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Анастасия Новикова


Anastasia Novikova

Teaching Media

in the English Language Classroom

Activities for

Media Education

Новикова, А.А.

Медиаобразование на занятиях по английскому языку. Учебное пособие. Таганрог: Изд-во Кучма, 2004. 52 с.

ISBN 5-98517-004-7

Пособие предназначено для учителей английского языка, преподающих в средних, высших или внешкольных учебных учреждениях. Задания ориентированы на upper intermediate level, но могут быть адаптированы учителем для более низкого или более высокого уровня знания языка.

Novikova, Anastasia. Teaching Media in the English Language Classroom. Activities for Media Education. – Taganrog: Kuchma Publishing House, 2004. 52 p.

This is a guide for teachers of English as a foreign language, who teach in secondary schools, higher education institutions or extra-curricular classes of English. The activities are meant for upper intermediate through advanced levels but can be adapted for a lower level of English proficiency.

^ The Research for this publication was supported under a grant funded by the Fulbright Scholar Program Advanced Research and University Lecturing Awards.


Prof. Dr. Richard Cornell, University of Central Florida (the U.S.A.), Former President of ICEM/CIME (International Council for Educational Media),

Л.В.Усенко, доктор искусствоведения, профессор,

И.В.Челышева, кандидат педагогических наук

© Новикова Анастасия (Novikova, Anastasia), 2004




















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Media education is a quest for meaning. Much of the value of a quest lies in the search itself as well as in the achievement of the goal.”

(Chris Worsnop, Canadian Media Educator, author of the book “Screening Images: Ideas for Media Education”)

Media education today is one of the fastest developing trends in the field of education around the world. I will not go into the detailed account of the history, theory foundations or the current research related to media education (also known as media literacy in some countries, e.g. the USA) because there is already an abundance of different print and online resources available (see References). What I want to say introducing this collection of activities is why I think media education is important in teaching English as a foreign language. As teachers of English we teach grammar to our students, but not just for the sake of their ability to put in the correct form of the verb in a sentence or pass a test in the end of the semester. We teach grammar, as with any other aspect of the language, so that our students can communicate in English successfully, understand oral and written speech, speak and write. What are the main sources of the English language for our students? We are – I refer to our own speech and the textbook, sometimes supplemented by audiotapes. What can we do to take our students out from the textbook context and into a “real world” context? The best way would be the immersion into the English-language and culture, preferably by sending them to England or the United States for 6 months. And while this is possible for some young people, most of our students cannot do that. But what we can do is to bring part of the English language world into our classroom. Where do we obtain our knowledge about foreign cultures and foreign countries? Besides our personal experiences we gain it from the media- television, radio, feature films, Internet, music, etc. Media has become an indispensable part of our lives; children spend more time watching TV than on doing their homework, media are sometimes called “a parallel school”! Direct or indirect influence of media on our lives is growing constantly, and traditional literacy skills- the ability to read and to write print texts, must be supplemented with media literacy skills- the ability to “read” and “write” audiovisual materials along with print media texts (television programs, films, web sites, advertisements, etc.). You could challenge me by saying that films, audio tapes with stories or dialogues of native speakers, songs, authentic newspaper articles have been used by the teachers of English for decades, that using technology is not a novel concept. So how is media education different? The argument for media education is that, drawing upon the students’ real life experiences, it teaches about the media, opposed to teaching with the media (or ТСО in Russian). I’ll cite my two favorite definitions of media literacy, one by the American professor Dr. Renee Hobbs: “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and communicate messages in the variety of forms” (Hobbs, 1997), and the other by Canadian professor, Chris Worsnop: “critical understanding of how the media work, how we interact with them and how we can make the most of them” (Worsnop, 1999). The last point made by Worsnop, “how we can make the most of them” in our case would be how. Teaching about the media, we can assist our students’ learning process of the English language and cultures of the English-speaking countries. We can also motivate our students, enhance our lessons, and develop students’ critical thinking, encourage them to become active viewers, listeners, thus becoming producers of their own messages.

^ Глава 1. Фотография

Фотография стала первым средством массовой информации, которое могло показать людям «реальное» изображение других людей, знакомых и географически отдаленных мест и событий. Сегодня, фотография продолжает оставаться неотъемлемым компонентом новостей, любых печатных медиа от газет и журналов до книг. Глядя на фотоизображение, мы можем улыбнуться, нахмуриться или задуматься. Как в детстве мы пролистывали книгу в поиске картинок, так часто просматривая газетные заголовки, мы останавливаем взгляд на фотографиях. Фотоальбомы с запечатленными радостными или торжественными моментами оживляют наши воспоминания... Может ли фотография считаться объективным отражением реальности? Как фотография отображает замысел автора? Какие средства используются для достижения желаемого эффекта? Учитель может помочь своим ученикам интерпретировать фотоизображения, способствуя тем самым развитию навыков критического мышления. Несмотря на то, что тематика глав может использоваться учителями в произвольном порядке, адаптировано к уровню учащихся, и пройденному языковому материалу, фотография занимает первую главу, потому что, по сути, фотография является ключевым элементом визуальных медиа и принципы композиции, которые будут рассмотрены в этой главе, можно использовать и для анализа аудиовизуальных медиатекстов.

^ Unit 1.Photography

Photography is a system of visual editing. At bottom, it is a matter of surrounding with a frame a portion of one's cone of vision, while standing in the right place at the right time. Like chess, or writing, it is a matter of choosing from among given possibilities, but in the case of photography the number of possibilities is not finite but infinite.”

John Szarkowski ( director emeritus of the Department of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the author of The Photographer's Eye, Photography Until Now, and many other works on photography)

Useful sites:, (a year in pictures),

Technology and materials: photo cameras, photographs.

Unit objectives:

students will:

  • describe the photo in English;

  • identify and describe the basic composition terms (framing, arrangement, placement, lighting, color);

  • discuss photo images;

  • take photos, display them for the class and explain their intentions as photographers.

Activity1. Family Album.

Media concepts: representation

Language skills: speaking, listening.

For this activity ask your students to bring their baby pictures to class.. First have them put all their pictures on one table, shuffle them and ask the students to choose one picture (but not their own). Each student is to describe the child in the picture and, together with class, guess who is depicted in the picture. Talk to the students about photography in our lives. For example, family albums are, in a way, a family’s history, written not in words, but in images. Usually these are the images of happy moments in life, like a birthday celebration, vacation, friends’ party, a new baby in the family, etc. Even after many years, the photographs have a power to trigger emotions and memories connected to the moment when they were taken. What are characteristics of family pictures? (E.g. people usually pose standing or sitting in a row, smiling, holding each other, etc.) How many of you have ever taken a picture of family or friends? What are some other objects that you photographed (pets, landscape, historical sights, etc.)? How many of you have your own camera? Photography was invented in 1827, and the word comes from 2 Greek words: photo (light) and graph (to write). What does the word “photography” literally mean in this case? (Writing with light). Cameras have changed greatly during their relatively short history. What types of cameras are familiar to you? What are recent types of cameras that have appeared on the market? (Digital camera) How are they different from others?

^ Activity 2. Who am I?

Media concepts: representation, language, audience

Language skills: speaking, listening.

In case digital cameras are available, for the home assignment, ask your students to form teams of 3-4 people, and take picture of someone they know well. Try to have the photograph tell us something about the personality of a person in the picture (using props, body language, gestures, facial expression, background). In the next lesson, students exchange photos with another group (e.g. there are 3 groups in your class, each consisting of 4 students, so there are 3 pictures. Group A gives their picture to Group B, Group B- to Group C, Group C- to Group A. Each group tries to decide who the person is, what he/she is like, what is his/hers occupation, mood at the time when the photo is taken, his/her personality, hobbies and importantly, what made them think so). After each group presents their findings to the class, the authors of the photograph tell their version. This is a good exercise for realizing how different people looking at the same photo see different things.

Another option:

In preparation for this lesson, find a photo of a man or a woman and bring it to class. Show the photo to your students and ask them to write down what they think of this person. How old is he/she? What is he/she? (What does she/he do for a living?) What kind of person do you think he/she is? Why do you think so? (What elements of the photo made you think so?)

^ Activity 3. Reading a photograph

Media concepts: representative, language

Language skills: reading, speaking, listening

This activity will introduce the students to some basics of composition. You can write them on the blackboard or provide photocopies of this page for your students. (Adapted from ^ Seeing and Believing by Ellen Krueger and Mary T.Christel)


Limits the field of vision or draws the

viewer’s attention to a specific aspect of the



Position of the camera in relationship to the

subject of the shot (close-up shot, medium

shot, long shot, high angle, low angle)


The physical relationship or position of

people, objects, and background in a

single shot (foreground, middle ground,



Spot, concentrated or diffused


Saturation (intensification of a specific

color within a shot)

Prepare and show to the students some photographs from the book, slides or single copies. A good source is the web site of Pulitzer-winning photographs at . Sample questions to ask at this stage:

  • What is the first thing that you notice? Why? What attracts your attention to it?

  • When you continue to look at the photograph, what else do you see?

  • What is in the foreground, middle ground and background of the picture?

  • How does the photographer use color and lighting?

  • What is the camera position? From where could this picture be taken, e.g. was the photographer sitting on the ground, or standing on hill, or stairs, or from a helicopter? How would the main subject of the picture look if it was taken from another angle? Why do you think the photographer chose this angle?

  • What is the message of this photograph? Do you agree with the proverb “A picture is worth a thousand words”? What did the photographer want to say with this picture?

^ Activity 4. In Focus

Media concepts: technology, language, representation.

Language skills: writing

Ask the students to produce a photo, paying attention to the choice of objects, camera angle, lighting, and so on. Encourage them to be creative and come up with interesting images of a subject they choose. They can gain some professional advice by visiting , a useful site that gives tips for taking better pictures and shows examples. Students bring their photos into the classroom, and on a separate sheet of paper, write the text (3-5 sentences explaining their idea, the meaning of the photograph). Photos and written texts are displayed on the table randomly; students match pictures with texts, then the photographs with the written text can be displayed on a bulletin board or other surface.

^ Activity 5. Story Time

Media concepts: representation, audiences.

Language skills: writing, speaking

For this activity you can use original photos or make photocopies of pictures from different sources or if the computer lab is available, you can use Power Point. Divide the class into groups of 4-5. Give each group a set of the same 5-7 photographs. Each group should then put the photos in order that, in their opinion, could tell a story. Students in groups should develop the story and in the end of the class present it for their classmates.

^ Глава 2. Кино

Использование кинофильмов в учебных целях имеет давние традиции в российской и зарубежной педагогике. Часто уроки истории, литературы, иностранного языка, во время которых учитель «показывал кино» оставались в памяти учеников как наиболее «интересные». Однако использование киноматериалов на занятиях носило второстепенный характер. Фильм оставался одним из технических средств обучения, или ТСО. В концепции же медиаобразования, сам фильм как медиатекст становится объектом изучения. Важно, чтобы учащиеся после просмотра могли не только пересказать сюжет фильма, но и проанализировать его форму. Всегда ли мы обращаем внимание на взаимосвязь формы и содержания фильма? Понимаем ли мы коды и условности того или иного жанра? Задумываемся ли мы над тем, почему авторы фильма используют те или иные средства и для чего? Ошибкой было бы считать, что навыки критического, вдумчивого зрителя необходимы только профессионалам в области киноиндустрии. Нашей целью не является также и воспитание будущих кинокритиков. Извлечь пользу из одного из самого популярного времяпрепровождения молодых людей и научить анализировать художественные, технические и коммерческие аспекты кинофильма - вот наши задачи на пути к главной цели - способствовать развитию критического мышления школьников и студентов.

Unit 2. Film

Film as dream, film as music…No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.” (Ingmar Bergman, Swedish film director)

Useful sites:,,,,,

Technology and materials: TV set, VCR, a movie poster.

Unit objectives:

students will:

  • discuss their film preferences;

  • identify and describe general cinema terms and professions in the media industry;

  • analyze the structure of a film poster;

  • create a movie poster;

  • explore the relationship between sound and image, the effects of basic camera shots

As going to the movies or watching films on TV, video or DVD is one of the most popular recreational activities of students. It makes sense to start this unit with an informal conversation about cinema. Discussion can be encouraged by the following questions:

  • Do you like to watch movies?

  • Where do you prefer to watch a film, in the movie theatre or at home?

  • What are your favorite movies? (You can list them on the blackboard, and then ask the students to try to determine which genre dominates in their “hit list”). Introduce the names of other film genres in English: western, science fiction, fantasy, horror, action, thriller, drama, comedy.

  • What affects your decision to see this or that movie? (a poster, TV advertisement (trailer), a friend’s suggestion?)

Activity 1. Analysis of a Film Poster

Media concepts: category, technology, representation

Language skills: speaking

Bring in the poster of a movie that students are not likely to have seen. If the actual poster is not available, make a photocopy (preferably, colored and enlarged) of a poster. Initiate a whole-class discussion:

  • What do you see in the poster? (Have the students name all the objects, beginning from the most dominant image to the less vivid).

  • Is there print text besides the images?

  • Describe the colors and lighting. What image is in the spot light? Are the rest of the images in diffused or normal lighting? What colors are dominant in the poster?

  • What is genre of the movie?

  • What is the film about?

  • What is the relationship between the characters shown in the poster?

  • Does this poster make you want to see the movie?

After the analysis, ask the students to form groups of 2-3 and design an original movie poster for the film they know, and present it to the class, explaining the choices they made (for more elaborate results, you might want to assign this project as a homework assignment).

^ Activity 2. Analysis of the Film Opening or Clips

Media concepts: language, category

Language skills: listening, speaking

Choose and prepare a videotape of a movie that is available in English in your school/college. Examine the videotape before using in the classroom for the appropriateness for this activity (I prefer using the opening sequences with music only, no dialogue). In the classroom, cover the television screen with a sheet of paper or piece of fabric. Play the opening sequence (3-5 minutes), students listen to the music without seeing the images. Ask them to guess what this movie might be about, what genre it is. Then, turn off the sound on your TV set and let the students watch the same sequence but without sound. This time, ask them what exactly they saw, who the main characters might be, what might happen next. Finally, play the opening sequence again, both image and sound. Draw the students’ attention to the relationship between the sound and image in audiovisual medium like film.

^ Activity 3. Film language

Media concepts: language

Language skills: listening, speaking, reading

In Unit 1 on Photography we introduced some basic vocabulary of visual composition of the still image- a photograph. This vocabulary is also transferable to analyzing moving images - a film. However certain terms can be added to enrich the vocabulary related to the topic and to help students “read” and interpret film language.

Shot (take)

An image captured by a single continuous running of a camera

Long shot

Is usually used to show the general location, environment

Medium shot

Usually shows a human figure down to the waist


A face of a person or an object is the main element in the frame

(extreme close-up if the camera looks at the specific part of the

object or part of a person’s face)

Camera angle

The position of the camera in relation to the object, “point of view”


Camera “looks up” to the object (low-angle)


Camera “looks down” on the object (high angle)

It is important to practice the skills of decoding the audiovisual images, to gain a more profound and richer understanding of the media text. All media are carefully constructed by people. Every production begins with step by step decision making. Understanding this enables students to proceed with the analysis of a media product.

  1. Show a movie clip and ask the students to recognize the single shots by raising a hand or calling out “shot”.

  2. Prepare a videotape with clips from several films illustrating the above basic terms, show it to the students and ask them to identify the type of a shot and camera angle.

  3. Take the scene from a short story or other literature that the students have recently read and ask them to think how they would film this scene. What shot would they use? Why? What camera angles would they use and why?

^ Activity 4. Storyboard

Media concepts: language, technology

Language skills: writing, speaking

Analysis is only one part of media education, while production is equally important in exploration of media texts. A storyboard is one of the most widely used production activities in media education. Film makers produce a series of simple drawings before they actually shoot an episode. These drawings show the schematic frame: the objects or actors, the type of camera shot and angle. It is important to ask the students to write a description of each shot, explaining the visual images. You can start by suggesting simple situations to develop on a storyboard, like:

  • a woman is shopping and buying something;

  • children are playing football;

  • a couple is eating in a restaurant;

  • people are waiting at a bus stop;

  • an old man is making tea, etc.

Besides the description of each shot, you can ask your students to write the “soundtrack” for their sequence. This may include dialogue/ monologue of characters and choice of music/sound effects. I found it more productive when the students worked on this assignment in small groups of 3, so that the students who do not have drawing experience would not be intimidated, and each member of the group can contribute his/her ideas to the benefit of the project. After the appropriate time limit for this activity has elapsed, ask the students to present their storyboards for the rest of the class.

A variation of the same task would be to make a storyboard based on part of a short story or a novel.

^ Activity 5. Producers

Media concepts: agency, audience

Language skills: speaking

Read a short story or play with your students. Then ask them to imagine that they are producers of a movie based on that story. They must choose the director, actors and locations for shooting the film. Let the students work in small groups and present their ideas both, visually (by using magazine cut outs, booklets, postcards, etc.) and orally (explaining why they chose this or that director/actor, location, etc.).

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