Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
How Media Shapes Perception
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for teachers is divided into three sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the lesson
Steps -- Conducting the lesson
Extension -- Additional Activities


Media Components

Computer Resources:
You will need at least one computer with Internet access to complete this lesson. While many configurations will work, we recommend:
  • Modem: 28.8 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 3.0 or above or Internet Explorer 3.0 or above.
  • Macintosh computer: System 7.0 or above and at least 16 MB of RAM.
  • IBM-compatible computer: 386 or higher processor with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 3.1. Or, a 486/66 or Pentium with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 95.

Specific Software Needed:
  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • Dreamweaver (or some other kind of html page-building software)
Bookmark the following sites:

Sites about the impact of media on children: Sites about the media:

Students need the following supplies:
  •  Access to computers and Web page-building software listed above
  •  Drawing paper and Magic Markers
  •  Butcher block paper

Introductory Activity:
1 class period

  • Begin the lesson by explaining to your students that during the next few days they will explore how the media shapes their opinions and emotional reactions to tragic events, such as those that occurred on September 11, 2001. After looking at various news organizations' homepages, students will convey their own opinions and emotions by creating their own homepage designs.

  • Ask your students to think about the kinds of headlines and television images they heard and saw on September 11 and the days following. Have them write down and draw any headlines and images they recall seeing in newspapers, on TV, or on the Web. If students have difficulty recalling specific things, you may put them into small groups or conduct this activity on the chalkboard with the full class participating.

  • Once they complete the assignment, have the students circle images or phrases that invoke reactions. Then ask them to write about their reactions. How did they feel-and what did they do-when they first read about or saw the elements they have circled? Allow students to discuss their reactions.

  • Finally, divide the class into two groups for a debate about whether or not the media can truly influence the way we think and feel.

    Learning Activities:

    Day 2

  • Begin the class by having students summarize some of the key arguments from the previous day's debate. Explain that now that they articulated their own opinions on the topic of media influence, they will investigate other perspectives on the issue.

  • Ask your students to visit the following Web sites, and write a paragraph on what each site reveals about the media's impact on children.

    Sites about the impact of media on children:

    Understanding the Impact of Media on Children and Teens
    This American Academy of Pediatrics article discusses the impact that the media has on teens.

    Children, Adolescents, and Television
    This abstract from the American Academy of Pediatrics gives useful statistics and facts about the impact of the media on children.

    Media Mayhem in the Midst of Tragedy
    This article discusses the pros and cons of exposing children to media coverage of tragic events, like those of September 11th, 2001.

    Television Violence,1510,3985,00.html
    A pediatrician writes about the effects of TV news on younger children.

    Violence in the News: Talking with Your Child,1510,6163+++,00.html
    A pediatrician discusses the effects of violence in the media on children.

    Helping Your Children Cope with the News of Reported Terrorist Attacks,1510,6150+cbx_families,00.html
    A pediatrician offers advice on how to help children cope with tragic stories in the news.

    HOMEWORK: Have your students write headlines and pull quotes that emphasize the key concepts they learned from the summarized articles.

    Day 3
    Now that your students have learned more about the media's impact on children, they will examine how messages are manipulated to convey particular editorial biases or emotions.

  • Ask students to respond to Marshall McLuhan's statement, "The medium is the message." What does this mean to them, and do they agree? For more information about McLuhan visit:

    Marshall McLuhan Background Information
    This Encarta article provides some facts on the thinking behind the phrase, "The medium is the message," and expert who coined it.

    Communication and Cultural Change
    This Encarta article offers a basic overview of how changing communication technologies are impacting society.

  • Have your students examine how editors alter grammatical rules to fit within the format of broadcast news. Break your class into groups and ask each to read through the interviews of news anchors on the following Web pages:

    The Vanishing Verb

    Based on what they read in the above stories, students should answer the following questions:
    • What constraints do broadcasts journalists face?
    • How do journalists or their editors alter language to deal with these constraints?
    • What effects does this have on the tone of the news stories they report?
    • What other ways do you think journalists manipulate our reactions to the news?
    HOMEWORK: Have your students watch an evening news program and record other ways that these programs convey information. For example, what kind of sound effects or graphics do the programs use? What effects do sound and graphic elements have on how a story's facts are presented?

    Day 4
    Now students will apply what they have learned to online news outlets.

  • Begin by reviewing the homework assignment. Write down some of your students' observations on how the broadcast news anchors conveyed the emotional meaning behind the stories.

  • Have students look at the News Website Homepages of CBS, CNN, ABC, PBS, NBC, and FOX, all from the same date. Ask your students to record factual information about the pages by using the Homepage Analysis Sheet. You may want to begin by modeling an analysis of one of the sites.

  • Once this assignment is complete, discuss how the pages varied. Use the following questions as springboards for discussion:

    • What kinds of facts or messages do each of these pages emphasize the most?
    • How would the messages change if the editors had chosen different graphics, lead stories, or even headlines?
    • What are the editors choosing not to emphasize?
    • What emotional impact do you think these pages are meant to convey?
    • How are these pages tapping into, strengthening, or weakening feelings you already have about the events and aftermath of September 11?
    • How are the editors and designers of the pages using graphics and color to convey messages?
    HOMEWORK: Have your students redesign one of the homepages to convey a different tone. They should rewrite headlines, use different pictures cut from magazines or newspapers, and change the look and feel of the pages to convey this new tone.

    Culminating Activity/Assessment:

  • Ask students to create their own news homepage that conveys a tone of their choice. Hand out the Homepage Assignment Organizer for specifics on the assignment. Ideally, the pages should be created in html. If these resources are unavailable, then have the students design the pages using paper and markers. Before any work begins, you may want to have students establish rubrics for this assignment.

  • Upon completion, have your students exchange homepages and write down their emotional reactions to each page. If the students created rubrics beforehand, ask them to grade each other's work using the established criteria.

  • Finally, ask what kind of impact they think their pages would have on younger children. Have they handled violence responsibly? Do they think the current television and Web sites are covering the September 11th tragedy and aftermath in a responsible manner?


    • Social Studies - Have students examine the role of the press during other historical periods of crisis such as the Vietnam War. Compare and contrast to today's coverage.
    • Health - Ask students to research and debate the effects of violence in the media on child development.
    • Art - Have students design a kid-friendly news page that deals with violence and tragedy.
    • Journalism - Have students learn more about the role of media in society by watching MEDIA MATTERS and visiting the program's Web site at

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students