Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Grain of Salt

“The convergence of media and technology in a global culture is changing the way we learn about the world and challenging the very foundations of education.  No longer is it enough to be able to read the printed word; children, youth, and adults, too, need the ability to both critically interpret the powerful images of a multimedia culture and express themselves in multiple media forms.”
Elizabeth Thoman and Tessa Jolls

If our goal is a media literate population, then as teachers we can start our work when students first enter the preschool or kindergarten classroom.  In my classroom our day begins with a morning note.  The note serves multiple purposes.  It may be to share important information about our day.  It may present a provocative idea, asking students for an opinion that will be discussed at our morning meeting.  I might post a photograph or a cartoon from the morning paper and ask students to interpret what is going on.  Each of these encourages students to practice and hone their media literacy skills.

As we absorb information from our surroundings we are each making our own meaning.  I like to give young students lots of opportunities to share their own interpretations and to listen to their classmates’ perspectives.  Asking clarifying questions, seeking additional information, and always considering whose point of view is being shared, are habits of mind that will support media literacy at any age.   Creating a classroom culture that supports students as they learn to respectfully question each other, share information, and collaborate on multi-media projects will support students in becoming media literate.

If you have a daily story time in your classroom, chances are you already are helping your students to become media literate.  Consider the classic story of The Blind Men and the Elephant, or the picture book Foolish Rabbit’s Big Mistake, by Rafe Martin, in which the animals run off, one after another, to tell someone else the horrible news, without considering their source or asking any questions.  We can all smile at the foolish mistake in this traditional tale, but we should remember to stand back and think about how this all too common behavior affects our lives.   For example, when 374 out of 533 members of the United States Congress voted in favor of the Iraq War Resolution in October 2002, without carefully reading all of the available documentation, or questioning the sources of that information, the consequences were far more serious. 

The Center for Media Literacy Core Concepts Matrix
In a world of 24/7-news spin and an estimate of over 200 million blogs worldwide, access to information appears limitless.  Guidelines for reading critically, questioning appropriately and identifying falsehoods are necessary. The Center for Media Literacy provides an inquiry-based approach to teaching the skills which lead to objective awareness.  The five core concepts and five key questions developed by the Center help to guide the process of becoming media literate. 

Our job as teachers is to make sure students have the opportunity to access available information and the skills to make it meaningful.  Share the ways you accomplish this in your classroom.


  1. I thought this was really helpful! You should blog more often!!

  2. Thank you. I've returned to teaching full time which really cuts into my writing time. I'm hoping to get back to blogging monthly very soon. So glad you found this helpful. I have to say I go to the global classroom resources on a regular basis as I build my own thematic social studies based curriculum this year.