I had grand ideas. I had planned to have my freshmen at Hill Regional Career High School skim newspapers and then engage in a rich discussion of the day's news and editorials. While I knew the activity might present some challenges, I thought those would be limited to the news format rather than content. After all, by a show of hands, my freshmen informally revealed that they had little-to-no exposure to daily or weekly newspapers. However, by a similar showing, most students revealed they received most of their news—or "information"—from television and various entertainment and celebrity gossip websites. So, as my students perused the
New Haven Register
The New York Times,
it was not much of a surprise to me when they found it difficult to navigate the editorial landscape of print journalism and distinguish between the credibility of front page news versus the persuasiveness of the Op-Ed section. What
surprise and even upset me, however, was that some students did not grasp the difference between a news article and a lengthy, text-heavy advertisement. I found myself backing up a few paces and giving the class a mini-lesson on distinguishing between advertising and reporting. I am still not convinced all of my students yet grasp that difference or, more importantly, why they need to be able to identify one from the other.
As for that rich discussion of the day's news and editorials? It never happened.
This unit will teach students how to slow the pace of observation and note details of what they see in visual images. By teaching students how to slow down and question what it is they are actually viewing, we can help them consider how the details they notice tell a larger story—the bigger picture. When students develop skills of critical observation, they will then be able to see more clearly the intended meaning behind images as well as the intended meaning or message behind images paired with text—in particular, advertisements. What's more, students can extend this skill to being able to more capably discern fact from opinion in editorial text in newspapers, magazines and online news forums. This unit will allow students to learn how to pair rhetorical devices with images to create persuasive advertisements for consumer products (real or imagined) or causes (again, real or imagined). By learning how to observe and interpret images, students will also learn how to use images and text to persuade audiences and convey their own messages and ideas.