Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What is Media anyways?

Over the past 2 days I attended a wonderful workshop on teaching Media Literacy.

In Quebec, Media Literacy is one of the four strands of our Language Arts program, yet most teachers are a little vague about it. Teach reading – sure! Teach writing – No problem! Teach talk – We can do that! Teach Media Literacy – Ummm, so we could look at TV commercials and design cereal boxes maybe?

This workshop broadened our horizons about media literacy and our students' ability to be creators of media. We considered medias that we had not thought of before. A key for me was the following statement: “Media Literacy is not about having the right answers, it is about asking the right questions.” As life-long viewers of media, our students can figure this stuff out, we just need to send them in the right direction.

Thank goodness for wonderful workshops like this that allow me to recharge my batteries, and inspire me to try new things.

A big thanks to the MELS team for the great workshop.

Reading Pictures

I have been at a wonderful workshop today about media literacy. I am really excited about some of the things that we saw. I was really struck by the idea of “reading” photos.

When was the last time you read a photo? Not a photo covered with words in a magazine, but the actual “text” of the photo. We might think about whether we like the photo or not, but we are often at a lost to explain why. When we look at photos with students and use photographic language (like the point of view, framing…), we are giving them the tools they need to “read” and discuss photos themselves. Understanding the structures and subtext of photos allows students to consider the photographer’s purpose and the overall effectiveness of the picture.

Once students are familiar with the various elements to be considered, as well as the power exerted by the photographer’s choices, they are ready to take their own photos with purpose. They can use their photos to tell a story, convey an emotion, or any other use they can imagine.

Best of all, reading photos with a class of students requires very few resources; some found photos, photos brought in by students, a few old calendars... Creating them requires a camera, but I think most classes have access to a camera and many kids have access to one at home.

We often think of media literacy in the classroom in terms of advertisements and commercials, maybe the cereal box project. In the age of the digital camera, how can we ignore photo literacy?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Authentic Audience

Why do we write? We write because someone, someday, is going to read it. In the classroom, there is a group of peers to appreciate student writing. We also post writing in hallways and invite the principal into the class to comment on writing.

Since I work with such a small group of students, I cannot rely on a peer audience in the class. I feel very strongly that I need to generate an authentic audience for my students. Mem Fox writes about getting students to “ache with caring” about their writing. The way to do this is when they have a real audience who will read their words. I want my students to ache with caring about their writing.

I am hoping I will be able to create an audience for my students by posting their work to a blog. I am going to have to do a little more thinking about it, though. One of my students posted a blog about a book that he was reading. Only one person commented on his blog – the only way for him to become aware of the audience. The comments came from a student in a colleague’s class in our school board. I spent two days checking with other teachers and begging for participation to get that student involved – not something I can do for every project.

It is one thing to tell the students that anyone can read their writing on the web. It is another for them to realize that real people are reading it. I don’t want to promise an audience that I cannot deliver. As noted by the postings below (0 comments total), I am not sure how to get people to read and comment on a blog. I guess that I will have to do some research.

If you are reading this and you have any advice, I would love to hear it.