Monday, February 11, 2013

Reading and Viewing with a Critical Lens: Monday's Minilesson Magic

This quarter in readers' workshop, we have been working on reading informational texts (specifically opinion-based informational texts). We have focused on previewing, knowing whether a text is for, against, or neutral, summarizing, previewing to try to figure out the structure of the text, note-taking, and talking back to the text. Last week, we worked on reading and viewing texts with a critical lens. We learned to analyze the text with a number of critical questions in mind.
For our minilesson models, we have been focusing on the "chocolate milk in schools" debate. For my lessons on critical literacy, we analyzed two texts that we had previously used in other minilessons that have two opposing views on chocolate milk in schools,  an ad from the National Dairy Council and the Jamie Oliver Foundation.

We chose to read our Jamie Oliver article critically first because it would push us to think critically since we are leaning towards limiting chocolate milk in schools for our opinion essay. Next we analyzed an advertisement from the National Dairy Council titled "Five Reasons Why Flavored Milk Matters." We had previously used this text in our "talking back" to the text lesson. We realized that Jamie Oliver was biased (he says "chocolate milk does not belong in schools" AT ALL) because he is trying to fight the obesity epidemic and sees processed foods and extra sugar as a contributor to the obesity epidemic. The National Dairy Council is biased because their main goal is to get people to consume more milk and have specifically targeted increasing consumption of flavored milk. We discussed how the NDC uses fear to try to manipulate parents and schools into thinking that the main way to help kids get their nutrients is through flavored milk. ("Kids like the taste!") We discussed how this is the easy way out and does not require schools and parents to TEACH kids to like the taste of white milk and other foods that will provide them with the same nutrients.

For more practice, we used a commercial recently put out by Coca-Cola. I prompted students to think about what messages the Coke company was trying to send us and what they were trying to get us to believe. Next, I showed the video again and asked students to look for visual and auditory methods the authors of the text used to send us their messages. Through these lessons, I hope my students are getting more critically intelligent. I also shared with students the recent Fooducate blog post that brought this video to my attention. Fooducate is well-known by my students as we used the fooducate app in our science/nutrition unit last year. I explained to students that Fooducate typically does a great job with critical literacy. They are trying to help us navigate the world of food where food companies are trying to convince us that the products they make are healthy and nutritional for us.

I just found this video where someone has taken the Coca Cola commercial and put in the "real" information that we need to know in order to critically understand this video. Can't wait to show this to my kiddos this coming week to show them critical literacy IN ACTION!

For our unit, students have been reading opinion-based articles and blog posts on debatable topics (like athlete salaries, school uniforms, technology money spent in schools, e-readers versus books, single-gender schools, competitive sports for young children, etc.). Basically, they are doing the research for an opinion-based essay during our reading time so that writing time can be spent learning the techniques of essay writing and using evidence based terms within a researched piece of writing.

 I found a lot of the texts we are using through the Teacher's College Reading and Writing projects website if you are looking for Opinion-based articles. As students have honed in on their topics, we have also had to search for more articles on their specific topic through our handy-dandy friend named google.

For me, the whole point of critical literacy is to teach students to consider whether or not a text is trying to send them an ulterior message and to think about the goals of the author, company, or organization that has created the text. While I don't think critical literacy will stop us from having chocolate milk or soda now and then, I hope my students do not let the media convince them that these are HEALTHY choices.

By the way, you can download the chart above at my TPT store. It is in a one page format and 1/2 page format for student journals/reader response notebooks.

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