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Lesson Plan

Reading Movies and TV: Learning the "Language" of Moving-Image Texts

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Reading Movies and TV: Learning the "Language" of Moving-Image Texts

Grades 5 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Minilesson
Estimated Time Instruction = one 45-minute session
Follow-up and assessment = one 15–20-minute session
Lesson Author

International Literacy Association



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From Theory to Practice



In this lesson, students learn inductively and experientially that moving-image media texts such as movies and TV shows employ a visual language, just as written texts rely on conventions that exist apart from their content. To grasp this distinction between storytelling and story, students closely watch several film clips and summarize what they have seen and heard without describing anything that happened. In this way, aided by strategic prompts and partial re-viewings as needed, students understand that each shot in such media is carefully constructed, and each shot is carefully connected to another and to audio elements through editing.

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  • Film Site: Film Terms Glossary: A partially illustrated guide to all of the moving-image terms used in this lesson, students and teachers can use this to learn more about how to "read" film and television texts.

  • Moving Image Archive: Internet Archive: This library of free movies and other video resources has full-length classic films for streamingthat can be used for students' independent viewing.

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Through their increasing access to ever-evolving media platforms, including mobile devices, students of this generation are exposed to moving-image media more than ever. However, they generally lack both media literacy skills and formal instruction in the same (Considine, Horton, & Moorman, 2009), deficiencies that this lesson explicitly addresses. In teaching critical media literacy specifically, Gainer (2010) uses a close reading of a particular scene from a Hollywood movie; this lesson builds upon that practice to address not the embedded values in a media text but rather to help students develop the “ability to make meaning from information in the form of the image” (Rowsell, McLean, & Hamilton, 2012)—in other words, that aspect of media literacy that is dependent on visual literacy for any critical analysis of the constructed media message.

Considine, D., Horton, J., & Moorman, G. (2009). Teaching and reaching the millennial generation through media literacy. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52(6), 471–481.

Gainer, J. (2010). Critical media literacy in middle school: Exploring the politics of representation. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(5), 364–373.

Rowsell, J., McLean, C., & Hamilton, M. (2012). Visual literacy as a classroom approach. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 55(5), 444–447.

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