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Media Literacy Resources for Classrooms

A best-of-the-best collection of resources for teaching and learning about media literacy.

Tanner Higgin | January 10, 2020

Media literacy is a way for us to better understand our world and have our say in it. It involves understanding how -- and why -- a media message is constructed as well as its impact on the world. Effective media literacy education also involves a strong focus on civic engagement and creation, connecting people with the tools to make their voices and perspectives heard. Of course, media literacy is always evolving as technology and culture shift, and there's no shortage of smart frameworks that each define it slightly differently. All agree, however, that media literacy is an important component of learning -- whether as its own focus or a cross-curricular literacy woven deeply into every classroom.

In this collection, you'll find hand-picked, regularly updated resources to help you better understand and practice media literacy. At the top, there are featured resources as well as more comprehensive curricula. Then you'll find lessons, videos, downloadables, and games organized by a few key topic areas, like interpreting media, media creation, and media manipulation.

Jump down to a section

Media Literacy Courses and Curricula
Creating Media and Media Production
Interpreting Media and Media Messages
Media Platforms and Industries
Media Manipulation
Research on Media Literacy
Media Literacy Organizations to Explore for More

 

= one of our favorite resources

 

Media Literacy Courses and Curricula

The providers below offer more comprehensive resources on media literacy, from courses (from just a few hours to weeks) to a curriculum linked to a scope and sequence and standards.

  • Digital Citizenship Curriculum (by Common Sense Education): Features free K-12 lessons on news and media literacy.
  • KQED Teach (by KQED): Aimed at teachers, these courses cover key topics and skills teachers need to not just teach but practice media literacy. For more, check out our review.
  • Media and Information Literacy Curriculum for Teachers (by UNESCO): Dense, thorough, and global curriculum available in many languages.
  • Media Literacy (by Crash Course): A 12-part video series that goes beyond the typical media literacy topics, digging into things like the history of media literacy and how policy affects the media we consume.
  • Media Literacy Scope and Sequence Template (by The Media Spot): While not a curriculum, this detailed template can serve as the foundation of a whole-school approach to media literacy curricular integration. (Note: The template is linked near the bottom of the article.)
  • The Ontario Curriculum (by the Ontario Ministry of Education): Maybe the best example of how to weave media literacy fundamentally into primary and secondary school curricula. Look in the Language and English sections, among others.

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Creating Media and Media Production

There's a common saying within media literacy education: People need to not just be consumers but creators. While it might be cliché, it's also true. Media literacy must not just be about critiquing media but contributing media that fights for a more just and inclusive world.

Websites, articles, feeds, and newsletters

  • 4 Ways to Integrate Media Literacy in the Classroom (Common Sense Education): This article by Rhys Daunic, founder of The Media Spot, offers a quick, practical guide to making media literacy a core part of your curriculum, including some clever media-creation projects.
  • Try This! (by Ren LaForme at the Poynter Institute): Billed as a "tools for journalism" newsletter, this weekly dispatch touches on timely topics in the news alongside suggestions for useful tools and productivity tips.
  • Why and How to Use YouTube Video Essays in Your Classroom (by Common Sense Education): Video essays -- a popular genre on YouTube -- can make for great student projects; this article offers a bunch of examples for inspiration.
  • YR Media: A media and storytelling organization that centers the voices and experiences of young people, particularly people of color. They consistently put out some of the most compelling and authentic journalism for teens and 20-somethings. For more, check out our review.

Lesson plans and activities

  • Applied Digital Skills (by Google): If you're a Google school, these useful lessons help students use Google tools to create both practical and creative projects. For more, check out our review.
  • A Curriculum for Digital Media Creation: Sixteen Lessons, from Storyboarding to Producing a Documentary (by Marco Antonio Torres and Ross Kallen): While this is a little out-of-date, these lessons provide an excellent framework for teaching documentary filmmaking.
  • DIY (YR Media): These articles offer practical advice and tips for how to write and create modern journalism and media, from listicles to podcasts to article pitches.
  • Media Production Lessons (by MediaSmarts): Browse MediaSmart's lessons focused on creating media ranging from videos to news reports.
  • Remix (by the University of Notre Dame): This site features project-based lessons and outlines to help teachers plan student media-creation projects like podcasts, videos, and infographics. There's also a handy list of tools and websites.

Videos

  • LEVEL UP: A Student Reporting Labs Original Video Tutorial Series (by PBS News Hour): These excellent short tutorials (and supporting worksheets) cover essential video and audio production techniques.
  • LinkedIn Learning: Formerly Lynda.com, LinkedIn Learning is a subscription-based site for courses in media production and beyond. There are both pay-per-course and subscription options, but unfortunately it's tied to a LinkedIn account.
  • Udemy: This video-based learning site has high-quality courses for just about anything students will need to know. You'll need to pay for each course, but once you do it'll be in your library forever.

Handouts, infographics, and posters

Games, apps, and tools

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Interpreting Media and Media Messages

It's foundational to media literacy education that people don't take media messages at face value, but rather think critically about them and contextualize them. This means digging into how media messages are made, why they're made, whose interests they serve, and what they mean. This has become all the more complex thanks to the mutability of the web, and the way authority has been rewritten thanks to social media.

 

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Websites, articles, feeds, and newsletters

Lesson plans and activities

  • Get Media L.I.T.: These high-quality, comics-based lessons offer a nice blend of media interpretation, social and emotional learning, and media creation. For more, check out our review.
  • Media Issues Lessons (by MediaSmarts): One of the best things about MediaSmarts' sprawling curricular resources is they have a strong focus on media representations and stereotypes, touching on issues of gender, sexuality, race, body image, and more. 

Videos

Handouts, infographics, and posters

Games, apps, and tools

  • Best Interactive Video Apps and Websites (by Common Sense Education): Use these video-editing apps and websites to remix and add commentary to everything from commercials to music videos. 
  • Top Tech for Digital Annotation (by Common Sense Education): These tools could be useful for students creating and sharing critiques of media, particularly web-based resources. Many also allow students and teachers to collaborate on annotations and critiques.

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Media Platforms and Industries

You can't truly understand media without understanding the circumstances in which it gets produced. How do the platforms that host media shape the way media behaves and persuades? How do the larger industries, corporations, and economies surrounding, supporting, and/or contesting media affect which media gets produced or what it means? How do we as media consumers and creators advocate for ourselves and protect our data and intellectual property?

Websites, articles, feeds, and newsletters

Lesson plans and activities

  • Advertisements and You (by Teaching Tolerance): This K-2 lesson helps kids understand what an advertisement is, and recognize that companies target kids for revenue.
  • Big, Big Data (by Common Sense Education): Data drives internet profits, and this lesson helps students recognize why and how companies collect and sell their info for profit.
  • Clicks for Cash (by Common Sense Education): Explore the profit motive behind fake news websites.
  • Risk Check for New Tech (by Common Sense Education): Get students thinking critically about what they give up whenever they sign up for a new service or device.
  • Web Literacy Basics and Web Literacy Basics II (by Mozilla): These lessons peel away the layers of the web, helping students understand the way websites, social media, and more work.
  • You Are the Product (by Teaching Tolerance): Get students to reflect on the business behind social media, and the mathematics of viral success.

Videos

Handouts, infographics, and posters

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Media Manipulation

Part of interpreting media is also identifying when and how it's been altered and manipulated. Media literacy helps us see how media has been altered throughout history, and the specific challenges it poses today to truth and democracy.

Websites, articles, feeds, and newsletters

Lesson plans and activities

  • Are Deepfake Videos a Threat to Democracy? (by Common Sense Education): Use this video and lesson to help students understand what deepfakes are and how they might impact democratic institutions like fair elections.
  • Digital Media and the Brain (by Common Sense Education): Explore the ways media is designed to capture and keep attention.
  • Don't Feed the Phish (by Common Sense Education): Teach students the essential skills to fend off scams and identity theft online.
  • Hoaxes and Fakes (by Common Sense Education): This lesson shows students how to use fact-checking skills when watching questionable videos.
  • Spot a Bot: Identifying Automation and Disinformation on Social Media (by Data for Democracy): This deep dive into bots -- which are a key tool of disinformation campaigns -- defines and describes the different types of bots and the tactics they use to influence and manipulate.

Videos

Handouts, infographics, and posters

  • Understanding Information Disorder (by First Draft): This in-depth research report maps out the media-manipulation landscape, breaking it down into seven key categories.

Games, apps, and tools

  • TinEye and Google Reverse Image Search (Note: Click on the camera icon if you're on a laptop or desktop): The two best tools for finding out where else an image appears on the web. Great for fact-checking faked, manipulated, or inaccurately cited images.

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Research on Media Literacy

Below you'll find some researchers and research organizations who focus on media literacy. We've also highlighted a few key pieces of their work.

Media Literacy Organizations to Explore for More