Reflecting on Media Literacy Skills and their Importance | Facing History & Ourselves
Facing History & Ourselves
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Lesson

Reflecting on Media Literacy Skills and their Importance

Students reflect on what they learnt during the unit and discuss the importance of media literacy skills

Duration

Two 50-min class periods

Language

English — UK

Published

This resource is intended for educators in the United Kingdom.

Overview

About This Lesson

This is the tenth and final lesson in a unit designed to help teachers have conversations with their students about media literacy in a critical, reflective and constructive way. Use these lessons to help your students reflect on the changing media and information landscape; understand how this landscape impacts individuals, communities and society; and consider how they can thoughtfully and responsibly engage with content they encounter online and in print. This learning can also help them become conscientious content creators. Supporting students to develop as critical consumers and creators of information is vital for their well-being, their relationships and our democracy.

This is the final lesson in the unit, which provides students with the opportunity to reflect on their learning and discuss the importance of media literacy skills. In Part I of the lesson, students reflect on the different topics covered in the unit and how these have shaped their understanding of media literacy. In small groups, they then decide on the top media literacy tips that they think it is important for others to know, and consider how to best communicate these tips, planning out a creative communication project. They then re-reflect on Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights now that they have completed the unit and consider any changes or updates that they would make to the article. 

In the second part of the lesson, students share their ideas in response to the unit’s essential question: How can developing our media literacy support our well-being, our relationships and our democracy? They do so using a discussion format known as a people’s assembly, which allows each person to find their own voice and to listen to the views of others in a structured and democratic way.

How can developing our media literacy support our well-being, our relationships and our democracy?

  • What have you learnt about media literacy when studying this unit?
  • What are the most important aspects of media literacy that you think people need to learn? 
  • How can developing our media literacy support our well-being, our relationships and our democracy?
  • To review the content of the unit.
  • To be able to identify different media literacy skills and understand why they are important.
  • To reflect on and communicate how developing media literacy can support well-being, relationships and democracy.

This lesson is designed to fit into two 50-min class periods and includes the following student material:

  • 1 PowerPoint

Media literacy skills are vital in ensuring that young people are able to critically and responsibly engage with the mass media and the changing information landscape. Such skills can instil young people with the agency to evaluate content they encounter and make decisions on who/what they trust and why, and can ensure they avoid falling prey to false information, both that shared intentionally and unintentionally. This critical reflection can help young people make effective decisions and participate in the democratic process, free from manipulation. 

Media literacy skills are particularly vital in the current age of ‘information disorder’, 1 which is marked by the Internet, social media and generative AI facilitating the spread of false information; increasing polarisation; and a declining trust in governments and traditional media sources. 

Media Literacy advocates Tessa Jolls and Michele Johnsen note, 

Developing an empowered population that can identify and avoid misinformation (as well as unjust attempts to invalidate legitimate sources) on its own terms is not only the most effective solution available, it is also the most democratic way to restore trust in media, fellow citizens, and other institutions. It empowers citizens to make informed choices about what information is worthy of their trust, instead of leaving those decisions to governments or other entities, which can cross a fuzzy line between serving the people and outright censorship, something counter to democratic ideals. 2

Moreover, in addition to enabling people to make informed decisions, media literacy skills can also counter bias, hate, polarisation and extremism, all of which pose risks to human relationships, to society and to democracy. 

If people consume content that is biased and that encourages them to view those who subscribe to different ideals with suspicion, this can prevent collaboration and social mixing. Once people exist in silos, it is very difficult for a shared story to emerge and for people to engage empathetically and work with those they regard as different.

Jolls and Johnsen explain,

Polarization hinders exposure to opposing viewpoints and reduces the potential for healthy debate based upon mutual given “truths.” 3

Helping young people understand how to detect bias and the importance of dissecting and evaluating information they encounter can stop them believing single stories about groups of people and scapegoating those they regard as different. Given the prevalence of conspiracy theories online and the fact these theories, which are rooted in ‘othering’, underpin many extremist ideas and movements, these skills can prevent people from being sucked down a rabbit hole of hate and division.

Additionally, developing a critical and reflective population that is considerate in its engagement with, and creation of, content can shape society for the better. Media literacy skills do not just protect young people from hate and manipulation, they also give them the ability to assess different situations and understand the complexity of the world. This understanding can stop people seeking out simple solutions and can facilitate problem-solving. A media literate population can shape the world for the better.

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

Before teaching this lesson, please review the following information to help guide your preparation process.

In Part II of the lesson, students participate in a people’s assembly to discuss the essential question of the unit: How can developing our media literacy support our well-being, our relationships and our democracy? Before teaching this lesson, it is important to read the People’s Assembly strategy to understand how the process works and how it will be used in the classroom.

Each lesson in this unit includes a PowerPoint of student-facing slides. The PowerPoints are intended to be used alongside, and not instead of, the lesson plans because the latter include important rationales and context that teachers should familiarise themselves with before teaching each lesson. The PowerPoints include basic content and student-facing prompts from the lesson plans but are minimally designed because we expect teachers to adapt them to fit the needs of their students and class.

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Lesson Plans

Part I Activities

Inform students that, in today’s lesson, they will be reflecting on media literacy skills and their importance. They will begin by reviewing what they covered in the unit. Project the different topics that students explored, adapting according to what you covered, on the board and ask students to respond to the questions.

Topics covered in the unit:

  • 5A rating: Aim, Author, Approach, Audience, Accuracy
  • Uses and Gratifications Theory
  • Bias and representation
  • Facts and opinions
  • The News (values, bias, ownership)
  • Social media
  • Algorithms
  • Misinformation, disinformation and mal-information
  • Conspiracy theories
  • Extremism
  • Generative AI
  • Democracy and the media and information landscape
  • Online safety tips
  1. What was the topic that you found most thought-provoking in the unit? Why?
  2. How has what you learnt shaped your understanding of the information and media landscape? 
  3. What is one key takeaway from the unit? 

If helpful, share the following definition of the information landscape with students: 

  • Information landscape (noun): Everything relevant to the world of information. This includes different types of information, how and why they are created, and how they are shared. 

Invite students to discuss their responses using the Think, Pair, Share strategy.

Divide students into small groups and ask each group to think of a list of top tips that they would share with others when they engage with mass media and the information landscape. This can include tips related to consuming information, behaviour and how to respond to and/or share information. 

Once students have come up with their list, inform them that they will be creating some kind of media communication to share these tips with others in society. Remind students of the elements of the 5A rating (Aim, Author, Approach, Audience, Accuracy) and as a class brainstorm potential ways that they can communicate their message. 

Encourage them to be creative, thinking not just about the platform that is used, but also about different creative ways to engage audiences (they could do factual speeches, drama-based content, image-based content, social media videos, quizzes, etc.). 

Next, project the following questions based on the 5A rating to ask students to think about how they are going to communicate their media literacy tips:

  1. What is the AIM of the content?
    • What type of content is it going to be? 
    • What is its main purpose? 
  2. You are the AUTHOR of the content:.
    • What are your intentions for sharing this content? 
    • How will you ensure what you are sharing is reliable/trustworthy/unbiased? 
  3. What communication APPROACH will you use? 
    • How will you communicate the different tips? 
    • How will you portray/frame them?
    • How will you try to get your audience’s attention (font, text size, images, layout, language, etc.)? 
  4. Who is the target AUDIENCE
    • How will this shape the content?
  5. How will you ensure the ACCURACY of the content? 
    • What facts/research/evidence will you base what you share on? 

Once students have responded to these questions in their groups, give them time to plan out their creative communication project in more detail, and to start creating it. 

They may not have time in the lesson to finish doing it in its entirety, but you can ask students to complete the rest for homework or in a future lesson. 

To round off this activity, you may wish to ask one representative from each group to share a summary of their 5A responses and what their creative communication project is.

If there is time, invite students to re-reflect on Article 19 of the UDHR now that they have completed the unit. Share the following prompts:

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

  1. How has your understanding of what is contained in Article 19 changed during the course of studying this unit? 
  2. How, if at all, would you change Article 19 to ensure it reflects the changing nature of the media and information landscape? 
    • What would you add/clarify/remove?

Ask students to share their responses with their partners and then lead a short class discussion. Alternatively, you might choose to set this task for homework.

Part II Activities

Inform students that they will be participating in an activity called a People’s Assembly to discuss the essential question: How can developing our media literacy support our well-being, our relationships and our democracy?

To help students gather their thoughts, project the question on the board and give students time to reflect on it individually in their journals. Encourage students to think about everything that they have covered in the unit and make connections between this learning and the question.

Explain to students that they will now be participating in an activity known as a People’s Assembly, where they will have a structured discussion in groups. Explain to them that the assembly has three values at its core:

  • Inclusivity: Everyone’s voice is valued and everyone has the right to be heard. No one person dominates the discussion. The loudest voice is not always right: a People’s Assembly is about sharing ideas and learning from each other. Everyone feels respected, and able to participate safely without fear of judgement or ridicule.
  • Active listening: Everyone genuinely listens to what others are saying, and participants are not thinking in advance about what they are going to say. 
  • Trust: Everyone has belief in the assembly process, in the hand signals, in the facilitation, the note-taking and in the sharing of ideas. Participants acknowledge that the process will not be perfect, but it will only work if everyone trusts in the process and works together.

Next, tell students that they will be discussing the question they reflected on in their journals: How can developing our media literacy support our well-being, our relationships and our democracy?

Divide the students into groups of five to six, outlining the roles and naming one facilitator and one note-taker for each group (or the students can self-select).

Explain the hand signals below and write them on the board. Request that students use them to communicate respectfully, ensuring that everyone gets a chance to speak: 

  • Wavy hands: If you agree with something a peer has said, wave your hands. 
  • Point: If you want to make a point, want to add or respond to what someone has said, point a finger upwards. This means you have a point to make.

Explain that people can raise their hand in a point to highlight a desire to speak. The facilitator can invite a person making a point sign to speak when the time is right, being sure to be inclusive (if someone is constantly raising their finger to speak, the facilitator can prioritise those who have not spoken). 

Project the essential question on the board and give the students twenty minutes to discuss it in their groups. Circulate to get a sense of their understanding of the question and the process, and to support the facilitators as needed. 

After twenty minutes, give the groups five minutes to decide on two key points from their discussion that their note-taker will share with the rest of the class once the time is up. 

When the time is up, invite each note-taker to the front of the classroom and ask them to share their group’s two key points.

After each note-taker has shared their group’s two main points, facilitate a class discussion that draws from the following questions:

  1. What new, different or deeper understanding of the question ’How can developing our media literacy support our well-being, our relationships and our democracy?’ do you have after participating in the People’s Assembly?
  2. What, in your opinion, are key steps we can take to develop media literacy in society? 
  3. What are the main obstacles in developing media literacy? 
  4. What was it like participating in a People’s Assembly? 
  5. How did using the hand signals feel?
  6. How easy or difficult was it to be an active listener? 
  7. How easy or difficult was it to trust in the process? 
  8. What, if anything, made this process feel inclusive? What, if anything, made this process feel exclusive? What could you do or the group do to make the process more inclusive for everyone?

Finally, ask students to reflect on the following question in a journal response:

  • How has your learning throughout the unit and the discussions today challenged you to consider your role in using media literacy to promote your well-being, your relationships and our democracy?

Extension Activities

Now that students understand the importance of media literacy, you might encourage them to think about how to spread media literacy skills in society. Invite students to explore what strategies can be used to help the UK and world’s population become media literate. They might opt to think about ways to disseminate media literacy skills in general and/or focus on one topic that they covered in the unit and think about how to encourage media literacy in relation to that area.

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