difficulties or slowdowns? 
  • What solutions can be found to make the process flow more smoothly?
  • What resources did I have on hand to assist the students in using technology?  Which ones were effective? 
  • What else would have been useful to assist them?

 Engagement

  • How well were the students engaged? 
  • What might have been the cause of any disruptions or lack of engagement? 
  • How can I address those issues next time?

 Time and Quality

  • Was the time allotted enough to complete the project?  If not, should the time be extended next time? 
  • What elements of the project, if any, should be changed or cut for scheduling purposes? 
  • What was the overall quality of students’ final products? 
  • Is it acceptable to me?  If not, what should I change or address next time to improve it?

 Overall Evaluation

  • Was the project overall worth taking the instruction time to complete? 
  • What did my students learn? 
  • Was this project the most effective way to teach these concepts to my students? If not, can I modify the project to make it more effective? 
  • Was the amount of time spent on this project appropriate in the long term, or should I spend more/less time on these concepts in the future? 
  • How will I modify this project to meet overall year goals for students in the future?
©2010 Ryn Lewis