Teaching Ideas

3 Quick Media Literacy Activities for Secondary ELA

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These quick and low-prep media literacy activities will help you improve your student’s critical thinking skills, teach rhetorical analysis and persuasive techniques, and even practice public speaking!

A stack of newspapers with a white rectangle in the center. There is pink and black text that says "Short & Sweet Media Literacy Activities"

To me, teaching media literacy goes hand in hand with teaching Secondary ELA. After all, understanding and interpreting a novel, or analyzing an author’s purpose isn’t so different from critically reading a news article or blog post.

Media literacy is especially critical if you’re teaching about current events or exploring topics like immigration or social justice in ELA.

What is media literacy? 

Teaching media literacy is all about helping students develop their critical thinking skills and become responsible consumers and creators of media. Students with strong media literacy skills can: 

  • Understand how media is being constructed for a purpose
  • Assess the influence of that media on themselves and others
  • Create media thoughtfully and conscientiously

-definition from

Why is media literacy important?

Media Literacy moves beyond just teaching students to identify persuasive techniques and propaganda – it helps them understand the messages they are receiving every day. Beyond traditional literacy skills of reading and writing, students need to be able to decode videos, social media posts, songs, and much more. 

Media literacy activities for high school and middle school help students move from a “hunch” about what someone is trying to sell them to being able to critically analyze messages.

Quick Media Literacy Activities:

1. “Buy My Pencil” Speaking Game

I originally shared this game in the post Six Ideas for Teaching Media Literacy over at the Secondary English Coffee Shop Blog. 

In this activity, students try to convince each other to buy a pencil. They will employ various persuasive techniques, even if they do not yet have the names for all of them. This is because students absorb persuasion constantly, and demonstrate various techniques on a hunch. After a few minutes of letting them try to sell a partner their pencil, call students back together and have them describe the techniques they used.

To extend this, you can have students perform these impromptu skits in front of a larger group or in front of the class. This is a great way to get some informal public speaking practice, and I’m always a proponent of making public speaking less intimidating.

2. Persuasive Techniques Bell Ringers

Use these bell ringers as daily media literacy activities for high school or middle school. Students will practice analyzing persuasive techniques in writing, ads, and music. They will also use persuasion effectively in scaffolded writing and artistic tasks!

These bell ringers are so useful for teaching media literacy because they provide daily practice and leave plenty of time to touch base on skills. 

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4. Introduction to Rhetoric Doodle Notes

Use this FREE media literacy activity to introduce ethos, logos, and pathos to students. Students watch two videos and read an article, all found for free online. As they go, they complete their visual notes. 

This is a great activity to kick off your Persuasive Techniques and Media Literacy Unit!

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I hope this post showed you how teaching media literacy is in middle or high school ELA! As teachers, we aren’t just here to help students make sense of Shakespeare, we’re also here to help them make sense of the world around them.

Do you have any go-to media literacy activities? Comment below!

Happy teaching!

P.S. If you try any of these activities with your students, I’d love to hear how it went! Reach out on IG @nouvelle_ELA 🙂