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Engaging Classroom Activities to Promote Media Literacy

Janelle Cox

The media is all around us, and our students learn from it every day. However, what most students don’t understand is the effects that media has on them. With technology being so integrated into our daily lives, many schools are now opting to teach media literacy units in the classroom. Some middle schools are even going as far as to create a class strictly dedicated to teaching students about media literacy. So why is it so important that we teach students about media literacy? We live in the 21st century where we get the majority of our information from a plethora of technologies. As teachers, we can help students better understand the multifaceted messages that we receive from all forms of media (television, newspapers, Internet, radio, etc.). By engaging students in a variety of classroom activities that help them understand the role of media as well as the effects it has on them, it will give them the skills they need to navigate their way through today’s society. Here are five engaging classroom activities to promote media literacy in the classroom.

Classroom Activities to Evaluate the News

The news is a component of media literacy that deals with having students evaluate the credibility and reliability of what they hear or read. Today, there is a lot of “Fake news,” and students need to learn how to determine what is real versus what is fake. Most students have the notion that everything they hear on the news is real. According to a Stanford study, 80% of middle school children can’t tell the difference between a news story and an advertisement. To help students better understand the realities of our world, you can have them evaluate the news. First, show students how to spot fake news, you can do this by showing them this clip. Next, challenge students to see if they can spot what news is fake by having them watch a few clips from National Geographic Kids. If students are ever in doubt of what they hear in the news, tell them they always check out the website Snopes to fact check.

Advertising Language

The language that advertisers use can influence one’s perception. To help students understand the effect that advertisers have on society, they will first need to understand the language of advertising claims. This is the technique that advertisers use to make claims for their product. After students have grasped this content, then you can have students break into groups to search through magazines (or watch commercials) to identify which advertising claims companies have used. By deconstructing advertiser’s language, students may find that going forward they may have a different perception each time they view an advertisement.

Publishing a Classroom Newspaper

The newspaper is a powerful instructional tool to learn about the workings of print media. For this activity, students will learn the basic workings of a newspaper as well as create one of their own. To get started, have students browse through the paper to see what types of things are in it. Then have them go on a newspaper scavenger hunt to help them become familiar with the topics they will find in a newspaper. Once they are familiar with the basics, then together as a class choose the topics that will go into your class newspaper. Have students decide upon the name of the paper, then apply for what position they would like to have on the newspaper. Here are a few ideas of newspapers positons to choose from: Headline writer, editor-in-chief, editor, copy editor, reporter, editorial cartoonist, advertising, art and design, production team.

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Once positions are chosen, break students up into groups according to their job position. After students have written and submitted their articles to their editor, as well as completed the suggested revisions, it is now time to go to press. Display the newspaper in the school hallway for all to read.

Differentiating Media

As you know, there are varying outlets to share information, television, the Internet, newspaper, etc. With that said, each unique media form has a different way of presenting information to the public. For this activity, students will be grouped together to analyze how each different media outlet’s content has changed, depending upon the media that gave the information. For example, one group would craft a media presentation through an online newspaper, while another would do the same media presentation but through another outlet such as a commercial. Each group would use the same story or information but tell the story through different means of media. Once all presentations are complete, the class would analyze how the information changed depending upon the media presenting.

These activities will help build media literacy knowledge as well as the essential skills students need to live in the 21st century.

Do you use classroom activities to promote media literacy in your classroom? Do you think this content is essential for students to learn? Please share your responses in the comment section below, we’d love to hear what you have to say on this topic.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.