Media literacy lessons pair really well with writing activities based on point of view. Students can critically read a media post or article and identify the author’s point of view and then work on determining the opposite point of view and using that as a topic for a short writing assignment.
Sometimes it can be easier to start with something seemingly non-controversial – such as a dog, or even a dessert! After all, if you think about it, there can be two sides to almost everything, and for kids who may be resistant to looking at the opposite side of a truly controversial topic, it just might work better to start with something that’s not a big deal, and work up for there.
Here are a few examples:
Dog Owners Rally Against Unnecessary Restrictions is a short passage which criticizes an imaginary county ordinance that would restrict walking dogs on neighborhood streets in the interest of safety. Students are first asked to identify the viewpoint of the article as it is written. Then they are asked to come up with a headline, the first few lines of an article, and an illustration for an article that would take the opposite point of view. Here you can see it all organized in a single activity sheet. (You can download the set of all three activity sheets for free here – Media Literacy Free Activity Sheets.)
Desserts Get Healthier! imagines a ruling that would prohibit restaurants from offering sweet desserts such as cake or ice cream. As you can tell from the title, this passage comes out in favor of the ruling. Using a format similar to the one above, students must think of ways to support the opposite point of view. This one is also part of the set of free activities that you can download using the link given in the last paragraph.
The third one, City Saves Money at Polls, supports shortening voting hours and closing polling locations in order to save tax dollars. Students respond, as with the other examples, by identifying the point of view (or viewpoint) and then considering the opposite way of looking at the issue for their responses.
Imagining the opposite point of view is a great activity that can enhance students media literacy and just help to make them more thoughtful, all-around readers. Using it as a lead-in to opinion or persuasive writing is a great way to hold students’ interest as you cover those reading and writing objectives. You might even think of it as a “paired passage” activity in which students pair their own writing with something they have read in a compare and contrast format.
Once students have become proficient working with short passages such as these, a good follow-up might be to use a current events article from a news source as a more-involved reading passage. Before beginning individual work on the opposite point of view, it might be a good time for a whole class discussion about the possible points of view and possible arguments on both sides – just to get the kids started thinking, and thinking positively.