Comic Books Help Our Students With Decoding

Decoding is the process of making meaning from text.  You’re doing it right now.  Where some might see nonsensical shapes, you see letters – or perhaps you just see the words.  In your mind you give these shapes meaning.  Some do so by subvocalizing, while others translate the text directly into internalized meaning and understanding.  Our students do not all have this ability, and must be taught skills to aid in the decoding process.  By combining visuals with their text, comic books are an excellent tool that help our students decode meaning.

This is part of and ongoing series on Comics in the Classroom.  When teachers looks to introduce Key Literacy Skills to their students, they often overlook the most powerful tool in reaching their students – Comic Books.  This multi-part series explores why comics should be used in your classroom, as well as what books are best suited for your classroom.  All articles in this series can be Read Here.

 

Our Students All Have the Ability to Succeed

We know that all our students have the ability to consider complex ideas and express them to us.  They do this every day, when they describe the events of their weekends, why they’re mad at their best friend, the inexcusable unjust action of their parents’ taking away their cell phone, or a – possibly fictitious – series of events that led to their homework being incomplete by deadline.  However, when we put a piece of writing in front of our students and ask them to infer why the protagonist chose to engage the antagonist before they were prepared, or when we request that they make a text-to-self connection with the antagonist in order to better understand their decisions, they may spend an entire period producing nothing.

Some teachers are quick to conclude that the student just doesn’t have what it takes, complaining in their staff room that the child is obviously misplaced in their level.  Despite the mountains of evidence that show the student connects with the lyrics of their favourite song, and can make an educated guess as to what the outcome of their unfinished assignment will be, some teachers decide to take the path of least resistance.  They assure themselves that the problem lies with the student rather than with the teaching.

 

Why Students Find it Difficult to Succeed

The reason why many students find it difficult to demonstrate their literacy skills when responding to teacher-assigned texts is often due to the fact that they have trouble decoding the text itself.  While some comic books offer complex concepts at a lower reading level, there are some – like UDON Entertainment’s Manga Classics – that use the same language that is present in the original novels.

Why then might a student have an easier time understanding Jane Eyre or the unabridged The Jungle Book in comic format, even though the text is still as complex as in their original prose?

 

Learning their Language

Imagine that you are learning a new language.  Picture yourself sitting at your favourite desk, your kitchen table, curled up on your sofa in front of a roaring fire, or even lying barefoot on a dock gently rocking with each passing wave.  You have a notebook in front of you, and a pencil in your hand. You’re ready to start diving into French, or Japanese, or Maori, or Basic Conversational Ojibway. Now, picture the things that surround you to aid in your studies.

Do you have a four hundred page book with black text on cream coloured pages, with nothing else to aid you?  Or do you – perhaps – have a full coloured text book chunked into specific sections with pictures to aid you along the way?  Is it possible that you might have your laptop, or television so that you can watch videos that have actors speaking a sentence aloud, before acting out a short skit that visualizes what they explained?  Now, if you don’t fancy bringing technology down to the lake, you might realize that you can easily replace those videos with a few comic strips that do the same thing – they show parallel actions that complement the written text.

 

The Importance of Visuals

And why are these visuals so important when learning something new?  Because, though we are unfamiliar with the words, we can use our prior knowledge to help us make meaning from the pictures.  By doing this, we attribute meaning to the words, so that the next time we see them we can associate them with the visuals, look for connections, and attain mastery of language.

For our students understanding:

“Mother! Mother! Give me sunshine on the roof”
“No, my little pearl.  You must gather your own sunshine.  I have none to give you.”
The Scarlet Letter, UDON Entertainment (110-111)

can be just as complicated as when we try to understand:

Densha wa doko desu ka?
(Where is the Train – Japanese)

In each example, having pictures accompanying the text can help the readers make meaning, and learn from their readings.

When given the opportunity to use visuals to understand the meaning of the texts they are reading, students are able to fully decode their texts, enabling them to demonstrate their literacy skills for whatever follow-up tasks and projects you assign.

 

What’s Next?

Having looked at why comics should be used in the classroom as well as why students are more willing to read comics we will next look at which comic book publishers you should be aware of for your classroom needs.

 


Part One: Comics in the Classroom

Part Two: Students Will Read Comics

Part Three: Comics Help with Decoding

Part Four: Publishers to Be Aware Of

Part Five: Choosing the Right Comics

Why Students Are More Willing to Read Graphic Novels

There are a number of reasons why students that scoff at black and white text while fully engaging with comics, even if the actual word counts are comparable.  

This is part of and ongoing series on Comics in the Classroom.  When teachers looks to introduce Key Literacy Skills to their students, they often overlook the most powerful tool in reaching their students – Comic Books.  This multi-part series explores why comics should be used in your classroom, as well as what books are best suited for your classroom.  All articles in this series can be Read Here.

 

The Stories aren’t Three Times as Old as the Students

Comics are more relatable for the simple reason that they’re modern.  While there’s nothing wrong with the classics (UDON Entertainment actually publishes Classic comics in a Manga Format) a number of our students may have a hard time relating to the characters, time periods, diction, or any number of other things that act as roadblocks.

As the Modern Age of comics began less than forty years ago, most in-print collections that students are introduced to deal with contemporary issues, language, and style.

 

But I Want My Students to Love My Favourite Book…

You have a favourite book.  You probably have a top ten list of favourite books.  Now, if we’re being honest with each other, you probably have at least two top ten lists of favourite books.  One that is your academic list and one that is your honest list.  

When asked what my favourite books are, I’m probably not going to lead with Jurassic Park, and I might not even be willing to admit to Starship Troopers unless I really know the the person asking.  But they’re number two and one – respectively – on my honest list.

At parent’s night, when asked what my favourite novels are, I’m far more likely to tilt my chin up ever so slightly – as if preparing to take the perfect selfie – stroke my beard one, two, three times, and then respond with Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller, followed by the experimental epic House of Leaves (either the original Red or Blue edition – never the full colour), rounding things out with My Antonia.  

The only overlap between the two lists might be Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, or Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs in I’m speaking to Canadians.

 

The Thing about favourites…

Think about your lists – which of those books did you actually enjoy reading, and which of them do you only talk about having liked after the fact?  Did you only read them because you forced yourself to read them?

Starship Troopers was the type of book I couldn’t put down.  It’s one of the few books I’ve read multiple times.  It’s the one book that I read to my son when he was an infant, refusing to go to bed even though the clock clearly said it was 3:00am.  

On the other hand, If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller was the type of book I forced myself to read, sloughing through each half chapter of disconnected narrative, trying to create meaning with the next half chapter told in second person where You is not you, but rather the protagonist You who often refers to You the reader You, rather than to the You that is they, the protagonist.

Both books are great.  I really do love them equally.  But I can tell you which one of the two I’d be more willing to put in front of a student.  We know that there are some books that are like dessert: a tasty treat sliding down as easy as ice cream on a summer’s day, no matter how full you are.  

And we know there are books like escargot and caviar – or even ginger beer and black liquorice – acquired tastes that you love once you’ve forced them down your throat for the first, second, or seventeenth time.

 

Force Feeding

As educators we are probably the type of person willing to slurp back that sixteeth snail, hoping that this will be the bite that finally makes us think, “hmm, that really is wonderful.  I finally understand why people enjoy these chewy mucusy mollusks!” but our students are far more honest, with far less to prove. They’d split that slug out as fast as they could, and yell all sorts of names at you for trying to force it upon them.  Or worse still, they’d just chew on it silently, unable to swallow, but also without a napkin in which to spit out the disastrous meal.

One type of student will proclaim loudly that they are not reading the book, because they don’t understand it.  The other will flip page after page, literally reading each an every word, but understanding nothing. And you’ll never know.  Because they’re just there silently chewing their snail, forever hoping for the napkin which will never come.

Students need to be offered books that they – not you – can relate to.  Even if you love the book you’ve assigned, how many of your friends feel the same way about it?  How many of your co-workers? What abour your mechanic, or your IT support worker, or the cashier at the grocery store you frequent?  They might have read it, they might not have hated it, but it probably didn’t change their word the same way it changed yours.

Now consider your students, at least ten years your junior.  Will they be able to connect in the same way you did? Sure The Catcher in the Rye is a great tale.  But, will your students really understand and relate to a rich white kid complaining about how hard life is, even though he has been given everything?

Comic books on the other hand offer students a glimpse of the present.  They show modern values for what they are. They offer real world examples of politics, biases, and contemporary concerns.  

Which of the two types of texts do you think will offer a more rewarding experience?  Which of those do you think will lead to a more engaged and engrossing class discussion that demonstrates the full range of your students’ literacy skills?

 

About Snails

Now, back to the snail metaphor.  Because it’s slimy and wonderful. You may be saying to yourself, if students have a difficult time reading (swallowing the snail) how will comics help when it’s the simple act of decoding that is the greatest barrier?  Well, with any terrible tasting meal, sometimes all you need is a little seasoning. Comic books are the salt of the fine dining French cuisine.

 

What’s Next?

You know, maybe it’s best we just drop that metaphor all together.  It has run away from itself a little to far – even though snails don’t run, they glide on their mucus-covered muscular foot.  All you really need to know is that…  Comic Books Help with Decoding.  That’s what we’ll be discussing next.

 

 

 


Part One: Comics in the Classroom

Part Two: Students Will Read Comics

Part Three: Comics Help with Decoding

Part Four: Publishers to Be Aware Of

Part Five: Choosing the Right Comics

Comics in the Classroom

When teachers looks to introduce Key Literacy Skills to their students, they often overlook the most powerful tool in reaching their students – Comic Books.  This multi-part series explores why comics should be used in your classroom, as well as what books are best suited for your classroom.  All articles in this series can be Read Here.

 

An Introduction

Comic books?  In a classroom?  For decades the very idea was absurd.  In the now classic, Back 2 School episode of Boy Meets World English teacher, Jonathan Turner, fights the system by teaching issue 316 of The Uncanny X-Men in an attempt to introduce his students to complex themes in a way they could easily understand.  Fighting the power structure, Turner put his career on the line to demonstrate the value of comics in the classroom.

Over two decades later the show Girl Meets World reintroduced the same concept, this time with English teacher Harper Lee Burgess choosing to introduce her students to The Dark Knight Returns.  Once again the teacher (mirroring Batman, fighting for what’s right despite lacking power) had to pit herself against her principal (mirroring the Superman, possessing power but little knowledge about how to properly use it) to justify the value of comics in the classroom.  During the many years between the two episodes things have changed both in reality, and the fictional New York school board of the show.

Jonathan Turner had since become superintendent, having no problem taking the biased principal to task for threatening the new teacher.  Similarity many school boards are now looking to bring comics into the classroom, understanding their value.

 

Shifting Fears

Comic books have a home in most English book rooms, while also finding a home in a variety of other departments as well.  No longer is it the administrators that fight against these texts – they want to be seen on the cutting edge, able to relate to students, and increase literacy scores through the inclusion of relatable materials.  The fight isn’t getting comics into book rooms…  it’s getting them out of book rooms and into teachers’ classrooms.

Where there was once a top-down bias against the format, there is now fear of the unknown from teachers who are well entrenched in the way they were taught, and the way they have been teaching for years.  

Introducing something new requires retooling old lesson plans, reading new texts, considering new ways to approach ideas, and most horrifically of all – recreating their subject binders. Which is, of course, why I work digitally.  Adding a new digital file into a folder takes no time at all. There are no plastic sleeves to fight with, dividers to move, or 2.5 inch rings filled to bursting.

Binders tie people to old ways of teaching due to the difficulty in updating them, which is why when someone asks to see my course binders, my reply is always, “What binder?”

 

Don’t You Mean Graphic Novels?

There are teachers who will profess that they don’t teach comic books, while still handing out texts full of sequential art telling a narrative tale.  When questioned they will reply, “These are Graphic Novels.” as if there is a distinction between the two.

Some teachers will talk about the value to Maus, express the importance of Persepolis, justify their use of Louis Riel, all while diminishing the value of comic books.  There are still others who are willing to defend their use of Aya, V for Vendetta, and even skirt the concept of super heroes by using The Watchmen.  These teachers, too, are often quick to express that they are teaching Graphic Novels and not comic books.

Comic Books and Graphic Novels are the same thing.  There is no difference. As Scott McCloud said in his book Understanding Comics, “Comics are juxtaposed pictorial and other images in a deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or produce an aesthetic response in the viewer”1.  Graphic Novel was nothing more than a term used to describe a collection of floppies (single issues).  These are also called Trade Paper Backs.

I’m not willing to fight this point too much.  If someone feels better about using the term Graphic Novel, and makes them more willing to bring them into their classroom, that’s fantastic.  It’s only when they start disparaging those who see the value of introducing their students to Spider-Man, The X-Men, Superman, or even Street Fighter because they’re just comics that I become upset.

 

Why Should We Use Them in Our Classrooms?

We know that students read at a higher level when they read familiar material2.  When exploring the concept of prejudice the student who is unwilling to dive into a 400 page novel written at the turn of the century may be far more willing to open up the Grant Morrison run of New X-Men.  While some teachers may place value on a student being able to read a long, dry, novel simply for the sake of reading it, hopefully there are more teachers who understand the real value of their lessons is teaching, reinforcing, and exploring cross-curricular literacy skills.

 

What’s Next?

The next parts in the What Binder series on using Comics in the classroom will look at Why Students are More Willing to Read Comics, as well as the specific ways in which Comic Books Help Our Students.  We will also explore What Comics Books are Suitable for Your Classroom while also looking at some of The Best Comic Publishers to Know.  

A follow up series will explore How to Use Comic Books in Your Classroom.


Footnotes

  1. Comics in Education – Gene Yang
  2. Three Myths About “Reading Levels” (Psychology Today)

 

 

 


Part One: Comics in the Classroom

Part Two: Students Will Read Comics

Part Three: Comics Help with Decoding

Part Four: Publishers to Be Aware Of

Part Five: Choosing the Right Comics

Gender Representation Lessons: Downloadable Resources

This page contains all the downloadable resources for the Teaching Gender Representation in the Media lessons.  While each lesson is a classroom-ready three part lesson, the various resources have all been collected in this location for teaching convenience.

 

Gender Lesson Resources

All resources and lessons can be used for non-commercial classroom use.

 

THE TOY BOX

Regardless of age, everyone has a memory of a toy that they loved when they were a child, or a toy they wanted but they were never given.  The things we play with help determine the people we grow into.  This lesson focuses on separating boy toys from girl toys while pausing to take a look at why we sorted the objects the way we did.

DOWNLOADS

Toy Box – Brother Sister Handout.pdf

 

THE GENDER BOX

Building off of the foundation from The Toy Box we look further into the gender normative roles students feel they need to fulfill.  By confronting prejudices and allowing students to speak openly about their experiences, the foundation is strengthened with shared experiences and concepts.

DOWNLOADS

Gender Box – Minds On.pdf

Gender Box – Handout 1.pdf

Gender Box – Handout 2.pdf

Gender Box – Exit Slip.pdf

 

THE PAST IS PRESENT [PART 1 / PART 2]

By examining a number of historical and contemporary advertisements, students will begin to see how ludicrous modern messaging is when primed through the problematic advertisements of decades past.  Students will then have an opportunity to examine advertisements that they experience through the same lens.

DOWNLOADS

Flipside – Bar Handout.PDF

Representation in Media Handout.pdf

Goldieblox vs. Lego – Comparison Assignment.pdf

 

USING THE MEDIA TRIANGLE TO ANNOTATE ADVERTISEMENTS

Building on the concepts from the last lesson, students will choose specific advertisements, analyzing them through all three sides of the Media Triangle.  Students will then present their findings to the class, allowing all students to take an in-depth look at a variety of contemporary texts and the problematic nature of their messaging.

DOWNLOADS

Fixing Contemporary Advertising.PDF

 

THE GENDER R.A.F.T.

Students will consider the reasons behind Gender Normative behaviours, and create a R.A.F.T. (Role, Audience, Format, Topic) letter that will help them formalize their thoughts.

DOWNLOADS

RAFT Assignment – Minds On.pdf
Lego vs. Goldieblox Comparison RAFT Assignment.pdf
Effects of Gender Messaging in Advertising RAFT Assignment.pdf

 

RESHAPING GENDER NORMATIVE ROLES

Students will be challenged to explore their personal space, school, community, and beyond.  During their explorations, they will identify both positive and negative messaging, while seeking to understand how to create lasting impact and change

DOWNLOADS

Venn Diagram – Communication.pdf
Letter Writing to Enact Change.pdf

 


PART 1: Gender Representation in the Media

PART 2: Lesson – The Toy Box

PART 3: Lesson – The Gender Box

PART 4: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 1

PART 5: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 2

PART 6: Lesson – Annotating Texts

PART 7: Lesson – Gender R.A.F.T.

PART 8: Lesson – Reshaping Roles

PART 9: Final Thoughts

PART 10: Gender Representation – Resources

Gender Representation in the Classroom: Final Thoughts

Gender representation is a serious issue that is constantly changing.  Each month brings new issues to the forefront; strong teachers will use current events to help shape their dynamic lessons.

This lesson is part of a large mini-unit on Teaching Gender Representation in the Media.  It can be used as a stand-alone piece or part of a larger conversation.

 

Resources

There are a wealth of resources available to help you continue exploring the issue of gender representation.  While some specifically target classroom teachers, many are essayists who write passionately about feminism and contemporary concerns.

You will find a currated list that will help focus your ongoing exploration here.

 

Classroom Specific

The British Council: How to approach teaching gender equality to boys and girls

Australian Aid – Tool Kit on Gender Equality Results and Indicators

Teaching Tolerance – ‘Good Morning Boys and Girls’: When a simple greeting engenders stereotypes.

Pacific Standard – The Importance of Teaching Gender in International Relations Classrooms

Vanderbilt University – Teaching Beyond the Gender Binary in the University Classroom

 

Important Blogs

Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls

The Mary Sue

Ms. Magazine

The Guardian | Feminism

Feministing

 

Research

Toronto District School Board – 2012 Gender Report

 

Next Steps…

As mentioned, Gender issues are constantly changing.  Be sure to add updated sites that you follow in the comments below.  I’ll work to add them to this living document.

If you haven’t seen the full Teaching Gender Representation in the Media unit, be sure to look at through all the different classroom-ready lessons.  Or, you can just head straight to the Gender Lessons: Resource Download Page.

 


PART 1: Gender Representation in the Media

PART 2: Lesson – The Toy Box

PART 3: Lesson – The Gender Box

PART 4: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 1

PART 5: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 2

PART 6: Lesson – Annotating Texts

PART 7: Lesson – Gender R.A.F.T.

PART 8: Lesson – Reshaping Roles

PART 9: Final Thoughts

PART 10: Gender Representation – Resources

Gender Lesson: Reshaping Gender Normative Roles

Students need to be empowered to become agents of change in the world.  Digital communication and social media are powerful tools that our students are already familiar with; showing them how to utilize these tools to enact real change allows them to reshape the media landscape that surrounds them.

Having already looked at targetted writing focused on gender normativity during our previous RAFT assignment, students are familiar with how to write about their concerns.  Now they will be shown how to take that writing outside of the classroom, and send it to those that can make a difference.

This lesson is part of a large mini-unit on Teaching Gender Representation in the Media.  It can be used as a stand-alone piece or part of a larger conversation.

 

Minds On

There are three separate things that should be on the board at the beginning of class.  Students should be encouraged to choose one, two, or three of the activities to engage with.  Depending on their level of interest, they may be willing to completely focus on one of the pieces, or they may wish to quickly complete each of the three.

The Set Up

The first thing you will need to do is pick a still image or video that displays problematic gender messaging.  This could be the picture of a toy store, a specific toy, a commercial, a television show, a video game, or anything else that depicts problematic gender messaging.

Once you have selected and displayed the image, students will be able to choose one to three of the following activities to complete using that piece.

Hashtag #Problems

Students should think of hastags that draw attention to the problem.  Hashtags are normally short (less than twenty characters) terms that draw attention to something.  Using sarcasm or irony is a great way to interest a reader and lead them to share it on their own social media account.

Students should also be asked to find at least three social media accounts they could share the hashtag with.  These could be accounts owned by the creator, or related critics.

Students should feel free to use their personal devices during this activity, sharing their hashtags with the internet if they feel comfortable.

Address Unknown

Students should consider three people they might write in order to raise the problematic nature of the piece you have selected.  Similar to the Hashtag #Problems assignment, students may choose the creator or a critic.  They may also select newspapers or magazines that run reader letters.  Publications relating to the content of the piece, that run stories with a favourable bias are best.  They may also consider a number of politicians or not-for-profit groups that draw attention to their concerns.

Social Media Engagement

Students should make a list of their top three social media platforms (these may include, but are not limited to, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc.)

Students should write a sample post, 50 words or less, that they could post on one of those sites in order to get their concerns across.  @ing, or #tagging specific users or terms should be encouraged as a great way to spread their message.

Students should then look at their three pieces, and consider what similarities and differences exist between each of them.  Through this activity, they will gain an understanding of the different strengths and weaknesses of each social media tool.

Once again, students should be encouraged to use their personal devices, actually posting their written pieces to their social media accounts, if they feel comfortable.

Once the Minds On activity is complete, you should host a discussion with your students, sharing the ideas and concepts learned throughout this part of the activity.

After the discussion has concluded, you should move on to the focus of the lesson, where students will write long-form pieces, sending them to an appropriate address in hopes of enacting real change in the world.

 

Focus

The focus of this lesson will be on enacting change through letter writing.  Once students have a focus for their piece (a television show, advertisement campaign, song, story, etc.) they will need to select a target audience that has the ability to make the change they are looking to create.

Who to Contact

Students may choose to write to one of the categories below, but they should not be limited.  The landscape is constantly changing and those that can create change often come from previously unknown sources.

  • Corporations
  • Authors
  • Publishers
  • Politicians

Corporations

In 2017 Pepsi pulled a large-budget advertisement based on public pressure.  The advertisement used Black Lives Matter Imagery suggesting Pepsi could solve their problems.  Public backlash was successful in making real change in the advertising landscape.  They can be reached through a number of mailing addresses, both electronic or otherwise.

Authors

Due to the ubiquitous nature of content creators’ internet presences, there are many ways to directly contact an author about something that a reader finds concerning.  Social media accounts, e-mail addresses, and snail mail addresses attained through the publisher are often easily accessible.  J.K. Rowling has been the target of a number of protests throughout her career.  Many contemporary authors will directly reply to those who write in – either with questions, concerns, or praise.

Publishers

After the American Psychological Association demanded researchers take links to their articles down from their websites, there was heavy backlash looking to enact change in how the system works.  Concerns were raised over the use of the DMCA to restrict the rights of authors.  E-Mail and Snail Mail addresses can often be found on the contact page of their websites.

Politicians

Before contacting a politician, it’s best to focus your ideas.  Are you writing to express displeasure in something, or is there a legal backdrop to your complaint?  The Canadian Criminal Code Section 318 – 320 deals with Hate Speech This may be useful in making a number of complaints.  You’ll then need to decide who to contact.  In Canada, it’s easy to find your Member of Parliment.  A quick google search should yield similar results for other locations.

 

Writing the Letter

Now that students have selected their audience, they will need to write their letter.  The letter should be similar regardless of the target.

I suggest having students hand write their letter, providing stamps and envelopes for them to be mailed out.  However, it can also be a powerful experience to e-mail their messages as well.  The important part is that the letters are sent to their audience after they are submitted to their teacher.

While it is important for students to create assignments within their classroom, it’s far more valuable to show them how to create impact in the world around them.

There are ten main pieces that should be included in their letter:

  1. Polite greetings
  2. An introduction of who the writer is
  3. A paragraph explaining the problem through specific details
  4. An explanation of what change they would like to see
  5. A suggestion for how the change could be created
  6. An offer to help work with the target to create the change
  7. A thank you for taking the time to read the letter
  8. A request for a reply
  9. Salutations
  10. A reply address

Teachers can use the Enacting Change Letter Assignment which includes a sample outline.  Once students feel comfortable with the format they are free to use the period to create their piece.

Students should submit a second copy of the letter which will be mailed out by the teacher.

 

Consolidation

Students will fill out the Communication Venn Diagram exit slip before they leave the class.  Using their personal knowledge, combined with what they have been taught through class lessons, they identify the areas of strength for enacting change through three different forms:

  • Social Media
  • Letter Writing
  • Phone Calls

They will use the diagram to take note of similarities and differences between the three forms, allowing them to select the best tool for their situation.

 

Next Steps

This is the final lesson in the Gender Representation in the Media unit.  The next page includes some final thoughts that will provide you with a suggested timeline.  As well, it offers some extension ideas for how to continue to weave the thread of representation throughout your curriculum.

 

Downloads

Venn Diagram – Communication.pdf
Letter Writing to Enact Change.pdf

 


PART 1: Gender Representation in the Media

PART 2: Lesson – The Toy Box

PART 3: Lesson – The Gender Box

PART 4: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 1

PART 5: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 2

PART 6: Lesson – Annotating Texts

PART 7: Lesson – Gender R.A.F.T.

PART 8: Lesson – Reshaping Roles

PART 9: Final Thoughts

PART 10: Gender Representation – Resources

Gender Lesson: The Gender R.A.F.T. Assignment

Advertisers constantly push messages at our students.  Our students need to learn how to push back at the advertisers.  Having already presented on the importance of creating better advertisements, this lesson will encourage them to take on a Role, select an Audience, choose a Format, and finally select a Topic as they write a piece aimed at raising awareness of problematic gendered messaging in the media.

This lesson is part of a large mini-unit on Teaching Gender Representation in the Media.  It can be used as a stand-alone piece or part of a larger conversation.

 

The Importance of R.A.F.T. Assignments

Differentiated assignments allow students to fully engage with an assignment, as they have agency over the piece that they are creating.  By using RAFT assignments in your classroom, you ensure that whatever interest your student has in a topic, they can tailor their response appropriately.

I find it best to give four options for each of the four parts of the RAFT.  This allows for over 256 unique arrangements for the assignment.  Offering limited choice often helps focus students that would perseverate over an embarrassment of options; however, if you’re feeling up to it, you are free to add an option for students to write in an appropriate Role, Audience, Format, and Topic of their choosing.

Minds On

As your students come into the classroom, you should have the following image displayed on the board.

Summer Man and Dog - Pixabay

Students should be asked to discuss the image from a variety of perspectives.  What is the dog thinking?  why is the woman smiling?  What’s in the man’s cup?

Once they’ve had a brief introduction to the image, students should be given a copy of the RAFT Minds On Assignment.  By completing this piece, they will have a foundation upon which you can build the main focus of your lesson.

 

Focus

Once students have been granted a foundational understanding of R.A.F.T. assignments, through the Minds On the portion of this lesson, they should select from one of the two assignments:

Once again, ensure that students understand that they need to tailor their piece to all four parts of the R.A.F.T.

Role

This is the perspective from which the student will be writing their piece.  For example, they may be a specific individual with an established job, or a certain gender, or age.  As the teacher, you are free to set whatever roles you think best suit the assignment.

Audience

Students will be writing their piece to a specific individual.  This will determine the language they use.  A blog post on the internet would look very different than a formal letter to a politician.  A note to self might include different information than a letter to a best friend.  Ensure that students have a strong grasp on who they are writing to before they begin.

Format

This is the type of written piece the students are creating.  It could be a formal essay or a business proposal.  It could be a piece of short fiction, or a poem, or a diary entry.  You could have students writing a memoir, or an instructional guide.  The type of piece they select will direct the shape of their final piece.

Topic

The final part of a raft is the topic.  While all topics will fall under a general thematic umbrella, you can offer a variety of lenses through which to view and explore the main concept you want students to address.

Once students have a strong understanding of their RAFT choices, let them know that they must write a multi-paragraphed P.E.E. Formated response.  They should then be left to complete the writing task for the remainder of the period.

 

Consolidation

Using the bottom of the assignment sheet as an exit slip, you can ask students to students write in what Role, Audience, Format, or Topic they wished were on the assignment.  This will help you understand student interest and debrief the lesson through a focused student discussion over the following few days.

 

 

Next Steps

When we addressed the Media Triangle we took a look at how we could impact future messaging, and in this assignment, we wrote some targeted pieces.  In our next, and final gender lesson, students will have agency to affect the future of gendered messaging by writing and sending letters to people in charge of the decision making process.

 

Downloads

RAFT Assignment – Minds On.pdf
Lego vs. Goldieblox Comparison RAFT Assignment.pdf
Effects of Gender Messaging in Advertising RAFT Assignment.pdf

 


PART 1: Gender Representation in the Media

PART 2: Lesson – The Toy Box

PART 3: Lesson – The Gender Box

PART 4: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 1

PART 5: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 2

PART 6: Lesson – Annotating Texts

PART 7: Lesson – Gender R.A.F.T.

PART 8: Lesson – Reshaping Roles

PART 9: Final Thoughts

PART 10: Gender Representation – Resources

Gender Lesson: Using the Media Triangle to Annotate Advertisements

It’s important that students know how to identify and name problematic messaging in the media they consume.  From Facebook to Twitter to Television and Websites, our students view hundreds of advertisements a day.  Having already seen how problematic messaging exists in the media we consume, in our past lesson, this lesson will arm our students to identify the true meaning and message of the piece by viewing it through all three sides of the media triangle.

Students will need to already have a foundation using The Media Triangle.  You are encouraged to use the Introduction to the Media Triangle assignment to familiarize them with the basic concepts.

This lesson is part of a large mini-unit on Teaching Gender Representation in the Media.  It can be used as a stand-alone piece or part of a larger conversation.

 

Minds On

As students enter the classroom, one of these images should be displayed at the front of the room.  Teachers can either use an overhead projector, or they can use a photocopier to enlarge the image, and tape it to the board.

 

On their desks, students should each have a smaller copy of the advertisement, as well as three different coloured sticky notes.

Students should be told that each sticky note colour relates to a different side of the Media Triangle.  For example:

  • Green – Text
  • Red – Audience
  • Blue – Creation

Once the entire class has a uniform understanding of which colours will be used for which aspects they are free to annotate the image.  To do so, students will look at their copy of the Media Triangle, and choose one question from each of the three sides.

They will write their response on the appropriate coloured sticky note, and then place it on their advertisement near the evidence for their response.

For example, if students answer “Who profits from this text?” they would take a blue sticky note and write Pepsi profits from this text, as it’s selling their product.  They would then place that sticky note beside the can of Pepsi.

If students were answering “What stereotypes are present in this text?” then they would take a green sticky note and write This text shows that women must wear make up and lipstick.  This sticky would then be placed near the dark red lips on their advertisement.

Once students have annotated the text in front of them, you can move on to the main focus of the lesson.

 

Focus

Having been given time to consider aspects of the Media Triangle at their own desk, students should now be ready to form into small groups.  I recommend groups between four and six students in size.

Debriefing the Minds On Activity

The first part of the class will debrief the annotated advertisement, to ensure all students have a full understanding of how to use the media triangle to annotate their texts.  This will be important, as there will be a release of responsibility that requires them to complete this task on their own for the second part of this lesson.

Small Group Discussions

Students should consolidate their sticky notes onto one of the sheets, still being sure to place them near the appropriate evidence on the advertisement.

While students discuss the questions they answered, and the evidence that supports their response, teachers can circulate the ensure that students have a full understanding of the material.

Sharing with the Class

Next, one student per group should bring their group’s sticky notes to the front of the classroom, and stick them to the large version of the advertisement at the front of the room.

Once all sticky notes have annotated the large advertisement, the teacher can highlight a number of key points, demonstrating all three sides of the media triangle.

Leave the class-annotated text on the board for students to reference in the second half of this lesson.

Fixing Contemporary Advertising

In the second half of this lesson, students will form small groups of one to three and be assigned the Fixing Contemporary Advertising Assignment.  They will then need to select a Contemporary Advertisement to work with.  They are free to select their own, or you may want to have them select from those attached below.

 

The assignment is broken into five main parts:

  • Annotating the group’s advertisement
  • Summarizing a related article
  • Creating an engaging advertisement
  • Making a class handout / brochure
  • Presenting the information

Annotating the Group’s Advertisement

Similar to the Minds On activity at the start of this class, groups will annotate their advertisements by using the media triangle, focusing on all questions for all three sides.

While students can annotate their advertisement using sticky notes, I recommend that they use the digital tool ThingLink which is free for digital image annotations.  If you’d like to know more about using this tool for this assignment please view the ThingLink Tutorial: How to annotate Texts using the Media Triangle.

Summarizing a Related Article.

Each group must also find an article that explores the problematic nature of contemporary advertisements.  The article must specifically link advertisements to a problem in our society.  It must relate to the same problem the students are attempting to fix with their piece.

A great starting place to find specific articles can be discovered using this Google Scholar Keyword Search.  By using Google Scholar, students will also ensure that the texts they find are suitable for classroom use.

Creating an Engaging Advertisement

Having identified the problems with the existing advertisement, and the negative impact such messaging can have, students will be responsible for making a high quality piece that works towards solving the problems from the initial advertisement.

Making a Class Handout / Brochure

Dividing their information under appropriate headings and titles, students will create a handout or brochure that includes the information they gathered throughout the assignment.

The handout will feature the students’ written pieces as well as the created advertisement along side the original advertisement.  the piece must be engaging for the reader.  A folded booklet, or brochure is encouraged.

Presenting the Information

The oral marks for each group member will be based on their individual contribution to the overall presentation.  Due to this, each member must participate in an equal share of the presentation as they communicate their ideas to the class.

 

Consolidation

As they leave the classroom, students should tell you who (if anyone) they will be working with, and they should show you the advertisement they will be working with.

This will set the groundwork to ensure they are prepared to work on their assignment during future classes.

 

Next Steps

Using The Media Triangle and creating a multi-faceted presentation, students will have demonstrated their knowledge, while discovering research articles that illustrate the dangers of media messaging.

They will now be prepared to move on to The Gender R.A.F.T. which will be a final written consolidation of their information.

Downloads

Fixing Contemporary Advertising.PDF

 


PART 1: Gender Representation in the Media

PART 2: Lesson – The Toy Box

PART 3: Lesson – The Gender Box

PART 4: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 1

PART 5: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 2

PART 6: Lesson – Annotating Texts

PART 7: Lesson – Gender R.A.F.T.

PART 8: Lesson – Reshaping Roles

PART 9: Final Thoughts

PART 10: Gender Representation – Resources

Video Tutorial Series: ThingLink, the Digital Annotation Tool

ThingLink is a free online tool to digitally annotate images. There area wide variety of reasons for using ThingLink in your classroom, ranging from visualizing complex ideas, to streamlining presentations.

Here you will find a number of tutorials that walk you, step-by-step, through the tool. You will move from complete beginner to expert in less than ten minutes.

Feel free to like, share, and comment on any of the videos so that WhatBinder.com can work towards increasing its ability to help you help your students.

 

ThingLink: An Introduction for Beginners

This video will introduce you to ThingLink and help you learn how to upload an image, add digital pegs, and change their colour and sizes.  It will also show you how to save, and share your work with your students for easy presentations, and inclusion in Digital Classrooms.

 

 

ThingLink: Visualizing Point, Evidence, and Explanation

This video will show you how to use the basic ThingLink functionality to help students visualize their Point, Evidence, Evaluation – PEE – Paragraphs.

 

 

ThingLink: Analyzing with the Media Triangle

This video will help teachers use ThingLink in conjunction with The Media Triangle.  By annotating and colour coding all three sides of the triangle, students will be able to ensure they are using sufficient evidence when determining the meaning of a media text.  Using ThingLink also allows students to quickly, and beautifully, explain their choices to their teacher, or the entire class.

For a related assignment, please see Gender Lesson: Using the Media Triangle to Annotate Advertisements.

 

 


Comment about how you’ve successfully used ThingLink in your classroom!

Introducing The Media Triangle

The Media Triangle was first created by Eddie Dick, and has since been used as a way for people to fully analyze the messages and meanings of media texts.  By focusing not only on the text itself, but also the audience, and the production, one is able to tease out complex concepts that might otherwise go overlooked.

The Media Triangle

The media triangle is the lens through which students should be encouraged to view Media Texts.  Below is a visual representation of the Media Triangle, along with a number of guiding questions to help students analyze its three sides.

Questions can be simplified so that even grade 1 students can begin to view the world around them through this lens.

Media Triangle - Sized

The Three Sides

While it’s important to see the Media Triangle, and have a selection of questions that students can use to navigate their way through any given text, you must ensure that you fully understand what each question is looking for.  They are explained, in detail, below.

Text

1. What type of text is this?

This question is asking students to identify if the text is a song, video game, short story, photograph, etc.  Once they have identified to the type of text, they will be able to compare it to other texts of the same type, helping to identify common tropes or intentional deviations.

2. What story does this text tell?

Each text tells a story.  In the case of a short story, a summary may be simple for a student to create, however when looking at a song, or a photograph, or a corporate logo students will need to delve into symbolic representations to ensure they are aware of what the text is trying to express.

3. How does this text tell a story?

Some texts tell their story through written words, while others use symbols or images.  Some texts may use sound, and no visuals at all, to communicate their story.

4. Is equity depicted in this text?

Students should be asked to identify the presence or lack of representation based on:

  • Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Race
  • Culture
  • Socio-Economic Status
  • Abledness
  • Mental Health

5. What stereotypes are present?

Once students have identified which groups are represented in the piece, they should look to see what that representation looks like.  Are certain groups stereotyped, and if so how does that impact the text as a whole?  Students should consider why those stereotypes are present.

6. What values does this text express?

Once an understanding of the literal pieces of the text has been ascertained, students should have an understanding of what values the text is putting forward.  They should be able to tell what is being said about specific groups, and if those are positive or negative messages.

7. Do I share the values of this text?

Once there is an understanding of the values being espoused by the text, students should consider if they share those values or not.  Coming to this conclusion is a strong place to leap from the Media Text side of the triangle over to the Audience.

Audience

1. Who is the Target Audience of this text?

Having looked at the Media Text, students should have an understanding of who the target audience of the text is.  The target audience should be specific, and should include as many of the following as possible:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Race
  • Culture
  • Socio-Economic Status

2. What elements of this text target that specific audience?

Once the Target Audience has been identified, students should Identify Main and Supporting Details that specifically link the text to each of the aspects of the Target Audience.

3. Does this text appeal to me?

Regardless of if the student is or is not the Target Audience, they should describe whether the text appeals to them, focusing on specific elements that either attract or detract from their enjoyment of the text.

4. What changes to this text are required for it to appeal to me?

This question can be answered even if the text appeals to the students.  There are always ways to improve the piece, and understanding the specific ways that the text could be altered to make it more relatable will further their understanding of how different audiences will react to it.

5. What audiences would be put off by this media text?

While each text is made with a specific Target Audience is mind, there will be many more people outside that audience.  Not everyone will appreciate the text the same way as others will.  Students should consider which groups might not like the text, while identifying details that support their decisions.

Creation

1.Who created this media text?

While a text may look empowering at first glance, it’s important to understand who created the piece.  There is a big difference in the meaning of a text if the creator is a for-profit company, versus a charity, or an independent creator.

2. What do I know about the creator of this text?

Looking at what the students know about the creator is a great way to understand the impact that the creator has on the creation.  If the creator has a history of creating texts with contrary meanings to the current piece, that is worth considering.  If the creator has long since expressed a similar message, be it positive or negative, that is also worth considering when trying to infer the meaning of the piece.

3. What has the creator done to grab the Target Audience’s attention?

While students have already identified what aspects appeal to the target audience, this question forces them to understand that things aren’t placed on the text by accident.  Students must confront the fact that the text does not exist in a vacuum, but was instead made with a purpose.  What specific choices were made by the creator to ensure that the Target Audience would find themselves drawn into this piece?

4. Who profits from this media text?

Similar to the first question under Creation, students must now consider who is profiting from this piece.  They must also consider what that profit looks like.  An author who sells her painting is directly profiting through the sale; however, a writer who freely distributes their text on the internet may profit through exposure and name recognition.  Something freely given still has value, as there are always ways the creator is profiting.  Even anonymous graffiti artists eventually profit from the creation of their text, as their works can gain a following despite the free distribution of their works.

5. How can I influence the creation of a similar text in the future?

Students must now identify their own agency.  If they don’t like a text, what can they do to influence it going forward?  While this was once a difficult task, today’s Social Media allows them to have direct influence over a variety of texts.  They can successfully alter future texts through Twitter petitions, Facebook sharing, or direct messaging to authors and content creators.  When students identify things they agree or disagree with, they now have a voice to express themselves and enact real change.

The Centre of the Triangle

Once all the questions have been asked and answered its time for students to combine their knowledge and determine the true meaning of a text.  By looking at only the Text itself, they will lose out on the understanding that comes from realizing the Creator actually markets a competing message.  By looking only at the Creation, students will not have a full grasp on why specific details have been included, as they won’t be trying to see how the piece is only directed to one small group of people.

Armed with an understanding of The Media Triangle students will have a tool that they can use on a forward basis to identify, analyze, and discover meanings and messages from each and every text they encounter.

Downloads

Media Triangle – WhatBinder.PDF