Middle School Curriculum
Media Straight Up! Critical Thinking Skills for Pennsylvania’s Youth
The Media Straight Up! is designed to be flexibly used in the context of middle school English, Language Arts, Health Education, Communication Arts, or Technology classes. These lessons can also be useful for after-school programs. Each lesson is a stand-alone activity that may require from one to six class periods, depending upon student response.
The Media Straight Up! consists of twelve lesson plans, handouts, and visual support materials. Multimedia materials help teachers create a dynamic learning experience for students, and many activities are designed to strengthen reading comprehension and analysis skills while building students’ knowledge of health-prevention issues. Some lessons are designed to take advantage of the media that middle school students tend to consume (such as online videos). However, we recognize the limitations that many teachers face in incorporating online media in their classrooms, and have included alternative options for all online activities.
In this downloadable guide, you will learn about how the skills of digital and media literacy can contribute to young people’s abilities to understand how media messages affect their perceptions of drugs and alcohol, and may influence the choices they make.
Adolescents are big consumers of media—in particular, music, television, video games, and the Internet. Research from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that American youth between the ages of eleven and fourteen spend nearly nine hours per day using media. And when multitasking is taken into consideration, youth consume almost twelve hours of media in any given day. Over the last several years, cell phones have significantly changed the way young people consume and create media, with 69% of eleven- to fourteen-year-olds now owning their own cell phones. Youth use cell phones not only to communicate with friends but also to play games, listen to music, and look at, create, and share photos and videos.
Most parents and educators have a love-hate relationship with media, as they see how it influences the day-to-day lives of young people. The positive influences of media contribute to our students’ formal and informal education. But the negative influences of media can promote unhealthy and risky behaviors among teens, including sexual activity, violence, alcohol, tobacco, and substance abuse.
For young people to thrive in a media- and technology-saturated society, teachers and parents must help students to critically evaluate the information they receive from the mass media and learn how to reflect upon and analyze their media consumption choices.
This curriculum helps students:
• Recognize how media messages influence them. Students will internalize the skills they need to protect themselves against messages about drugs or unhealthy lifestyle choices.
• Develop critical thinking.
When youth learn to analyze media, they uncover the messages about drugs that are embedded in media. Students can decide for themselves whether to accept or reject those messages.
• Foster healthy self-esteem.
Students who are skilled and knowledgeable about media and advertising techniques can use media to creatively produce messages of their own.