The Media – What Can We Do to Them?

Written by: Nikolina Tsvetkova

Some ideas for using media texts in the EFL classroom to develop skills for intercultural communication

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Handout 1: Personally speaking

Task: Work in pairs. Ask your partner about as many different types of media s/he uses. Put them in Column A of the table below. In Column B put his/ her reasons for using them. Use the following rubrics:

(a) to get informed about recent events

(b) to broaden his/ her knowledge of a subject

(c) to get entertained

Having done this, range the Media from Column A according to how often s/ he uses them by giving them a number (1, 2, 3…) in Column C.

Report to the group what you have found out about your partner’s “media tastes”.

A. examples of media B. reasons for using them C. how often s/he uses them
eg radio


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Handout 2: Analysing Newspapers

1. technical codes 2. written codes 3. symbolic codes The front page as a whole
  • layout of the page
  • use of typefaces and fonts
  • size and quality of the photographs
  • relation between photographs and texts
  • reason for selecting particular photographs
  • size of the headlines
  • key words and their meaning
  • conventions used
  • influence of the headline on the reader’s attitude to the story
  • omission of information from the copy?
  • caption(s) and meaning
  • meaning of the masthead and title of the newspaper
  • way to achieve this
  • use of particular graphics and their meaning
  • use of colours and their meaning
  • use of symbolic codes in the pictures
  • the overall layout as ameans of attracting readers
  • link between the overall look of the page and particular messagse
  • means of creating the latter

(After O’Sullivan et al 1994:87 – 88)

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Handout 3

Woodhead laments boy’s writing score Boys are write-off target in spelling
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Some ideas for using media texts in the EFL classroom to develop skills for intercultural communication

  1. The Media – a personal view (warm-up)

Ps work in pairs. They receive Handout 1. Ps ask each other about what type of media they use, their reasons for using them and how often they use them; then they fill in the table with their partners’ answers.

Tutor elicits answers from several pairs. (It is not necessary for all pairs to report about their findings). A short discussion on the importance of the Medi ain contemporary life is initiated. Ps are told that they are going to concentrate on the print media during the session.

Aim:

  • to lead into the topic
  • to show draw Ps’ attention to the existing variety of media, and their being an integral part of people’s lives
  1. Audiences.

Drawing on Ps’ findings in the warm-up activity the tutor brainstorms them on the question why there is such a variety of newspapers trying to elicit from them the fact that there are different newspaper audiences.

Ps work in small groups of 4 on the question ‘What are the criteria for defining newspaper audiences. Groups report. Tutor sums up (if necessary guiding the discussion along these lines) that such criteria might be Gender, age, social class, educational background, political background. (see Edgington, B. and Montgomery, M. The Media, the British Council, 1996)

  1. Tabloids vs Broadsheets

Tutor puts on the board the words British press and asks the Ps what they associate with themleading them to the distinction between tabloids and broadsheets. Then s/ he distributes Handout 2 asking the Ps to fill in the numbered spaces in the table with the words given. T invites ps to compare answers with a partner, then checks that they have completed the task showing an OHT with the filed-in table.

  1. T asks Ps if they believe what they see in the newspapers and to what extent / why. T invites Ps to discuss what features of newspaper layout are most likely to influence readers. T distributes Handout 3 for Ps to check their ideas
  2. T tells Ps that they are going to work on two newspaper articles about Students’ ignorance in Britain. Asks them what differences they expect to find in the articles knowing they comment on one and the same thing and have been taken from a tabloid and a broadsheet.

T. divides the Ps in groups of 4. T distributes Handout 4 and a slip of the question fo the group. Ps put their findings in the column corresponding to the headline of the articles they have. They are asked to predict the source.

T puts them in new groups so that there are people who have worked on either of the articles. They read the other article, exchange information and end up with a table of comparison filled in for both of them. The groups report.

Ps are invited to compare their findings with their predictions.

  1. A Cross-cultural comparison.

Ps are given a copy of a Bulgarian article and are asked to consider the same questions about it, trying to say what features are prevailing – the tabloid or the broadsheet ones.

The discussion could then follow a number of directions such as whether such a distinction between tabloids and broadsheets exist in our culture, an attempt to outline some characteristic features of theMonitor, other possible approaches to media texts.

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Handout 4: Comparing tabloids and broadsheets

Task 1 Quickly scan the table below trying to work out which type of newspapers the information in the respective column refers to and put in the top cells of columns A and B the words ‘broadsheets’ and‘tabloids’.

Task 2 Fill in the numbered spaces with the words: cheaper, tabloid, twice, expensive, low, broadsheet, gutter press, in-depth, high heavyweights, human interest political. Some of the words can be used more than once.

A. B.
Size Are half the size of (1)….. Are (7)……the size of (8)…..
Coverage More often concentrate on (2)……..stories than hard news More often concentrate on (9)…….coverage of (10)…….national and international news
Cost Are (3)……..than (4)…….. Are more (11)……..than (12)…….
Circulation Usually have (5)……..circulation figures Usually have (13)…… circulation figures
Referred to as The (6)……..

The yellow press (less usual)

The quality press

The (14)……….

After Edgington, B. and Montgomery, M. The Media, the British Council, 1996, p.140

(Adapted from Tsvetkova, Karastateva ‘Media Studies’, Module 2, Unit 2, ‘Intercultural Studies for Language Teachers’, a post graduate distance learning course, p. 5

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How can the layout of a newspaper article help represent a piece of news?

Questions for the groups (T divides Ps in 4 groups and gives each two groups copies of one and the same article so that there are two groups working on (Woodhead laments boys’  writing score) and two groups working on Boys are write-off target in spelling and the same set of questions:

Group 1: (Woodhead laments boys’  writing score)

  • What page has the article been published on? Where is it placed on the page?
  • What does it tell you about the medium’s attitude to the news presented?
  • What is the size of the headline compared to the size of the text?
  • (How) does the headline influence the way the reader will approach the story?

Group 2: (Boys are write-off target in spelling)

  • What page has the article been published on? Where is it placed on the page?
  • What does it tell you about the medium’s attitude to the news presented?
  • What is the size of the headline compared to the size of the text?
  • (How) does the headline influence the way the reader will approach the story?

Group 3: (Woodhead laments boy’s writing score)and

  • Are there any photographs? What do they represent and how (if any)?
  • Does the caption of the photograph help understand its meaning?
  • Is the text a uniform whole (observe the use of different typefaces, fonts, colours, italicising, underlining, etc)What do their presence (or absence) imply?
  • How do the above influence the reader’s attitude to the story?

Group 4: (Boys are write-off target in spelling)

  • Are there any photographs? What do they represent and how (if any)?
  • Does the caption of the photograph help understand its meaning?
  • Is the text a uniform whole (observe the use of different typefaces, fonts, colours, italicising, underlining, etc)What do their presence (or absence) imply?
  • How do the above influence the reader’s attitude to the story?
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Some possible answers

Woodhead laments boy’s writing score Boys are write-off target in spelling
  • p. 6
  • the top quarter of the page
  • its being placed at the top shows that the medium gives it priority over the other ‘educational news’ which follow below
  • the typefaces of the headline are bigger than those of the text
  • it prepares the reader for what is to follow, namely the regret over boys’ low scores but without the sarcasm of the Sun, it sounds more serious
  • Only one – of Mr Woodhead looking through the blinds of his office window as if not directly involved in the situation
  • The photo is far more meaningful than the caption
  • The language is quite formal, the sentences are relatively long. There are a lot of quotes, too but they are not separated from the rest of the text by means of typography in this way suggesting that the author is trying to give as many opinions on the issue as possible
  • The tone is a serious one
  • They imply that the medium is impartial, trying to draw a dfetailed picture of 11-year-olds problems with writing
  • p. 6
  • central placedespite the number of the page
  • despite the number of the page, the space it occupies makes the readers believe that the issue of illiteracy is an important one according to the medium. It also becomes clear that there is another material devoted to the same problem on p. 8
  • the headline stands out against the body of the text; there are several subtitles breaking the uniformity of the text
  • prepare the reader for thesun’s attitude, namely that the test results are alarming despite the soothing words of Mr Woodhead
  • yes, the reader expects to find out about boys’ being illiterate.
  • The photo of Mr Woodhead is smaller in comparison to the mock schools inspector 2000 final report
  • The caption hints at the possible reason for Mr W.’s quitting post and prepares the reader for the sarcasm in the text below
  • Semi-formal language, a lot of quotes, a lot of subheading of different size, which imitate spoken language
  • The tone is sarcastic
  • The reader tends to disbelieve the words of government officials and identify themselves with the voice of the medium

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