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Reading Media Texts

The media text is any media product we wish to examine. Every description or representation of the world, fictional or otherwise, is an attempt to describe or define reality, and is in some way a construct of reality, a text. MedienABC

All media products, such as television programmes, films, CDs, books, newspapers, website pages, election campaigns, etc. can be used to teach media literacy. Many of these texts, such as comics, film and photographs are also visual texts, and specific suggestions for reading these texts can be found in Reading Visual Texts. The ideas and strategies found in Reading Information-based Texts can also be used with media texts.

Here we look more closely at media texts in general and at the key concepts that underpin all media literacy. Whenever a media product is being read, discussed, or produced, some aspects of the key concepts, (construction, text, audience and production) should be considered.

Key Concepts of Media Literacy

  • All media messages are ‘constructed.’
  • Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules. 
  • Different people experience the same media message differently. 
  • Media have embedded values and points of view. 
  • Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power.

Reading Strategies

It is important to help students develop skills and strategies that will empower them to negotiate media texts critically. In order to do this students must come to understand that:

  • there is no one ’true’ meaning, but rather a range of possible meanings in a text
  • the reader plays an active role in the negotiation of meaning
  • this role involves conscious choices rather than the unconscious acceptance of "preferred" readings. 

Teaching Suggestions

The following lessons provide suggestions for teaching students how to read, analyze and question media texts. 

Investigation of Junk Mail

This simple activity can help students better understand some of the key concepts of media literacy. 

Start the Investigation with questions such as the following. These are the kinds of questions we want media literate students to internalize.

  • How do you know what’s being advertised?
  • Who do you think is the target audience?
  • How do you know?
  • What do the advertisers want their audience to think about the products?
  • Which words and pictures tell you that?
  • Who produced these advertisements?
  • Why were they produced?
  • Are they effective?



A Critical Look at Commercial Advertising

This lesson from ReadWriteThink is a more in depth and critical study of the influence of mass media on our lives. Students become aware of the tremendous amount of advertising that they are exposed to on a daily basis. By looking at advertising critically, students begin to understand how the media oppresses certain groups, convinces people to purchase certain products, and influences culture. 


Analyzing Popular T.V. Programs

Another lesson from ReadWriteThink provides a platform in which students can critically analyze popular television programs. By looking at the media critically, students develop an awareness of the messages that are portrayed through the media." 


Asking Critical Questions

The video clip shown here introduces the five key critical questions that are asked of media and includes the voices of students answering critical questions about the message. These questions help students think critically about purpose, audience, point-of-view, and representation. 

  • Who is the author ?
  • What is the purpose of the message ?
  • What techniques are used to attract and hold your attention ?
  • What point-of-view is represented in this message ?
  • What points-of-view or information are missing from this message ?

Source : Media Education Lab


Additional Resources

MedienABC provides an introduction into media education for teachers. On this site you will find information and practical classroom suggestions taken from a range of well-known media education experts. It is worth a visit. 

MediaSmarts has a wealth of resources and information for teachers. 

To help teachers introduce the key concepts of media literacy to their students, MediaSmarts has partnered with Concerned Children’s Advertisers to develop a series of videos and accompanying lesson plans on each of the key concepts. 


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