Critical Media Literacy
Course: EDCP 333 Contemporary Issues in Social Studies
Prof. E. Wayne Ross
Authors: Ada, Raj, Colin, Phaidra,
Introduction: What is Critical Media Literacy?
Critical media literacy is an integrated approach to media literacy that combines critical analysis of various types of media with media production. Its aim is to empower individuals to be active participants in society, the underlying idea being that literacy allows one to fully participate in, as well as shape and transform, one's society and culture, thus enhancing democratic participation. CML expands literacy beyond traditional print media to include different forms of media culture, information and communication technologies, and new media. And it goes beyond content analysis to investigate relationships between media and audiences, information and power. There are various approaches to media literacy, but the model that we are concerned with is the one posited by Kellner and Share (2007).
According to this model, knowledge is socially constructed. CML involves exploring the languages, genres, codes, and conventions of a text so that students can understand how these function, as well as audiences' role in actively negotiating meanings. Furthermore, it involves uncovering & engaging issues of gender, race, class, sexuality, ideology, power, and pleasure, as well as examining the production and institutions that motivate and structure media industries as corporate profit-seeking businesses.
Kellner and Share's model places emphasis on action, as students not only critically analyze but also engage with the subject matter and act upon it to produce their own alternative media expressing their point of view. As a result, children/young people are seen as capable critics and revisers of culture, not as passive recipients or naive, agent-less individuals who need to be protected from popular culture and media.
The rationale behind CML is that we live in an age of unprecedented technological innovation and globalization. Media is more pervasive than ever before and the power in controlling information is not readily apparent. In this climate, young people are increasingly vulnerable to corporate maneuvering to the extent that democracy itself is at risk of being reduced to consumerism.
CML prevents the complacent acceptance of commercial media in truth-telling, and provides a way to find alternative viewpoints within a historical and sociological context.
In terms of school, Kellner and Share (2007) insist that media literacy programs include critically analyzing how mainstream media reproduce racism, sexism, homophobia, and other prejudices, as well as encouraging students to find their own voices through alternative/counter-hegemonic media. They also recommend that critical media literacy run across curricular areas. Stack and Kelley (2006) have argued that educators who refuse to consider popular culture as a curricular resource miss opportunities to connect with young people's lives and enhance critical literacy.
Unit Plan: History 12: Turmoil and Tragedy- 1933 to 1945
Unit Plan: Turmoil and Tragedy, 1933-1945
1. Teach students to consider how media can shape our understanding of the past.
2. To look at concepts of the Great Depression and the Second World War through a lens of critical media literacy.
3. Students should be able to compare primary and secondary sources and recognize bias, and reliability of the sources.
4. To help students establish and understand historical empathy through the study of WWII.
|The Great Depression and Global Perspectives
||Students should be able to identify a range of conditions that lead to the Great Depression such as : over-production, tariffs, stock market speculation and collapse.
Students should be able to discuss and assess the causes of and responses to the Great Depression in terms of : fascism, communism, democracy, economic policies and distribution of wealth.
|Students will watch Zeitgeist Part 3 & evaluate the following Questions during the film, using the attached worksheet as a guideline for cinematic codes.
-According to the film, what were the kinds of economic policies and distribution of wealth systems in the US which led to the Great Depression?
- According to the film, what do the following terms look like?
– stock market speculation and collapse
– buying on margin
– unregulated banking practices
How convincing is the evidence provided by the film makers? Is this an example of "revisionist history"? Is this an example of "economic history" ? What can this tell us about the culture the film was produce in (2007 USA) and what impressions does this give us about the history of the Great Depression?
|Formative assessment: are students able to answer questions related to the film? Can students define terms based on the film that they have watched? Students will submit companion History Film Worksheet.
|The Rise of Nazi Germany
||1. Be able to critically analyze how film is manipulated to portray a certain message
2. How Hitler was able to manipulate the people of Germany with the use of propaganda
3. Understand the effects of propaganda (verbal and visual) on the people of Germany and their support of the Nazi Party
|Introduction: Objective for the class Review of Hitler’s rise to power Questions: How did Hitler come to power in 1933?
What were some of the important things Hitler did right when he came to power?
Hook: Introduce the title of the film and get students to think about what the movie would be about.
Activity: Watching clips from Triumph of the Will I will show a couple of different clips and after each one we will have a discussion about what the students see in the film in terms of content and methods of propaganda. I want the students to keep these questions in mind: Imagine you are a German citizen in 1934 and Hitler is coming to your town to speak to your people, how are you feeling? What are some of the things you are expecting him to talk about? \
Discussion: For each clip, I want the students to be able to summarize what they saw and tell me what they think. I want them not only to think about the techniques of the film but Hitler’s techniques in delivering his speeches.
Closure: Assign homework assignment which will be collected next class.
|Students will be assessed on their journal responses based on the film and aspects of propaganda.
|Japanese Imperialism in the Asian Pacific Region
||1.Decode a political cartoon or poster
2.Create their own, anti-Western political cartoons or posters from the Japanese perspective
3.Understand the process of designing a political cartoon or poster for propaganda purposes
|Hook: Free-Write & Discussion
Model: How to Decode a Political Cartoon
Review Japanese expansionism leading up to the Pacific War
Activity: Each pair will analyze one of two anti-Japanese cartoons (attached). They will receive a set of prompts to help them decode the cartoon.
Activity: For this activity,students will prepare their own political cartoon. They can choose any of the following events/issues on which to base their cartoon:
1) American acquisition of the Philippines in 1898 & threat of US presence in the Western Pacific
2) US opposition to League of Nations granting Japan trusteeship of Mariana, Caroline and Marshall island groups in the Pacific after WWI
3) Japanese population explosion, emigration to western nations, and American resistance to this (fear of cheap immigrant labour & loss of jobs)
4) Japan's perceived humiliation at the Washington Naval Conference 1921-22
5) US economic sanctions against Japan in the late 1930s
6) Internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII
Review what was learned, with respect to critically analyzing media to determine bias and point of view, and recognizing that media can be used very effectively to dehumanize, antagonize, and create fear of a particular group of people, in this case the entire Japanese race, for propaganda purposes.
|A combination of formative and summative. During Activity 1, circulate to check that students understand how to decode a political cartoon. Note that they are answering the guiding questions in complete sentences and using examples from their cartoon to support their reasoning
During Activity 2, circulate to check that students have an understanding of the process of designing a political cartoon and are applying the relevant concepts to their own drawing, which they will submit to the teacher. An exemplary cartoon will:
Have clearly conveyed its focus (the issue/event)
Trigger an emotional reaction
Have a main/idea or message
Be persuasive and interesting/amusing
Portray persons, things, political events or situations in an exaggerated way
Include at least one stereotype and one symbolic reference
Be in color or pen/pencil
During closure, note student participation in review to gauge students' attainment of the lesson.
|Joseph Stalin and the Cult of Personality
||1. Students will be able to recognize the characteristics of Soviet propaganda against its own people
2. Analyze how Stalin was able to control the Soviet Union through the cult of personality
3. Explain the different aspects of the cult of personality in the Soviet Union
4. Analyze the consequences of the cult of personality on the Soviet people.
|Students will begin by watching clips from a documentary called Monster: A Portrait of Stalin. They will have a worksheet to fill in some facts from the film.
We will follow with a discussion about some of the ways that Stalin had control over the people's minds in Soviet Russia. We will jot some ideas about what the students took out from the film.
I will then give a short lecture on the different methods Stalin used to create a 'cult of personality.' The use of media will be greatly emphasized in the examples given to students about Stalin's control of the people.
We will then move on to a case study of a particular image. There is a photograph of Stalin with Nikolai Yezhov which was altered to remove the head of the NKVD after he was killed off in the Great Purges. This is a great example to use with students as it shows how easily an image is altered and changed to suit its message.
I will bring in some magazines for the students to look at so they can make comparison in the way things can be altered in photographs. Students will have to consider what is real, what is not, and what might be missing. This will be done in groups with a few different images for each group. Each group will then present their findings to the class.
In this case, the students will recognize the power of media messages through photographs, which were prevalent during the cult of personality.
|I will assess students by checking their understanding throughout the class. Students will be working in groups and I will check that they are on task and that they are working towards an understanding of the power of photographs. There is no formal assessment for this class. The exit slip will be the handout from the short documentary we will view at the beginning of the class.
||1. Recognize the extent of Nazi Propaganda on the social, political, and economic life in Nazi Germany
2. Be able to recognize the effects of Nazi propaganda on internal and external relations
3. Take on the perspective of a propagandist and create their own piece of media
|The class will begin with a jigsaw exercise with various propaganda posters from the Nazi era. These will include posters advertising the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the autobahn built in the 1930's, the Nuremberg Laws, and others. Each group will receive a list of questions based on their source. They will have to analyze how this piece of propaganda was used and the effects it could have had on the perception of the Nazi regime.
Each group will present their findings to the rest of the class. This will be the last lesson on Nazi Germany from 1933-1939 and therefore we will be able to synthesize everything we have learned about Nazi propaganda and its effects. Students will already have the skills to analyze propaganda in various forms. Therefore, our last discussion will incorporate conversation about the content of Nazi propaganda as well as the skills that are needed to be critical of the media.
Following the discussion, each student will have a chance to create their own piece of propaganda. Students will be given the supplies and the second half of the class to make their own propaganda poster.
|I will be checking for understanding throughout the jigsaw activity and class discussion. As a formal assessment, students will hand in their piece of propaganda they constructed in the class. Students can make their piece of propaganda based on something that would have been seen in Nazi Germany. The propaganda can focus on economic, political, social, racial or foreign issues. After students have constructed their piece of propaganda, they are required to write a small description of their piece. Students need to articulate why they included or excluded certain things, and what messages they wanted to portray in their propaganda. They also need to explain how they think a viewer would interpret their piece and what effects it could have. This poster would get a mark out of 20 for creativity, accuracy, written component, and incorporation of a social issue that was prevalent in Nazi Germany.
|introduction to the Holocaust
||Students should be able to discuss e significance of the holocaust in terms of: antisemitism, the Nazi rise to power, the Nazi camp system, the Final Solution, and the world's response the Holocaust.
||Teacher puts students into groups of 2-3. Each group is asked to log on to the website: The Holocaust Explained and explore all the sections to fill in a graphic organizer.
Teacher then assigns each group a different section of the website and asks th students to prepare presentation that discusses the key points of ire section.
Teacher asks students fill out a peer evaluation for each presentation.
|Summative assessment- students are assessed on their graphic organizes as well as whether or not they meet the criteria of the rubric for the presentations. Peer evaluations- students use a rubric to evaluate each others presentations.
|Racist Perspectives through Media during WWII
||1. Students will understand what propaganda is in the context of WW2 and present day.
2. Students will better understand tolerance and some factors that work against it.
3. Students will understand how Nazis used anti-sematic media played as part of the systematic lead up to the holocaust.
4. Review widespread mistreatment and marginalization of North American Japanese during WW2.
|Watch YouTube video “Holocaust documentary”
Teacher asks students to consider why and how the Holocaust could have happened.
Present photos 1 & 2 for the students to evaluate. Teacher will explain where and when each photo is from and a little of the background of each. Photo 1 is a poster for a film called the “Der ewige Jude” or the eternal Jew. It was a Nazi produced propaganda film that portrays Jewish people as cruel evil
and corrupt. Intent on world domination.
Photo 2 Is from a series of WW2 propaganda posters commissioned by the Douglas aircraft company and paid for by the U.S. government. The posters would have been displayed in factories to encourage employees to stop wasteful practices such as breaking tools. The character the Tokio Kid is always shown with a bloody knife, and may be a representation of Hideki Tojo.
Go through the photo document questions 1-7.
Question for students. Pretend that you are a member of one of the groups portrayed in either photo 1 or 2. Write a short journal entry on how it makes you feel and what you think the creator of the photo is trying to say. Be sure to mention where you saw the poster and witch one you are writing about.
|Students will be assessed on participation in the group discussion and on their responses in their journals.
|The Second World War in Europe
||1. Students can understand and discuss significant aspects of WW2 such as battles, technology, important people and geography.
||First, teacher divides students into groups of 3-4 and gives a list of the key events and battles. Students must work together, without the use of their text books to try and guess the order in which the events took place. Once a team finishes or 5 minutes are up, the activity is over.
Teacher asks students to remain in their small groups and gives each group a different event, battle or person from the war. Each group member is given a specific task such as making or providing a map, notetaker, questioner, etc. The students are asked to work cooperatively to create a simple poster that outlines the important aspects of their topic such as where it took place, who was involved, why it is significant and to ask some critical thinking questions about their topic for the rest of the class to answer.
Teacher asks students to present their posters to the class and ask the questions.
|Formative assessment- can students arrange the information in order? Assesses students background knowledge of WW2.
Summative assessment: does the poster fill all the criteria of the marking rubric?
|The Atomic Bomb and Total War
||1.For students to consider aspects of technology and its impacts during WW2.
2.Students should be able to discuss the bombing of Hiroshima and to consider why the bomb was dropped.
3.To have students consider the power of text and image when looking critically about media.
|Teacher asks students to consider how media impacts the way we understand significant aspects of the past and then shows a video about The Manhattan Project.
Teacher gives students a newspaper headline and asks th students to write down all th information they learn from the text.
Teacher discusses the importance of considering how text and images can work together to say something. Asks students to consider things such as bias, inference, and critical media literacy.
Teacher gives students some images to go along with the headlines and asks students to consider how the meanings of the headlines change when an image is included. Next, teacher asks students to find an image in their text book and to add words to change the meaning of the image.
Teacher gives students a series of images, images with text, text only primary sources and asks students to rate their value and to put them in chronological order on a timeline,
|Formative assessment: discussion of the reasons for using the atomic bomb
Summative assessment: timeline in proper chronological order.
The following links provide educators with samples of lessons that can help to teach students about how to engage with media and to help provide additional plans to introduce critical media literacy into the classroom.
Unit Plan from Read Write Think
Unit Plan from Bishop's University
Lesson Plans: History 12: Turmoil and Tragedy- 1933 to 1945
Introduction to the Holocaust through Propaganda
In this lesson students will look at anti-Semitic propaganda use in Nazi Germany and compare it to anti-Japanese propaganda used in Canada and the USA. The purpose of this lesson is to show how racist dehumanizing propaganda was a tool commonly used by the bad guys and the good guys during WW2. The students will also look at some examples of what I believe is modern racist propaganda, and compare it to similar items from the past.
How and when can media create an atmosphere of hatred and what are the consequences
Nazi Germany 1933-1939
There are many opportunities in the Nazi Germany unit to cover critical media literacy and propaganda. For this lesson plan, the focus is on Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will and what students can learn about media and propaganda in the 1930's. The purpose of this lesson is to show students the various levels of messages a film can have. Triumph of the Will which documents the Nazi Party's Nuremberg rallies in 1934 is known as one of the best propaganda films of all time. In this lesson, students will learn about the types of messages that the filmmaker was trying to portray in the film and the techniques that she used to do so successfully. Furthermore, students will investigate Adolf Hitler's methods of propaganda in the rallies. There are many layers of techniques that the students must critically analyze the understand the effects of this piece of propaganda and be able to connect it to how media might be portrayed today. For the assessment at the end of the lesson, students will be required to write two letters that display their historical empathy and their understanding of the effects of the media. One letter will be from the perspective of a person attending one of the rallies and the other will be from the perspective of a German attending a viewing of the film in 1935 in a movie theatre in Nazi Germany.
Lesson Plan on Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will
The Great Depression in Global Perspectives
In this lesson, students will view a counter-narrative of the causes of Great Depression and Second World War as deliberately planned and executed by elite bankers for the sake of profit. By viewing a alternative and sensationalized version of this history, students may begin to understand the practice of identifying subtext in social studies, and in critical media analysis, in evaluating the arguments and evidence as presented in Zeitgeist: Part III: Don't Mind the Men Behind the Curtain. In addition, students may broaden their awareness of who produces media such as this film, why, and the impact when online public access turns viral.
A "Cinematic Codes" film viewing worksheet is included as a guideline for active consideration, which includes Peter Seixes' "Big Six" tenets of historical thinking. This worksheet may be adapted by teachers to included detailed questions from any film.
Jump to Lesson
Japanese Imperialism in the Asia Pacific Region
In this lesson, students will learn about Western perceptions and portrayals of the Japanese and their expansionist policies. They will analyze and decode anti-Japanese cartoons and posters to enhance their understanding of bias and point of view, and how media can be used to dehumanize, antagonize, and create fear of a particular group of people. Finally, they will apply their understanding of these concepts to produce their own alternative cartoons from the Japanese perspective. This lesson plan was created by Rajpreet Dhillon
Lesson Plan on Japanese Imperialism in the 20th Century
The Atomic Bomb and Hiroshima
This lesson is designed to ask students to think critically about why the atomic bomb was dropped. They will be asked to consider aspects such as total war, technology, and racism. Also, students will be asked to consider the role that media has played in the past in terms of understanding how people could justify the dropping of the bomb. In order to do this, this lesson will focus on guiding students on how to look critically at different sources of media such as comics, images of newspaper articles. More specifically, students will be asked to consider the role of text, images and the combination of text and image when trying to think critically about media.
Lesson Plan on the Dropping of the Atomic Bomb
Multiple Ability Tasks 
Media involves sensory perception. We see and hear media most frequently, but can also touch media as physical objects. Objects too may represent signs
as Ferdinand de Saussure's semiotic studies of communication, which continue to play a role in the study of language arts and media today.
It may be useful to begin to imagine MAT which can be useful venues for CML by the traditional Multiple Intelligence Theory framework as developed by Dr. Howard Gardner (1983).
CML may be approached using Gardner's Theory using any of the below ideas.
||linguistic analysis, connotations, semiotics, primary or secondary document analysis
||-Define "Environment" using a Venn Diagram with your class.
-Students participate in teacher-led PowerPoint discussion on a topic such as 17th century French social structure and simultaneously organize the information into a graphic organizer - for example, a pyramid representing the three estates (Rajpreet Dhillon)
|numbers or logic
||Evaluate what is considered taxable & except under the GST in BC and ask student to evaluate some arguments for and against this tax. Ask if they think it is a fair tax for underage minors to pay on some items.
||I <3 NY
||Ask students to brainstorm the purpose of anonymous public or street art. Alternatively, interrogate a historical photo or contemporary image.
||Canadian nationalism: folk & news narratives
||Play the Wreck of the Edumund Fitzgerald & ask students to brainstorm why Gordon Lightfoot wrote song about this event, and why it became a the #1 Canadian hit in 1976.
||creative writing in social studies
||Ask students an open lead-in question, such as to imagine they are living in the time period of study, what would they be doing, seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, feeling? Students could also write a sensory description of a favourite place today.
|physical or tactile activity
||Reader's Theatre, dramatization, or tabla rosa are popular physical exercises for secondary students. Ask students to blow up a dingy, then ask students to "portage" the field.
||Assign students a primary document, research project, or smaller activity to complete. Roles may be assigned to each member to ensure interest and contribution. An example of this can be a placemat activity...click for an example
||Visit Xá:ytem Longhouse Interpretive Centre in Mission, British Columbia to learn about a major archeological Sto:lo site in the Vancouver region.
||linguistic, visual, cooperative learning
||Divide students into groups and assign each student a specific role in the group such as visual interpreter, critical thinker, questioner etc. Students will discuss a specific reading from the perspective of their role. Roles can vary to allow for different levels of learners in terms of ELL, developmental differences etc.
||linguistic, visual, cooperative learning
||Create an ad to promote your school. Divide students into groups. Each group will produce an ad promoting their school. Ads can take t.v., radio, newspaper, or magazine ad. Students will present their ad to the class( Colin Bailey).
|physical or tactile activity
||Inter-personal, bodily-kinesthetic, audio-musical
||Have students re-enact the crisis that precipitated the English Civil War. Possible formats include: TV show, TV talk show, news broadcast, interview, re-enactment, or song (Rajpreet Dhillon)
- ↑ Kellner, D., & Share, J. (2007). Critical media literacy, democracy, and the reconstruction of education. In D. Macedo & S.R. Steinberg (Eds.), Media literacy: A reader (pp. 3-23). New York: Peter Lang Publishing.
- ↑ Stack, M., & Kelly, D. M. (2006). Popular media, education, and resistance. Canadian Journal of Education, 29(1), 5-26.
- ↑ Darthphaidra
- ↑ Darthphaidra except where indicated otherwise in this section