TIPs for Using Television in an ELA Classroom

Nicole Potter
EDSE 427
January 13, 2014

Introduction to T.v. in ELA

This page was designed to assist teacher in incorporating television in an English Language Arts class. The lessons provided have been linked with the GRADE of the Alberta Program of Studies, although they could be easily adapted for most Grade 9-12 classes. This page gives a cursory overview of the lessons. For more information, click on the buttons provided with each lesson.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Hush

Reading is no longer as simple as "transmitting facts from the printed page to the mind. Nor are texts perceived any more as that narrow vein of technology known as print media" (quoted in Falter 290). Today's students experience visual messages from a variety of sources that require decoding, from T.V. episodes, to advertisements, to vlogs (video blogs). Students can struggle with decoding visual messages if they have only been taught to decode "traditional" texts such as novels, poetry, or short stories. An excellent place to start to give students the tools and terminology they need to critically view media is Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran from 1997-2003, and although many of the episodes could happily find a home in your classroom, this lesson focuses on one: "Hush" (season 4, episode 10). Although it occurs mid-series, the episode is self-contained enough that it can be understood without too much backstory. It is available on Canadian and American Netflix, iTunes, and other online sources. I have provided a promo for the episode below to peak your interest. It may look terrifying; however, it received a Common Sense Media rating of 13, and would be appropriate for Grade 9 and up.

The villains of "Hush" are called The Gentlemen, and their presence causes the town of Sunnydale to lose their voices. Despite the lack of dialogue for X PERCENT of the episode, Buffy and her friends are able to DEFEAT ETC all the while conveying a wide range of emotions. EMOTIONS felt by audience. After students have watched the episode, discuss how the episode was effective, despite the lack of dialogue. Students should be able to recognize various ways meaning is transmitted (body language, music, ETC).

Television Autobiography and Critique

Before students start to negotiate the effect television's politics of representation has on society, they should first recognize the effect that television has on their personal lives. This can be accomplished by students writing an autobiography of their lives that focuses on TV shows they have watched and how those TV shows have affected them. Although this could be done on a basic level (the hours per week students spend watching TV) encourage students to make personal connections.

Talk about politics of representation in TV. Talk about students negotiating. Talk about students identifying one issue (race and gender stereotypes, heteronormativity/homophobia, body image, what teenagers are really like) they disagree with on TV. Create a collage with one side shows TV's representation, and the other side with representations from your life/real life.

Television and Advertising: MAPS