Congratulations to director and writer Barry Jenkins for the Oscar-winning Moonlight, which chronicles the life of a young black man growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.

screenshot-2017-02-27-09-58-02Every filmmaker can be a media literacy educator, simply by engaging with learners to share their insights on the craft. Barry Jenkins took it to a whole new level in interacting with young learners in Philadelphia by constructing a videotaped call-and-response style interview with Grade 1 children who had viewed one of his short films.

In the video below, you’ll see a simple but powerful create-to-learn instructional process that the teacher, Kate Spiller, used to engage her young students in talking, thinking and learning about media:

  1. ACCESS. Learners view and discuss a short film
  2. ANALYZE. They generate questions to ask the filmmaker
  3. CREATE (part 1). Learners create a short film, asking questions
  4. CREATE (part 2). Filmmaker responds to questions and creates a short film
  5. REFLECT. Learners view the film and consider how the filmmaker’s ideas are useful to their own lives

When asked about why he makes films, he tells children that he is trying to ensure that there are more stories about people of color, whose lives are not well-represented in movies, demonstrating a brilliant approach to talking about stereotypes and issues of representation with young children. What an empowering experience for everyone involved! Every kid should have such a powerful opportunity to “talk back” to the media and be inspired by creative talents like the amazing Barry Jenkins.

Context and Backstory. How did this project develop? From 2009 – 2011, the Media Education Lab provided an intensive summer program for children ages 6 – 14 at the Russell Byers Charter School in Philadelphia, which I chronicle in my book with David Cooper Moore, Discovering Media Literacy: Teaching Digital Media and Popular Culture in Elementary School. A number of media literacy educators got their start in this program, including John Landis, David Cooper Moore, Rachel LeCure and Emily Bailin.  The Powerful Voices for Kids program was generously supported by a grant from the David Haas, the Wyncote Foundation, and the Verizon Foundation.

The project enabled us to discover many creative pedagogies for teaching media literacy to children in urban elementary schools. Apart from her great work with Barry Jenkins, Kate Spiller also developed creative ways to help young children understand and respond to the different types of media in their environment. At the Discover Media Literacy website, you can see other simple and smart ways to teach media literacy to young children. Kate Spiller is featured with examples of how her young students explored current events and news, how to work collaboratively by making a “how to take care of a pet” video, and how to recognize that different media have different target audiences.



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