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"Exploring Media Messages"

Estimated Time of Completion: Two to four 50-minute periods

I. Summary
II. Objectives
III. Materials Needed
IV. Procedure
V. Classroom Assessment
VI. Extensions and Adaptations
VII. Online Resources
VIII. Relevant National Standards

I. Summary:

For grades 7-12. This lesson uses discussion and activity to help students explore how advertising and the media affect self-image.

II. Objectives:

III. Materials Needed:

IV. Procedure:

Part One

  1. Begin by asking students to brainstorm a list of women who display or are identified with feminine ideals, and build a list on the blackboard or an easel. Ask them to identify which women would be considered the ideal "woman". Encourage them to list all types of celebrities: movie stars, music stars, athletes, models, etc. List suggestions as they come up.

  2. Repeat the process with masculine ideals.

  3. Break down "ideal" images of women and men even further by brainstorming a list of physical features that the media focuses on. For women, likely suggestions will be: breasts, hair color, legs, etc. For men, likely suggestions might be: arms, chest, legs, posterior, etc. You might then talk a bit about how often-- and in what way-- the media highlights non-physical qualities such as intelligence, sense of humor, and kindness.

  4. Discuss some of the "role models" and "ideals" from years past. Who was considered ideal in the 1970's? What about the 1950's? How have ideals changed? What caused the change? To further illustrate the point and spark discussion, you might bring in old magazines from these eras.

Part Two

  1. Prepare in advance examples from magazines, newspapers etc that depict negative advertising.

  2. Conceal what the ad is trying to sell.

  3. Make overheads of the ads. It's best if you can use a color copier for the colored ads.

  4. Display the ads on an overhead projector and encourage students to guess what the picture is advertising. This should provoke a discussion and begin to bring to the participant's attention the aspects of self-image related to advertising. Discuss whether or not the girls are more likely to purchase that particular product based on the way it is displayed. How should it be marketed so they would buy it?

  5. To wrap up the activities and discussions, explain to students that they will be creating an "Magazine Ad Review" booklet of their own (which can be an in-class assignment or done as homework):

    • Ask students to search magazines for ads that reflect both positively and negatively on their self-image.
    • Students will then tape or glue each ad to a piece of contruction paper, writing a short commentary on it and whether it presents negative or positive images.
    • If the advertisement is negative, students should write what changes could be made to make it positive.
    • "Bind" the pages together in a booklet with staples or string.
    • The last page of their booklet might feature an essay on what they believe defines human beauty, their opinion about how the media portrays young people, and what they learned from this lesson.

V. Classroom Assessment:

Score student work accordingly on:

VI. Extensions and Adaptations:

VII. Online Resources:

VIII. Relevant National Standards:

These are established by McREL at http://www.mcrel.org/standards-benchmarks/docs/contents.html:

Language Arts

Life Skills

About the Author:
Dana Arvidson
has worked with at-risk youth for 10 years in residential treatment centers, and has developed group programming for the Ramsey County Probation Department in Minnesota. Her current focus is work with adolescent girls and spending more time with her 10-year-old daughter, Alyssa.

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