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Lesson Plan

Media Literacy: Examining the World of Television Teens

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Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Maureen Carroll

Pleasanton, California

Leslie Harper Blatteau

New Haven, Connecticut


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Session 4

Session 5


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Reflect on and analyze current media by identifying the three most popular television shows for teenagers and explaining the reasons why these shows are so popular

  • Analyze and compare how characters are portrayed in different forms of media (i.e., books, television shows, and movies) by responding to a writing prompt that elicits personal connections to characters

  • Demonstrate growth in verbal expression as they clearly and succinctly share ideas with group members and the class

  • Demonstrate an understanding of characters, motivations, problems, and solutions by participating in Media Response Groups

  • Organize story information by constructing a story map

  • Synthesize information learned during the lesson by proposing a new television show that provides a more realistic portrayal of teenagers today

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Session 1

The goal of this activity is to help students make connections between what media is popular with teenagers and why it is popular.

1. Provide your students with the following activity prompt: List your three favorite television shows where teenagers are the major characters. Next to each show, write the reason why you think this show is one of the best.

2. Ask for volunteers to share their responses with the class. Have a student volunteer keep a tally of the most popular shows on the board. Have a second student volunteer record some of the reasons why students like the shows they selected.

3. Facilitate a class discussion about what makes a television show popular. This will help students to analyze how and why producers of media make the decisions that they do. First, identify the top three most popular teenager shows in your class. Then instruct students to compare the reasons why these shows are popular.
  • Are any of their reasons similar?

  • Are there certain corresponding elements that make a show popular?

  • Are there any reasons that are unique to one particular show? What makes this show different?
4. Using the list you have on display, instruct students to respond to a second prompt: Choose a character from a show on our list. Now, thinking about the people in your own life, describe who this character reminds you of. It could be a friend, a relative, or even yourself! Why do you think you connect with this character?

The connection may be because they understand and empathize with the challenges the character faces. Each student's response will be unique.

5. Invite students to share their responses by describing the characters they connect with. Continue the class discussion to help students analyze and compare how characters are portrayed in different shows. Discuss the following questions with students:
  • What were the similarities and differences among the kinds of connections you made to these characters?

  • Which characters tended to be most interesting?

  • Which characters tended to be most complicated?

  • Which characters tended to be most realistic?
Note: This class discussion is intended to help students reflect on characterization on television's most popular shows. You can expect a wide range of responses. The goals of the discussion are to help students explore what makes a person connect to a character and how TV producers make decisions when they create programs for teenagers.

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Session 2

The goals of this session are for students to view and interpret television media and analyze the characters, motivations, problems, and resolutions through the completion of a story map.

1. Remind students of the survey that took place during Session 1. As a class, review what show was selected as most popular in your class. Then, browse the Wikipedia site associated with that TV program.

Note: Before the class begins exploring the Wikipedia site associated with the TV program, you should engage students in a discussion about the nature of wikis and who writes them.

Conduct an informal survey asking the class what websites they use to "find things out." Continue by asking students if they have ever used Wikipedia for research. Then ask students who they think writes the entries for a site like this. This will segue nicely into a conversation about the legitimacy of sources and their authors. After this, students should begin to develop a sense of awareness about what sources they can and should use for research.

After they have used the site, ask students if they think it was useful, legitimate, and accurate. Be sure that students share the reasons why they think this. They should refer to the site directly in this class discussion. After all, they already know about the show you are analyzing. They are the experts on TV teens! Don't be afraid to remind them of their status. Finally, ask the students to describe who they think the author of the Wikipedia entry might be. Ask them if they think the author of the content is a fan of the show. Why or why not?

2. Invite your students to explore the official network website for the television show they have selected; it should provide background information about the actors, photographs, character descriptions, and interactive technologies. Give students time to explore on their own (see Preparation, Step 2).

3. As a class, view an episode of the TV show your class selected.

4. Access the Literary Elements Map tool on your classroom computer and display it on a projection screen. Have students work together to create a story map that outlines the main character, conflict, resolution, and setting of the episode.

Alternately, and particularly if you do not have the computer projection equipment available, you may wish to have students work in small groups to complete the story map. If additional time is needed, students can complete the story map as homework or at the beginning of Session 3.

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Session 3

In this session students interpret media by discussing varied aspects of the television program in Media Response Groups. Students also demonstrate growth in verbal expression as they communicate with one another in small groups and as a whole class.

1. Divide the class into small groups of four to five students each. You can decide, based on your students, whether to make the groups hetero- or homogeneous. The purpose of these Media Response Groups is to provide a forum in which students can share, record, reflect, and refine their thoughts and ideas.

2. Provide students with a copy of the What a Character! handout and ask them to complete it. Each student should complete the handout individually.

3. Provide time for students to share and discuss their responses in their Media Response Groups.

4. Facilitate small-group discussions by circulating and asking students to clarify and extend their responses. For example, you might ask a student, "In what other ways might you respond to the events in this episode?" Help them make connections between their experiences and those of the characters in the program your class viewed.

5. Conduct a whole-class discussion by having students share their personal responses and also the discussions they had in their Media Response Groups.

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Session 4

In this activity students have an opportunity to create a response to the television episode they viewed in class during Session 2.

1. Tell students that an important part of analyzing media involves challenging what they see. The goal of this activity is for students to apply what they have learned about analyzing media by proposing a new television show.

2. Have students get into their Media Response Groups to review what they have learned from analyzing the television show. Give each group the following imaginary scenario:
Melanie Gloss, a famous Hollywood television producer, is coming to visit local schools across America. Her goal is to talk to teenagers about their experiences, and enlist their help in creating a new television series. You will have five minutes to make a pitch to Ms. Gloss and describe your ideas for a new television series. You must describe characters, setting, and a sample plot. Be sure to think about what makes a television show popular and why teenagers like you connect to specific characters in the shows you enjoy.
3. Provide each student with the My Idea for a TV Show handout to use as a guide in their planning. Inform students that they will be presenting their TV show ideas to the class in Session 5.

4. Work together as a class to create a rubric for how the presentations will be assessed. You can use the following questions as criteria:
  • Is the program clearly explained?

  • Will the program appeal to the target audience?

  • Are the main characters believable?

  • Did you make a convincing argument as to why your program should be chosen?

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Session 5

Provide time for each group to present its work to the class. As a class, vote on which presentation best captures the experiences of teenagers today. Use the criteria developed in Session 4 as a basis for the class vote. Invite students to also share their own reasons to support their choices for the best TV show presentation.

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  • Have students create a class collection of television shows entitled, "The Best & the Worst Portrayals of Teenagers in Media."

  • As a class, conduct Internet research to learn more about media literacy. The following websites are good sources of information:
  • Conduct the following lessons to reinforce students' media literacy skills:

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The purpose of this assessment is for students to apply what they have learned in this lesson to another television program.

Ask students to create a class list of questions that can be used when viewing media entitled, Being a Media Savvy Viewer. Sample questions that students might choose to include on their list are:

  • Were the characters and events in this show realistic? Why or why not?

  • Did the interactions among the characters resemble interactions in my own life? Provide a few examples to explain why or why not.

  • Did the characters on the show look like me? Explain why or why not.

  • How were families portrayed?

Then have students watch a television program and answer the questions at home with their families. After they have completed this task, ask students to evaluate the questions and responses, and refine their questions to create a new version of the Being a Media Savvy Viewer list. Share and post the list with others in the school.

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