UNIT OVERVIEW: Bias and Visual Literacy

Understandings

  • We are biased by nature.
  • Personal bias is difficult to see and admit.
  • Information can be presented in a way that disguises bias.
  • Understanding bias can help us better understand our world.
Essential Questions
  • What is bias and why should I care?
  • How am I biased? Is that normal?
  • How do we become so biased?
  • How can I recognize bias in the media?
Academic Standards
Language Arts Reading Standard 2 Comprehension and Analysis of Nonfiction and InformationalText

  • Grade 7
    • 7.2.7 Draw conclusions and make reasonable statements about a text, supporting the conclusions and statements with evidence from the text.
    • 7.4.3 Support all statements and claims with anecdotes (first-person accounts), descriptions, facts and statistics, and specific examples.
  • Grade 11
    • 11.2.6 Critique the power, validity, and truthfulness of arguments set forth in public documents, speeches, or essays; their appeal to both friendly and hostile audiences; and the extent to which the arguments anticipate and address reader concerns and counterclaims.
AASL Standard 2
Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge.

  • Skill 2.1.1 Continue an inquiry-based research process by applying critical thinking skills to information and knowledge in order to construct new understandings, draw conclusions, and create new knowledge.
  • Skill 2.1.3 Use strategies to draw conclusions from information and apply knowledge to curricular areas, real world situations, and further investigations.
  • Disposition 2.2.3 Employ a critical stance in drawing conclusions by demonstrating that the pattern of evidence leads to a decision or conclusion.
  • Responsibilities 2.3.1 Connect understanding to the real world.
  • Self-assessment Strategies 2.4.3 Recognize new knowledge and understanding.

Students will know . . . (facts, concepts, and vocabulary)
  • Vocab terms: anecdote, facts, statistics, counterclaims, claims, critique, validity
  • Concepts: providing examples, friendly vs. hostile audiences, inquiry, critical thinking, reading strategies

Students will be able to do . . . (skills, processes, and procedures)
  • Skills: draw conclusions, make reasonable statements, support conclusions, critical thinking
  • Processes: critique arguments, inquiry-based research, use inquiry strategies

Brief Overview of Activities
Grade 7 Prior Knowledge: The difference between fact, opinion, and personal preference.
Specific Understanding: What bias is, how common it is, and how it is formed -- family influence, prior experience, proximity of exposure.

Activities: (Click here for full elaboration of 7th grade activities)
1. Interview three adults and take notes on graphic organizer.
2. Participate in four corners personal preference activity.
3. Analyze Interviews and identify how bias is formed.
4. Create a concept map.

Resources:
Adult Interview Graphic Organizer Concept map
Concept Map
Scoring Rubric




Grade 11 Prior Knowledge: Common propaganda techniques including name calling, generalities, euphemisms, testimonials, band wagon, and fear.
Specific Understanding: The media can purposefully influence
personal bias.

Activities: (Click here for full elaboration of 11th grade activities)
1. View SNL spoof on Couric Interview, then view clip of actual.
2. As a group, complete potential bias analysis.
3. Students repeat process using VP debate.
4. Student apply process to Newsweek Perspective pages.
5. Examine 7th grade concept maps identifying bias formation.
6. Create concept map regarding own potential bias towards current presidential candidates.

Resources:
Saturday Night Live Vice Presidential Debate (spoof)
Vice Presidential Debate (actual debate)
Katie Couric Interview with Palin (spoof)
Katie Couric Interview with Palin on Foreign Policy (actual video)
Concept Map
Collection of Completed 7th Grade Concept Maps
Photocopies of Perspective pages from Newsweek magazine
Bias Analysis Chart
Sample Bias Analysis for Newsweek Perspective Page
Scoring Rubric
Lesson Comparison
To understand is to discover.
-- Piaget

The thrust behind this lesson at both grade levels is to foster self-regulatory behavior. Self-observation, self-judgment, and self-response as defined by Bandura, all seem to be at the core of becoming the information scientist that Lamb refers to in her information age inquiry web pages (http://virtualinquiry.com/). My activities require student to not only seek and organize information, but also to transform it into something personal and reflective. The tasks are authentic and encourage interaction on multiple levels.

In choosing the topic, I started with upper level state standards. It is at this stage that we hope students are able to demonstrate "expert" skills. I chose two work with bias for two reasons: 1) it is a tough one to teach, so I think classroom teachers will be receptive to collaborative help, and 2) it is such a necessary real-world skill. Once I selected my topic (beginning with the end in mind), I then backed down the grade levels to find an appropriate age to begin. Though the seventh grade standard does not directly state the word bias, understanding personal bias seems foundational to making and supporting arguments. An ever-present difficulty in working with the state standards is the fact that many of the upper grade level standards are packed with multiple competencies. I broke down the standards in an attempt to define what students would need to know and do to demonstrate mastery. It is difficult to design a single activity to address a single standard. Therefore, I took more of partial unit approach in working with these standards. My activities address the standards, but the unit is far from comprehensive.

In her article "Integrating Critical Thinking Skills into the Classroom" (www.accessexcellence.org) Ann Buchanan quotes Richard Paulis as saying, "When your students are learning well they are employing the logic of their own thinking as a tool in learning . . . assignments need to bridge the gap between old thinking and new." As I designed both lessons, I kept that concept of bridging the gap at the forefront. I want to encourage the students to examine their own mindsets and devise personal strategies to expand them, or in Callison's words, " . . . the goal is not to teach information, but to create situations so that students can interpret information for their own understanding." I fully believe that if all of us are working to "create situations", student engagement levels will sky-rocket ultimately encouraging the development of " . . . informed, reflective, and active citizens." (Callison and Tilly)

Levels of Maturation and Depth of Thinking


Grade 7
Grade 11
Bloom's Taxonomy
  • Lesson builds from knowledge to comprehension to application. Ending with some level of analysis.
  • Lesson begins with analysis and ends with synthesis.
Audience Analysis
  • Content is focused on personal impact of bias. Students will understand how bias influences personal choices.
  • Content is focused on community impact of bias. Students will understand how personal bias impacts society.
Authority
  • Lesson requires student to seek evidence to support ideas. The goal is to build awareness for the need of evidence.
  • Lesson requires students to examine potential bias of evidence. The goal is to build an awareness of how subtle bias can be.
Experts
  • Lesson requires student to seek 'expert' input on personal bias.
  • Lesson requires students to examine 'experts' for their own personal bias.
Future Applications
  • Lesson requires self-examination for the concept of bias. A rubric is used as an evaluation tool for the end assignment.
  • Lesson requires examining self in terms of connection to the bigger world. Evaluation of Grade 7 Concept Maps challenges Grade 11 students to reflect on self.
Evidence Linking
  • Students see interesting, yet simple answers to personal preferences.
  • Students realize complicated propaganda techniques are in play to impact personal bias.
Original Data
  • Students may not recognize role of personal bias in collection of evidence. Sources will not be examined for bias.
  • Students will recognize potential of personal bias affecting source selection and interpretation.
Question Evolution
  • Students examine personal bias using three unexamined sources. Minimal investigation, no variation in sources.
  • Students examine personal bias from multiple and varied sources. An awareness of potential bias within sources is present.
Useful Patterns
  • May not recognize pattern of classmate regarding formation of bias. Recognition of pattern mainly at personal level.
  • Students will be required to recognize patterns in Grade 7 assignments and apply it to their own experience with bias.
Scaffolding ala Callison
  • Considerable supports and examples are in place. Students are given definitions and specific examples of products.
  • Fewer supports are in place. More time is spent on reflection and discussion. Students form own definitions of concepts and are allowed a range of choices in creation of final product.

Tyna's Addition:
Continuing with the idea of self-regulatory behavior and authenticity I explored ways that this topic and ideas could be extended. In collaborative discussions with Joe and through searching and reviewing lesson plans online I decided on the lesson idea below for 5th grade.

Language Arts/Reading Standards:

5.7.7 Identify, analyze, and critique persuasive techniques, including promises, dares, flattery, and generalities; identify faulty reasoning used in oral presentations and media messages.
5.7.8 Analyze media as sources for information, entertainment, persuasion, interpretation of events, and transmission of culture.

AASL Standard 2
Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge.

· Skill 2.1.1 Continue an inquiry-based research process by applying critical thinking skills to information and knowledge in order to construct new understandings, draw conclusions, and create new knowledge.
· Skill 2.1.3 Use strategies to draw conclusions from information and apply knowledge to curricular areas, real world situations, and further investigations.
· Disposition 2.2.3 Employ a critical stance in drawing conclusions by demonstrating that the pattern of evidence leads to a decision or conclusion.
· Responsibilities 2.3.1 Connect understanding to the real world.
· Self-assessment Strategies 2.4.3 Recognize new knowledge and understanding

Objective: Students will analyze advertisements and self-assess their own reaction to advertisements and how their decision making is or is not influenced.
Students will discuss and describe techniques used in advertisements.
Lesson/Activities:
1. Have students make a wish list--explain that not everyone celebrates holidays, but everyone tends to want certain things so we are going to make a list of some items that we would like to purchase/have from the store. If you had $200 what would you buy? from where? why?
2. After students have their lists discuss them. Ask questions about the items--why did you choose them? why did you choose the stores you chose? what do stores do to encourage us to buy from them? Discuss advertising and make a list of ads on TV in the newspaper, etc...
3. Assign the task of bringing in 3 to 4 ads from magazines, newspapers, cereal boxes, etc...for a product/good/service. Offer a stack of magazines that students can take with them to bring in ads the following day.

Next step:
Students analyze the ad using analysis chart adapted from the lesson plan from the Houghton Mifflin Company lesson website Convince Me! : http://www.eduplace.com/rdg/gen_act/view/convince.html
Change the questions to address specifically ads for objects/toys/goods/service:
i.e.
What type of technique is used to promote the product/good/service: promises, dares, flattery, and/or generalities? Explain why you think so.
What action is being suggested by the ad?

Journal assignment: Write about a toy or other product that you were so excited to get and when you got it you were disappointed in it. What made you want the item? What was disappointing about it? Had you seen an advertisement about it? (Joe's suggestion adapted for journaling and integrated into lesson).