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Dawn Belair earns her Media Literacy Badge

Congratulations to Dawn Belair, an English teacher from Concord, New Hampshire! After participating in the Media Education Lab webinars, she has earned her media literacy badge. We love teachers who are lifelong learners and our learning community is designed especially for creative teachers like Dawn. Learn how to earn your own Media Literacy Badge.

Read further to better understand what it means to build a professional identity as a media literacy teacher, in whatever role or institutional context where you work. Here’s what Dawn had to say about how she applied ideas and inspiration from the professional development program to her high school English classroom.


By Dawn Belair

Webinar Attended: Super Bowl: The Big Game
A couple of the key ideas of this webinar were the purpose of advertising and who benefits from it, and supporting close reading. I immediately put the information presented to use in my English 11 Media/Communication Class at Concord High School (this is Renee’s favorite high school in all the world — see Reading the Media: Media Literacy in High School English to learn more). My colleagues were excited about the close reading aspect of the ads. We adapted Frank Baker’s “Super Bowl Ad Analysis Worksheet” by adding some prompting questions (as we have not yet started the Persuasion/ Advertising Unit – although have done extensive work with the Core Concepts of Media Literacy). Just as in the breakout rooms activity in the webinar, we put students in breakout rooms to do a close reading of a Super Bowl ad of their choice. This activity was a perfect bridge riding the excitement of the Super Bowl (it’s still Tom Brady country up here…) and preparing them for our upcoming units on visual literacy and persuasion and advertising. 

Reading the Pictures 
Of most immediate use was the four-step process of close analysis of images: Feel, Notice, Think, and Interpret. I was fortunate to be in a breakout room with Michael Shaw and we had a great experience working through the close analysis steps together. It was interesting to watch the process as the group worked to read the image – each comment led to noticing more and more detail, folding in more and more background information, and analyzing more and more symbolism represented. I have brought this process into the classroom and use these close reading steps – most recently in our visual literacy unit where we also used Molly Bang’s How Pictures Work along with the creative techniques of the study of film to help to expand and deepen students’ reading of an image. 

Teaching the Oscars 
What a bummer it was that I was having terrible connectivity issues for this webinar since I had to keep my camera off to stay connected. Fortunately, the others in this small group spoke up with great personal stories! This webinar came right in the middle of a unit on Visual Literacy in our English 11 classes. We literally worked on an assignment where we were deconstructing, analyzing, and evaluating movie stills for camera distance, angles, lighting, color, framing, and proxemics. How very timely! During the webinar, my colleague (Heather Ouellette-Cygan) and I were texting each other about how we could incorporate what the webinar was covering. We did the “favorite movie / stand-out scene/ connect to which film technique” activity the very next class meeting and the discussion was so lively. Our students were speaking with such knowledge of what filmmakers were doing to make these scenes work – bringing in specific terms as well as referring to the Core Concepts of Media Literacy. We will next be going into a blended unit on Persuasion and Advertising / Representation. I can see using the See Jane video (perhaps as a writing prompt?) leading into our viewings of Killing Us Softly and Miss Representation and I’m looking forward to exploring the materials shared with us! 

50 Best Media Literacy Books
The timing of this webinar was perfect! Just in time to order a pile of books to arrive before summer vacation started. Our English 11: Media Literacy team has been talking about including more voices and perspectives so learning about The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games was exciting. Another unit in the course that we are building up is teaching about bias and fake news. Several of the books that you and Frank suggested are proving to be very helpful with this (most notably, Won’t Get Fooled Again: A Graphic Guide to Fake News written by Erin Steiger, illustrated by Alan Spinney, You’re Being Duped: Fake News in Social Media by Jennifer Peters, The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media written by Brooke Gladstone, illustrated by Josh Neufeld and True or False: A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News by Cindy L. Otis). 
Media Literacy books I read over the summer included:

  • Won’t Get Fooled Again: A Graphic Guide to Fake News written by Erin Steiger, illustrated by Alan Spinney
  • Media Meltdown: A Graphic Guide Adventure written by Liam O’Donnell, illustrated by Mike Deas 
  • You’re Being Duped: Fake News in Social Media by Jennifer Peters 
  • The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media written by Brooke Gladstone, illustrated by Josh Neufeld
  • Keep Calm and Log On: Your Handbook for Surviving the Digital Revolution by Gillian “Gus” Andrews
  • The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads by Tim Wu
  • True or False: A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News by Cindy L. Otis 
  • Tech Like a Pirate: Using Classroom Technology to Create an Experience and Make Learning Memorable by Matt Miller 
  • Teaching Media Literacy (Second Edition) by Belinha S. De Abreu 
  • Close Reading the Media: Literacy Lessons and Activities for Every Month of the School Year by Frank W. Baker 
  • You are the Product: How Your Data is Being Sold by Avery Elizabeth Hurt 
  • Representation in Media by Diane Dakers 
  • Seeing Things: A Kid’s Guide to Looking at Photographs by Joel Meyerowitz 
  • Shitstorm by Fernando Sdrigotti 
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia Spencer
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas

Analyzing the Visuals of the 9/11 Anniversary 
So, it’s early evening on September 11, 2021. All morning, I was watching the reading of the names of the victims of the attacks and sobbing. I was watching the ceremonies of tribute in New York and Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania and sobbing. I was listening to the former president, and the current president, and the current vice president, and the former Secretary of State, and the former White House Press Secretary. And former and current firefighters, and police officers, and first responders, and doctors, and military servicemen, and family members of the victims. And sobbing. And, perhaps foolishly, I watched the news channel run their real-time coverage of the events as they happened on that tragic day. And, guess what? Yup. But as I was watching, I started working on something for my English 11: Media Literacy classes. I created a slideshow of the front pages of newspapers from all over America – and the world – on September 12th and made a reaction sheet prompting students to do a close reading of them. It is very early in the school year, but this seems like a timely introduction to many concepts and skills that we will cover as the course moves along. I found a cool New York Times article examining their front pages on September 11th and September 12th – just looking at them shows how the world changed (from fashion week and school dress codes to terrorist attacks). I have also adapted the activity that we did during the webinar — comparing and contrasting the two trailers (9/11: Inside the President’s War Room and NYC Epicenters: 9/11 → 2021½). I’m sharing it with my colleagues and doing the activity on Monday.

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