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Media curriculum design  integration (chapter 6 activities)

Page history last edited by Richard Beach 1 week ago



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? 




Integrate film/video with literature instruction.  In planning a literature unit, select some films or videos that are related to the literature included in the unit based on similar themes, topics, issues, or representations.  For example, a unit based on Night by Elie Wiesel, could be linked to the film, Life is Beautiful.  Or, students could compare different adaptations of the same text, for example, the several Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, Pride and Prejudice, Emma  films, and formulate reasons for differences in these adaptations.


Or, in studying a particular literary genre (historical fiction, romantic literature, mystery, comedy, detective, horror, etc.), select some films or television programs for use in analyzing characteristics of a particular genre.




Involve adults and parents in media education.   Because most of students’ media use occurs in home contexts, there is a strong need to assist adults or parents in ways to critically engage students in media use (Hogan, 2001; Strasburger & Wilson, 2002).   This suggests the value of teachers involving parents in assignments associated with critically responding to or producing media texts.   In a series of articles (PDF files) based on forging ties between school and parents published in an issue of Cable in the Classroom, Thinking Critically about Media: Schools and Families in Partnership, http://www.ciconline.com/Enrichment/MediaLiteracy/ThinkingCritically/default.htm educators describe ways of helping parents foster discussions with adolescents through responding to the same media texts, recognizing that adults and adolescents often deliberately choose different texts.  For example, in one article, Folami Prescott-Adams recommends:


  • Co-viewing – intentional viewing by parent and child together
  • Instructive mediation – the use of TV viewing to reinforce values and critical thinking
  • Construction – the selection of specific programs to teach specific lessons and history to children


She recommends that parents pose one of more of the following questions to foster adolescents’ critical response:


  1. What do you see/hear?
  2. Tell me about the main characters (personality, lifestyle, motives, and relationships). Which characters do you connect with and why?
  3. What values are represented by the content?
  4. How do you feel about the content?
  5. Who created this message and why are they sending it?
  6. What production decisions were made long before the program was available to us?
  7. How would you have told the story differently?
  8. How might different people understand this message differently from you?


Teachers can include parents in media literacy activities by inviting them to co-view/read media texts and share their reactions.   Teachers can also send home instructions or information about classroom activities that involve media production so that parents can assist with those production activities.   And, teachers can provide parents with useful resources available on the following sites:





Using the concept of gaming in virtual contexts as a metaphor for creating classroom narrative simulations/drama/role-play activities, devise a game-like simulation activity for a classroom.  For example, based on the ideas of SimsCity, students could create a game in which they have to address an issue facing a community and adopt strategies for dealing with this issue.   This might include creating a virtual or actual interactive museum exhibit that involves participants engaging with the exhibit in a game-like manner—create a housing support company that has to design affordable housing.



Noah Mass, a student teacher in the University of Minnesota English Education program, developed a unit on the music of protest in which high school students examine popular music within the larger context of social protest movements.


Unit Objectives

Students will consider the meaning and function of protest. Students will make thematic and formal connections between diverse works of art. Students will analyze music and lyrics for meaning. Students will research a protest issue. Students will create and present their own protest art. Students will consider the history of American protest through music. Students will relate the issue of protest to their own lives.


Day One: What is Protest?

To introduce the notion of protest, I will ask the students to free-write for five minutes about one rule (family, school, society/culture) or law that they believe is unjust and/or illegitimate, why they consider it so, and how they would amend it. Students will then share their responses with each other in small groups. When the class reconvenes, we will discuss how individual protest becomes a larger protest movement. How is it that individuals acquire a group consciousness? What do they rally around? At this point I will hand out selections from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Students will once again break up into groups and each group will receive a short selection from the text.


For example you may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling, for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.


Students will be expected to summarize their excerpt for the entire class, discussing how it positions the reader (protester, witness, bystander, perpetrator?) and what its particular purpose might be. What does it advocate? Why did King address it as an open letter to the community? To finish this phase of the lesson, I will ask each group to write a letter to their own community addressing one issue that they wrote about in their free-writes.


Before class ends, we will listen to two protest songs loosely framed as letters: “Dear Landlord” by Bob Dylan and “Signed D.C.” by Love. The lyrics will be projected onto the board, so the students can follow along. The students will be asked to consider how each song thematically and formally relates to Dr. King's letter. What connections can be made between the three texts? How might one map their similarities? For homework students should read all of Dr. King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail.


Day Two: The Music of Protest

To start class we will listen to Jimi Hendrix's version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” from Woodstock. How can music, aside from lyrical content, be a form of protest? Is Hendrix making a protest statement? If so, how? What aspects of the song suggest a countercultural attitude? What associations might people in 1967 have made between this piece of music and their world? If someone made the same sort of gesture today, what associations might we make in response? After a full-class discussion of these issues, we will watch footage of Hendrix performing the song (from Woodstock: The Movie). How have our perceptions of the song changed now that we've seen actual pictures of the event? In small groups I will ask the students to brainstorm adjectives they could use to describe Hendrix, his song, and the atmosphere on stage and in the crowd at Woodstock that day. Students will then individually read a short article about Woodstock and first-hand reminiscences of the concert from The Music Festival Home Page at www.geocities.com/~music-festival.


To demonstrate that the music of protest, although certainly associated with the 1960s, transcends time and place, I will play two song selections from different U.S. historical periods. First we will listen to “Strange Fruit” as recorded by Billie Holliday. This song vividly recalls the lynching of a black man in the American South:


Southern trees bear a strange fruit / Blood on the leaves and blood on the root / Black body swinging in the Southern breeze / Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees. Playing the song again, I will ask students to write down the most resonant images and draw any pictures (abstract or concrete) that come to mind as they listen. They will then free-write responses to the song and discuss them in pairs. For the second song I will play “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” by the rap group Public Enemy: I got a letter from the government / the other day / I opened and read it / It said they were suckers / They wanted me for their army or whatever / Picture me given' a damn—I said never / Here is a land that never gave a damn about a brother like me . . .”


The speaker of this song fantasizes from his jail cell about a prison riot, a depiction of violent liberation. Students will be asked to consider this song as a protest document. How does the song make you feel? How might it make someone of a different ethnic group (African-American, for instance, or Asian-American) feel? Is it dangerous? If so, to whom? How might it relate to Dr. King's letter, and very specifically, to his notion of creating and maintaining “tension” as a nonviolent protest technique? For homework, students will read a short excerpt from Strange Fruit: Billie Holliday, Cafe Society, and an Early Cry for Civil Rights by David Margolick. They will also be responsible for presenting a personal protest issue at the end of the next class.


Day Three: Protest Research

Students will have most of this period to conduct online research related to a specific protest issue that he or she finds personally relevant. We will meet in the media center for this purpose. Students will be prompted to begin their research at www.protest.net, an internet clearinghouse for protest issues; however, I will also advise my students that they may choose any issue and need not focus on a political concern. Sample issues on the website include Animal Rights, Civil Rights, Death Penalty, Environment, Fascism, Immigration, Globalization, Poverty, Sexuality, and the Third World.


At this point I will introduce the final project for the unit. The project consists of two parts. First, students will write a two-page essay about their protest issue that explores the problem, its historical antecedents and modern/future consequences, and proposed solutions. Second, students will create a unique and personal work of art—visual, aural, written etc.—that could be used to rally support for their issue. On Day Four of the unit, students will be expected to submit their issue choice. Overnight I will confirm or deny choices based solely on their relevance to what we are studying. On Day Five students will be expected to submit their choose of medium for the work of art. This too will be subject to my approval. The project will be due on the last day, Day Ten, of the unit.


Near the end of class, we will go around the room and each student will present a short synopsis of their protest issue and what they learned about it so far. If anyone shares a topic, they have the option of combining their talents and writing a four-page paper and creating a more substantial work of art. Groups, however, may be no larger than a pair.


Day Four: Make Your Own Protest Song

To begin class we will listen to “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2. Then students will get into groups and read the poem aloud to each other. How should it be read? What is the tone? How does the music set the tone? If we disregard the music, how do the lyrics by themselves set the tone? Each group will present a dramatic reading to the class. Going back to the text, students will annotate the text, noting the associations conjured by each image. How do they relate to a protest theme? How do we know this is a protest song? Finally, students will be asked to consider how and if the song might be improved, and also, how it might be changed to reflect different circumstances. Imagine the song was still a rought draft—how might you edit it? Written about Northern Ireland, how might you rewrite the song to reflect the particular history of the United States? What events could we relate to it?


As a companion activity, each group will receive one piece from “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke. The entire song, a civil rights anthem with religious overtones, reads as follows:


I was born by the river in a little tent And just like the river, I've been running ever since It's been a long time coming But I know a change is gonna come It's been too hard living, but I'm afraid to die I don't know what's up there beyond the sky It's been a long time coming But I know a change is gonna come I go to the movie, and I go downtown Somebody keep telling me "Don't hang around" It's been a long time coming But I know a change is gonna come Then I go to my brother and I say, "Brother, help me please" But he winds up knocking me back down on my knees There've been times that I've thought I couldn't last for long But now I think I'm able to carry on It's been a long time coming But I know a change is gonna come


Based on their excerpt, each group will write the full lyrics for a protest song. It can be either related to a particular issue or general in tone. It should incorporate the excerpt and remain true to its spirit, however the group decides to interpret that spirit. Groups will read their lyrics to the class. I will then pass out the true lyrics to the song. Each student will free-write about his or her expectations based on their excerpt and how the song did or did not fulfill those expectations. Finally, we will listen to the Sam Cooke recording. For homework students will prepare their proposals for a work of protest art.


Day Five: Gimme Shelter

For this class period we will watch excerpts from “Gimme Shelter” by the Maysles brothers. “Gimme Shelter” is a documentary about the Rolling Stones' 1969 concert tour, focusing primarily on the disastrous free concert at Altamont Speedway, during which the Hells Angels, hired as cheap security, drunk and stoned and out of control, murdered one concertgoer and injured many others. In addition, the lead singer of Jefferson Airplane, Marty Balin, was assaulted by a biker. Altamont is commonly viewed as the anti-Woodstock—a music event associated not with peace and love, but rather with debauchery and license—and therefore provides an appropriate antidote to the idealism of Jimi Hendrix's performance viewed on Day Two. “Gimme Shelter” shows how the nature and meaning of protest music (for example, Jefferson Airplane's “Volunteers,” or more complexly, the Rolling Stones' “Sympathy for the Devil”), is negotiated between artist and audience. It provides a graphic demonstration of what happens when an audience chooses not to accept or does not understand the artist's intended meaning. At Altamont, protest music became just another reason to party.


After viewing selected scenes from the movie, students will break up into groups and brainstorm reasons why the concert went awry. How much control does anyone have over the meaning of their art?


For Day Six students will prepare a short presentation on one protest song that means something to them. They will play a portion of the song and talk about its relevance to their life. The one requirement for the assignment is that each student must talk about how the song qualifies as a protest.

Day Six: Protest Song Presentations


Students will share their favorite protest songs with the class, so that, at the end of the unit, each student will have a musical bibliography related to the topic. I will compile a master list and hand it out on Day Ten.


Day Seven: History in Song

Today class will meet in the computer lab, so that students can conduct research on the internet using these websites: 


Students will explore the history of American popular music and the way that American popular music has embodied aspects of history. Students will answer questions such as the following: Find a song that addresses the life of a prisoner. How is it described? Does the song have a political message? If so, what is that message, and how is it communicated? What emotions does the song convey about prison life? Read the biography of one early blues musician. How was he or she shaped and/or affected by the historical period in which he or she lived? Was he or she treated fairly by his or her time and by history? How did his or her music reflect historical circumstances? Pick one social/cultural event in American history and annotate the songs that grew out of that moment. Were they similar in tone and perspective or did they vary? How did they interpret the event? How accurately did they paint the event for the listener? Protest is alive and well in America! Find one post-1990 example of protest music. Was it popular? To what genre does it belong? What modern-day protest issues are most prevalent in music? Listen to a RealAudio interview with a musician. What does he or she say about politics and the political/social/cultural content of his or her work? Do you think the musician places political considerations before artistic ones—and is this an effective way to be an artist? Does it make for good art? Why or why not?


Day Eight: Project Workday

At the beginning of class, students will meet in small groups to present their research from the previous day. Afterwards they will have the remainder of the period to build their projects. Students may meet with each other to discuss a shared issue or provide feedback on their essay or work of art. I will circulate around the room and meet with whoever needs assistance. Those students who want to use a computer, either to word-process or conduct web research, will be allowed to access the resource room or media lab. I will remind students that their works of art must be ready for presentation in two days—on Day Ten, the final day of the unit.


Day Nine: Protest and Free Speech

Students will first read a short essay about “message music” and social protest, written by Andrew Rosenthal.


This essay will be juxtaposed with an article by Brent Staples called “Corporate Radio Kills the Protest Music,” available online at www.progress.org. Staples argues that corporate control and consolidation of the airwaves has also consolidated the message that “radio-friendly” songs may communicate to listeners, limiting the range of topics deemed acceptable by the hitmakers. For example:


Pop music played a crucial role in America's debate over the Vietnam War. By the late 1960s, radio stations across the country were crackling with blatantly political songs that became mainstream hits. After the National Guard killed four anti-war demonstrators at Kent State University in Ohio in the spring of 1970, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young recorded "Ohio," a song about the horror of the event, criticizing President Richard Nixon by name. The song was rushed onto the air while sentiment was still high, and became both an anti-war anthem and a huge moneymaker.


A comparable song about President George W. Bush's rush to war in Iraq would have no chance today. There are plenty of angry people, many with prime music-buying demographics. But independent radio stations that once would have played edgy, political music have been gobbled up by corporations that control hundreds of stations and have no wish to rock the boat.


After the students have read both articles, they will free-write about their favorite radio stations. What type(s) of music do they play? What period music do they play? What general percentage of the broadcast is music vs. talk/advertisements? How does their particular station rise above all the other competition? What makes it the best? How often do they repeat songs? Is this considered good or bad? Do they think the music is programmed locally or nationally—why? Can they pick out a perspective or viewpoint based on the selection of music?


Next I will turn on the radio, so we can observe and compare different stations. I will toggle between students' favorite stations—including my own: independent Radio K—soliciting opinions and observations about quality and quantity. Does the music have a political component? If not, is this a political statement as well, and for what? Should radio stations be accountable for their choices? Do they have any responsibility to the society? Should they? Is this a free speech issue at all?


Finally students will meet in groups to design their own “ideal” radio stations, ones that reflect what they want from the medium. They will choose genres, sample playlists, and format. (Is the morning show, for example, talk-based, humorous, or music-only?) In addition they will consider their mission and write an appropriate statement. What are their goals? This activity will prompt them to think about how music is controlled and disseminated through our culture, and how music is a product of consumer and power relationships. Music is not unmediated—it is manufactured and produced, filtered through a series of social, political, and economic decisions.


Day Ten: Final Presentations

Students will present their works of protest art—songs, poems, paintings or sculptures etc.—to the class.

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