Media Literacy through Advertising

680 Media Group
Emily Chornomaz - introduction of lesson (youtube)
Jessie Gillan - new skill or knowledge (media kit)
Jessica Speer - explore/experiment (discussion)
Nicole Gitau - conclusion & assessment (wrap up)


As we began to think of the lesson we were hoping to create, the first direction was to discuss media conglomerates that are backing all of the media that influences us. This led us to many different avenues in media literacy. First with an idea of having a discussion of how to find the sources through most common media types, and thought that would be a great way to begin to reveal some of the basic messages behind the media. We came up with a great number of great ideas for media literacy and ultimately decided to work with magazines. Through magazines we felt there would be many different types of ads that target many different groups and would be a great way to uncover many media messages at once. At this point, we decided it would be best to target a middle school age group because they are the most advertised to and are frequent readers of popular magazines.

We felt it would be best to approach this as a public librarian group visiting the middle school doing outreach work for the library. As outside librarians, we would be able to create a lesson without the constraints of a curriculum, as well as explore the possibilities of direct outreach. We felt this lesson would fit in well with the goals of a Social Studies class, as the discussion of American history and culture offer a relevant environment. This led us to dig into the plethora of ideas, each rich enough to turn into a lesson. We decided to structure the outreach as a series of media literacy lessons. Ultimately we picked one lesson to present to the class, based on the activity of cutting advertisements out of magazines. This activity will be a hands-on introduction to a discussion of the differences between sponsored messages and entertainment.

The magazine lesson will initially involve an introduction to what is advertising. In order to grab the 7th graders attention, we thought it would be best to show a short and entertaining video. A number of 'viral' videos have been popping up on youtube, paid for and produced by such companies as Levi Jeans and Ray-Ban Sunglasses. The Ray-Ban youtube features two guys catching and throwing sunglasses on their heads. Nowhere is the logo of the company or intention of the video (to sell Ray-Ban sunglasses) outright presented. We thought this was a great example of undercover advertising - found everywhere from magazines to movies.

Middle school age students are especially susceptible to advertising and are bombarded with it more than any other age bracket, so we felt it would be important for them to begin to think more critically about advertising. We want them to know that it's not only television shows that might include product placement or subjective viewpoints. Part of properly consulting any source of information (at the library or elsewhere) is being aware of its authority and accuracy. We believe that librarians need to guide patrons in carefully considering more than just the surface of information or entertainment. Our public library has a myriad of medias, each with particular pitfalls when it comes to objectivity and accuracy. We need to indoctrinate our patrons to these considerations, as our goal as an institution is to successfully support their informational needs.

After watching and discussing the video, we segue into an arts and crafts project where students will work in pairs, cutting all the advertising out from a magazine. This will involve getting in touch with the school beforehand for supplies or we can bring in our own scissors, paper, and glue. We will be using discarded magazines from the library's collection, a little reminder of the materials available for their enjoyment. While they explore the magazines and create their posters, we will have books and periodicals from the library's collection on zine making, collage, and advertising available for their consultation.

During these lessons, the Social Studies teacher will be present, adding to our discussions and bringing more relevance. Giving specific examples from lesson they covered (such as Uncle Sam propaganda) will be a solid segue from movies and magazines into academic pursuits.

We hope that the lesson will fit nicely into our overall goal of inviting the middle school kids to come to the public library and use our resources. One of our intentions is to make the students become more aware that the library is not just a place for books. As our initial visit will introduce the students to what exactly is available at the library (electronic databases, periodicals, internet, dvds), this lesson will help them choose and use the materials there and everywhere more critically.

Detailed Context:

Group members Emily Chornomaz, Jessie Gillan, Nicole Gitau, and Jessica Speer contributed equally in the design of this lesson after Jessie Gillan's initial idea. Jessica Speer specialized in lesson plan research, Emily Chornomaz in technology research, Nicole Gitau worked with additional lesson layouts and support materials, and Jessie Gillan researched the magazines used for the lesson. All four of us created a wiki to organize our thoughts and took advantage of shared Google docs.

The 680 Media Group is a team of public librarians doing outreach with the local 7th grade class. Our group is doing a six-part unit on media literacy, in an effort to educate students as well as draw them into the public library. Each lesson will take up a 45 min school period, conducted once a week. Jessica Speer's sister Laura is the beloved Social Studies teacher at the local urban public middle school. She has invited the 680 Media Group to do this lesson with her mixed skills-level 7th grade class who are all comfortable working on computers. The classroom is equipped with a projector and internet accessible computers. Students are seated in pairs in order to maximize group work.

Our intention is to beef up the students' media literacy skills by breaking down common media types and pointing out camouflaged advertising.

See our Action Plan.