Language in the Media
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Delivery guides are designed to represent a body of knowledge about teaching a particular topic and contain:
- Content: A clear outline of the content covered by the delivery guide;
- Thinking Conceptually: Expert guidance and activities on the key concepts involved, common difficulties students may have, approaches to teaching that can help students understand these concepts and how this topic links conceptually to other areas of the subject;
- Thinking Contextually: A range of guidance and suggested teaching activities using a variety of themes so that different activities can be selected which best suit particular classes, learning styles or teaching approaches.
This section focuses on discourse in a multi-modal media text and requires learners to apply language concepts and theories to their analysis of linguistic and graphological features.
This section is synoptic and will require learners to draw together their understanding of differing concepts and issues, alongside the contextual aspects of a media text, in order to effectively analyse and evaluate language use in media texts.
|AO2||Demonstrate critical understanding of concepts and issues relevant to language use.|
|AO3||Analyse and evaluate how contextual factors and language features are associated with the construction of meaning.|
It is important to keep in mind that, as a synoptic question, any and all of the conceptual knowledge students have will be relevant. Delivery guides covering power, gender and technology are available on the OCR English Language homepage. Engagement with representations, as with other questions on this course, will also provide a productive means of conceptualising the data and showing an understanding of concepts. This guide is written with the expectation that students will most likely have studied a range of social contexts prior to this unit There is equal focus given to concepts and to contexts and it is also important to make students aware that any text has multiple contexts. There should be a clear focus on both production and reception.
Finally, the absence of AO1 should not lead to responses that are any less focused on identifying and exploring patterns of language use. This is, after all, a Language exam and precise use of terminology and sound exemplification and analysis will always be rewarded.
The guide will look at a number of different contexts. In the early lesson activities look at ideology and bias and how these can influence representations.
The guide then goes on to think about students might approach the exam question – both in terms of planning and responding to different texts.
Students often arrive with less of an awareness of media ideologies than we might expect. This activity is about leading them to identifying the values, beliefs and ideas which underpin a particular publication.
Begin with a broad statement about the influence/power of the media. The Malcolm X quotation is a particularly useful starting point: “The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” Any relevant discussion structure can be used to provoke and collect reactions to this. Students should then be given a particular newspaper (this could be a whole paper, an online edition or even just a cover story). Depending on group size, pairs or individuals each work on a different paper and answer the prompt questions in Learner Resource 1.1.
Having focused on the content and context of their text, students could then be asked to apply their linguistic knowledge to ‘prove’ any assertions they’ve made. This could then lead to a whole class ranking of how near or far the texts used match their own ideological views.
The link on the right is to a rather out of date discussion of the political leanings of certain papers. Students could use this as a starting point test whether it remains true based on the text they have. This would also serve the purpose of improving their understanding of different publications’ bias.
Pairs could join together and complete a comparative task of their two texts. Whilst comparison isn’t required on this question, this is useful practice for Section C on Component 2.
Challenge students to identify the gendered representations inherent in each text and to link those to language levels.
The link on the right is to an editorial in The Independent from the 28th of October 2016.
Students should use the text for a part-guided analysis, part-language investigation. Learner Resource 2.1 is a list of noun phrases used for Blair throughout the text (note: for the sake of clarity, most pronominal references have been excluded). For ease of reference, they have been numbered. Students should complete this task prior to reading the full text and could reasonably produce an analytical paragraph focused purely on the lexical choices in these noun phrases. They may focus on 2, 12, 13, 15 and 17 as represented Blair as powerful through possession of significant qualities or views. They may focus on the frequent use of the formal naming system seen in 9-11 and how this is atypical of the genre.
One example to guide them towards (or away from dependent on their resilience to challenge) is 24. Simply based on the list, this could be seen as a brief offering of balance. At the very least students may note that it is in contrast to established pattern of the other examples. However, when read in context (“Mr Blair is often regarded as being an extraordinarily unprincipled politician.”) the use of the agentless passive serves to diminish this view.
Get students thinking about agency. Ask them to go through the text and list the subject of each finite verb in each clause. This could be a good opportunity to review basic clause analysis as well as highlighting another interesting pattern in the data. The level of depth/detail can be adapted as needed. This could be done under timed conditions (e.g. 5 mins to find…) or could be useful as an investigation practice task (e.g. 45 mins to find, list and work out statistics etc…)
This is a rich text and a full analysis would be a fruitful use of student time. If viewed online, students could focus on how the images and embedded video reinforce the editorial standpoint.
Representations are a good way for students to conceptualise data and meet the needs of AO2. As such, a focus on the multiple representations within a single text is a good starting point for analysis.
Learner Resource 3.1 is a comment piece from The Independent but almost any text would provide opportunities to explore different representations. Students could either be given time to identify the different people, groups, ideas which are represented in the text before exploring how they are represented or, using Learner Resource 3.2, could be given a list of different representations so they can focus on the language which contributes to it. Alternatively, pairs or groups of students could be given one representation to focus on and could identify patterns of language use and examples from across the text which contribute to those representations.
If following the alternative task above, students or pairs could then present their findings to the rest of the class.
As ever, essay writing is a good method of getting students to order their thoughts but, if short on time and heavy on workload, a planning activity following the same structure as Learner Resource 3.2 could be used and then colour-coded for terminology, conceptual knowledge and contextual references.
Learner Resource 3.3 is an example paragraph. This is far from a ‘perfect’ answer but should give students an idea of the sort of depth and detail that it is possible to gain from a precisely chosen section of text. Lesson Activity 4 focuses in more detail on the assessment objectives and could be used in conjunction with this activity.
The mark scheme for this section of the exam turns a question which can, at first, seem dauntingly vague into one which is very specific. Students should use Learner Resource 4.1 as a starting point to engaging with what the question is asking them to do. They can then test their thoughts against Learner Resource 4.2 which is a simplified version of the descriptors.
The simplified descriptors in Learner Resource 4.2 are colour-coded and can be used to then formatively assess students’ own writing or that of the example response in Learner Resource 3.3
If using groups of four, each member of the group can work to analyse a text focused just on one of the bullet points. Following this they can work together to synthesise the different parts of an answer into one paragraph which clearly targets the requirements of the question. Obviously, this can be adapted for groups of differing sizes.
Representations are such an implicit part of reading any text that identifying them can sometimes prove challenging for students or leave them feeling like the points they are making are too obvious to be worth making. Learner Resource 5.1 contains a shortened version of an Indy100 article that imagines former President Bill Clinton being represented in a way which we could consider to be stereotypically female. There is also a link to the original webpage.
The obvious starting point is for students to identify the language levels through which Clinton (Bill) is represented. This text also allows for engagement with the graphology through an analysis of how the visual cues add to the linguistic representation. Learner Resource 5.2 provides some additional guidance on some of the features students could select and some of the ways in which these features could be labelled linguistically.
This article could be used alongside a similar Guardian article focused on George Clooney’s engagement to Amal Alamuddin (now Amal Clooney, of course). This is very similar to the Clinton text but could be useful as a comparison of how the writers challenge the stereotypical representation. Click on the link on the right.
The Clinton article in Learner Resource 5.1 includes a link to the original which also has a number of the articles written about Hilary Clinton attached to the bottom. Once this activity forces students to become aware of this style of reportage, they will be able to engage with the ways in which Clinton (Hilary) is represented in these texts.
As a more creative option, students could identify other groups which are often represented in stereotypical ways (teenagers and teachers, for example) and could ‘reverse’ the representations by writing about them.
The text in the Sample Assessment Material in the link on the right provides a challenging and interesting starting point for students. One issue students may face is selecting which conceptual areas to draw on. The question refers to “relevant ideas and concepts” and, as a synoptic unit, that could theoretically allow students to discuss anything they’ve studied from power to child language acquisition (although that would seem rather difficult). Rather than giving students an open task to begin with, they could be directed towards one conceptual area. Again, this could be a group or individual task. Ask different groups to focus only on the following areas: gender, power, change, acquisition, attitudes to accent/dialect, technology and any other conceptual area you consider relevant. This should quickly show students which areas are likely to be most fruitful when exploring a text for this question.
Students could join together with other groups who have focused on different conceptual areas and attempt to synthesise their ideas into a coherent, planned response. Planning an individual response is also useful and would provide a useful precursor to Lesson Activity 7.
Again, an essay focused on one conceptual area is a good end product. This could then be self or peer-assessed using Learner Resource 4.2.
Whether this is completed before or after Lesson Activity 6 is of little consequence. Both approaches would have their merits but it would seem useful to allow students to get to know the text prior to this task. Learner Resource 7.1 is an example response written in timed conditions by a teacher. Learner Resource 7.2 is a planning tool designed to help students think about structuring their responses in a way which will meet the needs of the question and mark scheme. The second page in this resource provides an example of how the plan could be applied to the response in Learner Resource 7.1.
Students could use the blank grid to reverse plan from the remainder of the example response. Hopefully, they would realise that a consistently high quality response is a difficult thing to do and that not every section of an answer has to meet every part of the mark scheme.
Once students are accustomed to the planning tool, they could use it to plan an original response. The major drawback of the planning tool is the time it takes to use, which is not, obviously, available in the exam; however, it is a guide to forming clear responses which can be shortened and removed as students grow in familiarity and confidence with this question.
The link on the right goes to an image of The Sun’s front page from the 21st of October 2016.
This resource can be used to get students to draw together their ideas about ideology, bias and audience positioning along with precise linguistic knowledge. Rather than asking students to explore the resource ‘cold’, Learner Resource 8.1 provides a list of linguistic features which can be selected from the text along with relevant conceptual ideas and some aspects of context.
This resource could be used in a number of ways. One option is to cut up the cards and split them between students. They can then be given 5 mins to find evidence that could link to their card. Obviously, looking for conceptual points is the more challenging aspect of this activity and could be directed towards more able students.
A second option is to give groups of students all of the cards and ask them to label the text with the appropriate features/concepts before presenting these to the class.
The list of features/concepts in Learner Resource 8.1 could be used to explore different media texts as a starting point for engaging with a media text; most linguistic features and concepts will be applicable. Obviously, the contextual factors will change unless The Sun is the text.
The initial activity could be used as preparation for a planning activity using Learner Resource 7.2.
Learner Resource 8.2 is a copy of an example response to a question focusing on how power is represented in the text. Students could use this for a reverse planning activity (see Lesson Activity 7) or it could be used as a marking task (see Lesson Activity 4). Learner Resource 8.3 provides an annotated version of the same response focused on the skills it demonstrates.
In theory, any multi modal text published and aimed at a mass audience could feature as part of this question 2. The link on the right and Learner Resource 9.1 are a Headteacher’s welcome message from a school website.
This question refers to the need for students to “engage critically with the ways concepts and issues inform their analysis of the text’s patterns of language use” and one way to ensure this is through concept-led planning. Rather than trying to identify a pattern of use in one language level or even one feature from a given level, students can ‘cluster’ their points together around relevant conceptual areas. This groups patterns conceptually rather than linguistically but still proves an ability to both conceptualise the data and explore patterns of use.
Learner Resource 9.2 provides students with concepts that are relevant to this text and an example of what they might include in their plan. This is an additional way of planning to Learner Resource 7.2 and may more closely reflect the planning process as it could happen in the exam. Both are useful approaches to teaching students how to answer the question.
There are other ways of approaching the text conceptually but trying to cover any more than five would seem extremely challenging in the time. Indeed, five may even be too many but is useful at the planning stage.
The class could be split in half with one half attempting to use Learner Resource 7.2 and the other half using Learner Resource 9.2 as a means of approaching this task. This could then lead to a discussion of how best to plan.
The activity could be modified to attempt more traditional language focused planning (or even context-led planning) so students can assess which way they find planning easiest.
This is also a useful resource for assessing the depth and detail of students’ grasp of a text without the need for a lengthy essay which takes up lesson/homework time. As an added bonus, it’s much quicker to mark a plan and give timely feedback than an essay.
That said and at the risk of being repetitive, an essay is often a good end product.
Students can often miss the significance of context because they primarily engage with texts which have a fairly clear context. One way of getting students to think about context in more detail is to ‘divorce’ key features from all context. Text B in H470-02 Practice paper 1 (available on the OCR Interchange secure website) has a number of interesting contextual factors. Perhaps the most interesting is the fact that it has multiple producers but the aim of this activity is not to guide students to any particular answer but to use the language as a cue to ask them to discover it for themselves.
Teachers should break up Text B in the H470/02 Practice Paper 1 Resource Booklet in to ten or twelve statements (more could be created if wanted) that are decontextualised - in other words, they do not provide explanatory detail about the speaker. These statements should be copied onto cards or separate pieces of paper – one card/piece of paper for each statement.
Students then complete the following activity individually, in pairs or as a whole group depending on class size. Thinking about individuals approaching the task, students are given one card each with one language example on it. They then have five minutes to identify the language features present (card one, for example, could result in comments about the deleted articles, proper nouns, polite verb choice and alliterative final noun phrase). Having identified relevant features, students could then attempt to ‘guess’ what sort of text it comes from by answering the questions in Learner Resource 10. 1 and feeding back to the rest of the class. The point of this is, of course, that they will end up with hugely different ‘guesses’ based on the language snippet they were given. At this point, the teacher can reveal that they all come from a single text.
Depending on how the initial activity is structured, and on class size, the class could work together to pull together all of their different ideas about the text and suggest an agreed set of answers to the questions in Learner Resource 10.1 which could then be compared to the actual text. Based on how close they get, the teacher can guide a conversation about the importance of paying attention to context.
Creative activity: The students could look at a complete version of Learner Resource 10.1 and attempt to reconstruct the text based on the answers to the questions. This could lead to some interesting discussion of the choices made. If students produced this reconstructed text on a computer, their versions could be shared and analysed as original texts in themselves or students could present a commentary to the class on the choices they made and why.
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