Introducing Basic Media Literacy Education Skills with Greeting Cards
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This lesson is a starting point for getting younger writers involved in media literacy education. In this lesson, students examine elements of holidays/events, invent their own original holiday, and examine and create holiday/event cards based on those chosen. Through reflection, students realize that good communication doesn't just “happen.” Good communication is purposely constructed to achieve a particular effect. This lesson is most appropriate for younger writers, and can give a boost to students who lack confidence in their writing. It could also be easily adapted for use with English language learners by focusing on holidays in their own cultures.
From Theory to Practice
Because students are bombarded with media messages on a daily basis, they need practice in basic media literacy, defined as a series of communication competencies for processing those messages. Students must be able to interpret and respond to information as well as compose messages of their own for specific purposes and audiences. The National Association for Media Literacy Education’s (NAMLE) Core Principals (https://namle.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Namle-Core-Principles-of-MLE-in-the-United-States.pdf ) remind teachers that media literacy education (MLE) cannot be taught in one lesson or even in one unit; rather, the skills developed by MLE “necessitate integrated, interactive, and repeated practice.” This simple lesson is a starting point for getting young writers involved in media literacy education because at its root are some fundamental principles: All messages are constructed and require active inquiry and critical thinking to be fully understood. The activities in this lesson help students focus on the reasons for composing messages as they do. Through reflection, students realize that good communication doesn’t just “happen.” Good communication is purposely constructed to achieve a particular effect.
National Association for Media Literacy Education’s (NAMLE) Core Principals (https://namle.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Namle-Core-Principles-of-MLE-in-the-United-States.pdf )
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
Art materials/old magazines for creating images for your postcard, or access to clip art or computer images
This website is a good resource for teachers who may want to delve deeper into media literacy issues.
These sites provide free clip art that students may choose to decorate their postcards.
- Collect greeting cards (both traditional paper cards and online cards) from various holidays or events—St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Day, Diwali, Independence Day, Sweetest Day, Halloween, children’s birthday, bar mitzvah/ bat mitzvah.
- Familiarize yourself with the Postcard Creator from ReadWriteThink Student Interactives.
- Gather old magazines for clippings and other art supplies for student use.
- Make copies of handouts and rubric for students:
- identify a variety of special occasions in order to determine the specific elements associated with those occasions.
- compose authentic messages for a specific purpose, audience, and occasion.
- create a greeting card for a specific purpose, audience, and occasion.
- articulate their choices in composing authentic messages.
- Ask writers to think of a holiday that is celebrated or observed in their family or culture. It doesn’t have to be a major holiday—any observance will do for this activity. After students have chosen their individual holiday, give them the Holiday Celebrations handout and have the students free write a list of all the elements associated with that holiday, including, but not limited to the following:
- special foods eaten mainly on that day
- religious or government ceremonies
- a “character” of some sort
- a particular place
- family traditions
- special decorations
- gifts exchanged
- particular kinds of music
- events that occur on this day
- season/time of year/date
- costumes or special items of clothing that are worn
- For this writing, writers should assume an audience who is unfamiliar with the holiday in order to elicit an appropriate level of detail. Writers could also be encouraged to write about a particular holiday remembrance to share as part of this step.
After students are finished writing, have someone volunteer a holiday, and that student and others who chose the same holiday can list its elements on the board or overhead, just to have a group example. After the discussion, give the writers a few more minutes to add anything new to their lists that they may have forgotten. If students wrote of a specific remembrance, ask for volunteers to share.
The next part of the lesson involves examining different holiday cards. Divide writers into groups of 4 or 5 and pass out collections of holiday/event cards (both traditional paper cards and online greeting cards that have been printed). Have the groups examine the colors, images, and sentiments written on the cards.
As a whole class, let each group present their findings on commonalities of the cards. Help writers discuss how the rhetorical elements are appropriate for the audience and the occasion as well as how effective they think the cards are. For example, a group with St. Patrick’s Day cards will probably note the predominance of the color green and the use of shamrocks, which are appropriate elements for the occasion.
Through the discussion, reinforce the idea that the messages are constructed with the audience and occasion in mind. This discussion helps students think critically about the messages received through the cards and listen to each other’s perspectives and points of view.
- As a culminating activity, students could write the name of a school event that they all have in common on an index card and begin thinking about the elements of that occasion. The card could be collected as an Exit Slip or it could be as Exit Slip for the next session.
In preparation for the final stage of the lesson in which students create their own holiday and card for it, use a school event/occasion to model creating a card or invitation for a specific audience and occasion.
- Start by having writers brainstorm some annual or upcoming school events that the public is invited to attend. It could be something like a dramatic or musical performance, parent-teacher conferences, open house, a sporting exhibition or academic event. If students handed in their Exit Slip from the previous session, read through those for ideas.
- With your writers, come to a consensus about which event to make an invitation/card for.
- Demonstrate your composing process for this task by articulating your decisions on appropriate images, colors, and fonts to use for the invitation, which will be in the form of a postcard. You could, of course, ask for the students’ input during your composing process.
- Use the Postcard Creator to write a general address to “District Parents” (or any other general school-related group) and to write a short message about the event, the date, and the time.
- After you print the postcard, use magazine clippings, clip art, or other art supplies to make the front of the postcard.
- Demonstrate a reflection on the piece by showing the final invitation and articulating the elements you chose and why they are appropriate for the audience, purpose, and occasion.
Because media literacy education encompasses both analysis and expression, students need a chance to write in authentic genres to demonstrate their learning. During the final part of the lesson, writers create a greeting card for a new holiday.
- Begin by reminding students about the first day of the lesson when they wrote about a specific holiday and its elements.
- Ask students to think of an event, person, group, or activity that they think deserves a holiday. Nothing is too unimportant to celebrate.
- Have the students use the elements previously listed to create a “back story” for the holiday as well as the elements they would associate with it. Use the New Holiday Celebrations handout to help guide student thinking. Encourage students to use their imaginations to integrate characters, music, food, and other elements into their days—the more the better, because they will have more to work with once they begin to compose their greeting cards. They should again assume an audience unfamiliar with their holiday because it is new.
- Be prepared with a holiday of your own to use as an example. Use the Sample New Holiday to share with your students, or make one of your own.
- Discuss with students how their greeting cards will be assessed using the Rubric for Greeting Card Assessment. Allow time for students' questions.
- Writers should use magazine clippings, clip art, or other art supplies to create the front of their cards, and use the Postcard Creator to write a message and address on the back. If there is no computer access, use the art supplies to decorate and write on index cards that can be addressed and sent to other classmates.
- Allow time for students to work on their cards. The cards may be finished out of class, before the next session, if necessary.
- Upon completion of their work, have students share their holidays and cards with their classmates.
- Ask students to write a reflection in which they discuss their choices in composing as they did; see the Sample New Holiday handout. Students should hand in their reflections with their final cards for assessment.
- Have writers share with the class as time allows.
- Have students create invitations/greeting cards for school events that will actually be sent out.
- Once the greeting cards are displayed, students could vote for the most effective card, and the class could celebrate that event.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Collect the cards and reflections for assessment with the rubric provided. The cards can be collected and displayed throughout the classroom after being assessed.
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