Grades: 6-8; 9-12
Subjects: Language Arts, Social Studies (Current Events), Journalism
In an attempt to debunk the old adage, “What you see is what you get,” learners develop an understanding of the relationship between bias and perspective.
- Develop an understanding of the connection between our experiences and our interpretations.
- Identify possible manifestations of image bias.
- Discuss and compare perspectives relating to their interpretation of images.
- Write a news report demonstrating their understanding of perspective.
- Reflect on the relationship between bias and perspective.
- Computers with Internet access
- notebooks/writing materials
To introduce the activity it would be helpful to discuss an image familiar to the classroom. It could be an image from a school newspaper or a yearbook, even a picture from the teacher’s desk. For the best results, try to find a picture that demonstrates action, possibly a picture of people talking, or gesturing in some way. Without prefacing the image, ask students to take out a piece of paper and write a brief description of what the see happening in 2-3 sentences. Based on the image, it may be appropriate to ask certain questions relating to the image to get the descriptions moving.
Have students share their descriptions and discuss some of the differences in interpretation or explanation that may have occurred, ending why some thoughts on why these differences came about.
Briefly discuss the notions of image bias and perspective as explained in the University of Michigan News Bias Website.
Based on the number of computers available break students into groups and direct them to the “You Be the Reporter” activity on the news bias website. As part of this activity they will be asked to interpret images share their responses and discussing differences in "reporting" that might have occurred even in light of the fact that they were all presented with the same information and guidelines. After this discussion they will be able to initiate a link that will provide then with the actual text that accompanied the image. This should in turn spark a discussion of what one might learn from this experience and how what they have learned from the rest of the site could inform this discussion.
- How would you describe the events you perceive to be taking place?
- What social issues might be this image be addressing?
- How does this image make you feel? Offer your interpretation of it's significance.
- How does your "report" differ from those around you? Discuss what may have led to these differences.
Develop at least one image description into a full-blown news story. This is an exercise in writing, but also an opportunity to explore the relationship between bias and perspective by attempting to identify with a variety of perspectives. The story should be written with a specific perspective in mind. Students should draw from the discussion regarding how their report differed from others and latch on to a perspective either they recognize from their interpretation or from another they pick up on. Once students decide upon a perspective (liberal vs. conservative; sensational, appalled, sympathetic…) to angle their reporting towards, they can begin writing their account of what they see in the image just as if they were a news reporter.
In addition to the news story, have students include a brief reflection on any new thoughts they may have on how their perspective influenced their interpretation of the image.
Students will be assessed based on the content of their written response as well as their participation in the activity. The teacher should develop a rubric stating what student’s should include in the written response as well as a way to indicate what will be assessed as far as participation is concerned.
- Grab a parent or two (maybe even an older sibling), sit them on the couch, and make them watch the evening news with you. Just one catch though-the volume must be completely turned off. Set your VCR to record what you are watching, and take notes on what you think the different stories are about answering some of the same questions we asked about the images in class. When the news is over compare notes and interpretations with the those who watched with you and discuss why you think some of the differences in interpretation may have occurred.
ASSIGNMENT: Watch the news report again with the sound on and compare notes writing about how you perspective may have been different from the one that was actually being portrayed.
- Respond to the actual text associated with the image in reference to your own response and again use information from the website to explore why differences may have occurred, and what this may imply.
Michigan Language Arts Content Standards:
Content Standard 3: All students will focus on meaning and communication as they listen, speak, view,
read, and write in personal, social, occupational, and civic contexts.
- Integrate listening, viewing, speaking, reading, and writing skills for multiple purposes and in varied contexts. An example is using all the language arts to prepare and present a unit project on career exploration.
- Begin to implement strategies to regulate effects of variables of the communication process. An example is selecting a format for the message to influence the receiver's response.
- Read and write fluently, speak confidently, listen and interact appropriately, view critically, and represent creatively. Examples include reporting formally to an audience, debating issues, and interviewing members of the public.
Content Standard 7: All students will demonstrate, analyze, and reflect upon the skills and processes
used to communicate through listening, speaking, viewing, reading, and writing.
- Use a combination of strategies when encountering unfamiliar texts while constructing meaning. Examples include generating questions, studying vocabulary, analyzing mood and tone, recognizing how creators of text use and represent information and matching form to content.
Content Standard 8: All students will explore and use the characteristics of different types of texts,
aesthetic elements, and mechanics -- including text structure, figurative and
descriptive language, spelling, punctuation, and grammar -- to construct and convey
- Describe and use characteristics of various informational genre (e.g., biographies, newspapers, brochures, and persuasive arguments and essays) and elements of expository text structure (e.g., multiple patterns of organization, relational links, and central purposes) to convey ideas.
- Explain how the characteristics of various oral, visual, and written texts (e.g., videos, hypertext, glossaries, textbooks, and speeches) and the textual ads they employ (e.g., subheadings/titles, charts, and indexes) are used to convey meaning.
Content Standard 9: All students will demonstrate understanding of the complexity of enduring issues and
recurring problems by making connections and generating themes within and across
- Develop a thesis using key concepts, supporting evidence, and logical argument.
Content Standard 10: All students will apply knowledge, ideas, and issues drawn from texts to their lives
and the lives of others.
- Perform the daily functions of a literate individual. Examples including acquiring information from multiple sources and then evaluating, organizing, and communicating it in various contexts.
- Use oral, written, and visual texts to identify and research issues of importance that confront adolescents, their community, their nation, and the world. Examples include using research findings to organize and create texts to persuade others to take a particular position or to alter their course of action with regard to a particular school/community issue or problem.