What is media literacy and why should you teach it in your classroom?

How many advertisements do you come across in one day- ten, fifty, hundreds, thousands? How can you teach your students to navigate this stream of information effectively?

How many advertisements do you come across in one day- ten, fifty, hundreds, thousands? Some sources say we encounter 4,0005,000 ads a day all trying to persuade us to do something, believe something or buy something (while making money for their shareholders). We may not be consciously aware of seeing these ads, nor are our students who are exposed to the same content we are on a daily basis. Are students equipped to recognize when they are being manipulated? Probably not. Media literacy is a skill, not a topic. It is the responsibility of every educator; in every subject, in every school.

The goal of teaching media literacy is to educate our students on how to question what they see. Media literacy has dozens of “subtopics” that can be explored year-round in your classroom. This post shares some fun media facts, concepts, and resources to get you started.  

Media Literacy “Fun Facts”

  • Media is not good or bad; it is just a tool that delivers content.
  • Adults spend 12 hours, 7 minutes a day consuming media.
  • It is estimated that 6 companies own close to 90% of media.
  • Magazines print different editions for different areas and demographics.
  • Advertisers focus on women’s bodies as “parts of a whole”, so they always have something to fix.
  • Personification in advertising plays to our emotions and seeks to have us form “relationships” with products, giving alcohol names such as  ‘Jim Beam’ to imply that we are not drinking alone).

Media Literacy Concepts

  • Media constructs our culture.
  • Media messages affect our thoughts, attitudes, and actions.
  • Media uses different “persuasion” tactics to get you to do something, buy something or believe in something.
  • Media constructs fantasy worlds.
  • No one tells the whole story.
  • Media messages reflect the values and viewpoints of the media maker.
  • Individuals construct their own meanings from media.
  • Media messages can be decoded.
  • Media messages contain “texts” and “subtexts”. Each person creates subtext based on prior experiences, prior knowledge, opinions, attitudes, and values.

Nicole’s Favorite Resources