Divide the class into five groups. Hand each group an instruction sheet asking them to create a documentary program on the assigned topic. Be sure to have them include their motive in making the program, i.e. teacher, journalist, entertainer, artist, advocate or investor. Assign each group a different motive, but have every group work on the same topic. Don't tell students what the other groups are working on or the differences in their motivation.
|Blurring of reality and "unreality."
Have students watch a half-hour (or shorter) non-fiction program. List what is "real" and "unreal, " "fiction" and "non-fiction" about the program. Make a similar list for this show. For homework, have students write and essay on the blurring (or mixing) of fiction and non-fiction.
|Enhancing authenticity, authority, "cool."
Tape three television commercials and show them in class. Ask students to identify ways in which the commercials try to enhance a sense of authenticity or authority. How would you characterize the narrator? Is the commercial in color or black and white? How are the scenes shot---with a steady camera or one that is hand-held and shaky? Which angles did the producer choose? What kind of background is used? Next, ask the same kinds of questions to find ways in which the producer tried to enhance a sense of authority, authenticity, or "coolness."
|What makes a hero?
Have each student select a hero from history. Have the student research the hero's life and deeds carefully. With a partner, have students write a script and then role-play the hero in a "live" interview (2 minutes) for the class. Videotape these interviews if possible. In class, encourage students to make a list of heroes visible in the following mass media: TV, films, radio, newspapers and newsmagazines. How are heroes in mass media different or similar to heroes from history?
|Each person interprets the same media message differently.
For homework, have students interview someone about a television show they both watched. For example, kids interview grandparents, teens interview young siblings, etc. Ask: What did you like or dislike about the main characters? What was the most important problem in the show? What was unrealistic about the show? What was unrealistic?
|Who's the protagonist?
Choose any non-fiction program, promotion, film or commercial and screen it in class. Ask students to identify the heroes, victims and villains. For homework, aks them to write a synopsis of the show in the style of a "TV Guide" blurb, i.e. tell the "story" in two or three sentences and include mention of the heroes, victims and/or villains. Make a list on the board of heroes, victims and villains from TV, film, radio and newspapers and compare and contrast them to the heroes from literature.