Magazine Redux: An Exercise in Critical Literacy
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The number of magazines with an online counterpart increases every year. This lesson prompts students to act as critical readers as they consider how and why their approach and experiences differ when reading an online version versus a print version of a magazine. Teachers can use this activity as part of a larger unit on media literacy.
Interactive Venn Diagram: Comparing both formats of a magazine is a snap when students input their findings in this Venn diagram.
From Theory to Practice
- Among having other characteristics, media literacy aims to make students critical and selective viewers and consumers of popular culture and able to reflect critically on their reading process for various media messages.
- The study of TV and other mass media, new interactive media, and popular culture is important not only because of their profound influence and pervasiveness, but because of the ways that media easily become "naturalized," part of our daily lives and routines.
- Critical media literacy ought to be a fundamental part of education for responsible citizenship in an age where not only entertainment and leisure but work, education, and social relations are increasingly experienced electronically and mediated by dense and overlapping visual, symbolic-iconic, and polycultural meaning systems.
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).
- 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.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
Materials and Technology
- Computers with Internet access
- Pencils and pens
- Physical or printed copies of the online magazines selected
- Sticky notes
Research, examine, and select a list of online magazines that you feel comfortable using for this exercise. (A sample list of online magazines is provided). Make sure that for each online magazine on the list you have at least one print copy of the magazine accessible to students in the classroom.
- Monitor, reflect on, and share insights about their impressions and experiences after reading both a print and an online magazine
- Compare and contrast the structure and format of a print magazine versus an online magazine and delineate some of the factors that contribute to their similarities and differences
- Compare and contrast their approach to reading a print magazine versus an online magazine and share insights and observations about their reading process for each media form
Session 1: Before Reading
Explain to students that they are going to critically examine their reading of an online magazine and see how it compares to reading the print version.
Spread out various copies of the print magazines, which have an online counterpart (see the sample list of online magazines), and allow students 15 to 20 minutes to peruse them. Then ask students to identify the specific magazine (e.g., Sports Illustrated, Time) that they would like to use for their reading activities. Make note of their selections on a class roster. You might consider limiting the number of students per magazine for more reading variety within the class.
Using the Self-Portrait of a Reading Experience transparency, go through and explain the various items that students will address while they are reading the online magazine. Give students time to ask questions and request clarifications about the items before they begin reading and working independently.
Session 2: During Reading
Have students navigate to their online magazine, assisting them as necessary and checking to make sure that they are viewing the correct website. Then invite students to begin reading the online magazine, at least the homepage and a few articles. Students should attempt to read as much of the online magazine as time permits and also read some of the advertisements. While reading, they should fill in their copy of the Self-Portrait of a Reading Experience handout. Give students the rest of the class period to read and record their responses on the handout while you walk around and observe and assist students who are struggling.
Session 3: During Reading
If time in class is not available, this activity can be assigned for homework. Invite students to read a recent print issue (within the past three months) of the same magazine they were reading online. They should read the Table of Contents and at least a few articles and also read some of the advertisements in the magazine. Ask them to use sticky notes to make comments on the magazine's structure and format and their reading process. If they are not sure what to write on the sticky notes, tell them to refer to the Self-Portrait of a Reading Experience handout and cover most, if not all, of the same items. Ask students to place each sticky note on the page of the magazine that relates to their response about a particular aspect of the format or their reading process.
Session 4: After Reading
Have students use their completed Self-Portrait handout for the online magazine and their sticky note-filled magazine to complete this follow-up activity.
Ask students to use the interactive Venn diagram to compare and contrast:
- The structure and format of each media form
- Their reading process for each media form
Students will need to complete two Venn diagrams, each with one circle labeled as "Print Magazines" and the other circle labeled as "Online Magazines." The first diagram should be used to compare and contrast the structure and format of a print magazine versus an online magazine. The second diagram should be used to compare and contrast their reading process for each. Remind students to print out their Venn diagrams when finished.
Using the Venn diagram printouts, have students share insights they had and observations they made about both media forms and their reading process for each. Insights and observations may be as follows:
- The content is typically similar in both forms, but the way the information is conveyed is different depending on the strengths of each medium.
- The process for reading a print magazine differs from the process for reading online because of the conventions and constraints inherent in each form.
- The features of each medium are different and often help or hinder the reading process.
- The advertisements are usually the same or similar because of the target audience, but their format is usually different depending on the media form.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Successful navigation to and through the various sites, as evidenced by the completed Self-Portrait of a Reading Experience handout
- Completion of the Self Portrait handout for the online magazine and the sticky note comments for the print magazine—rate each response or comment using a minus sign for weak, vague, or incomplete information; a check mark for sufficient or adequate information; and a plus sign for thorough and specific information
- Printout of the interactive Venn diagram showing at least three differences and three similarities the student observed about the structure and format of each media form and his or her reading process for each
- Teacher observation and anecdotal notes on the quality of insights and observations shared during class discussions