In this lesson, we step briefly away from figurative language so that we can introduce the topic of sensationalism. The handout attached has a page of concept ideas and then a page of visual prompts (sensationalism handout) and a fantastic and very satirical clip from YouTube (not essential, but good enrichment, if you have access in your classroom).
The goal here is to introduce a new theme (RL.9-10.2). We have been focusing on dehumanization and resistance up until now, but a form of dehumanization comes in the oversimplification that we see in news media comprised entirely of sensationalistic images, slogans, and black and white thinking. In this way, the students can begin to analyze the author's purpose from a critical perspective as they determine an author’s purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose (RI.9-10.6). Understanding sensationalism and a bit of satire are keys to this standard.
I will begin by asking the students a few key questions along with page 1 of the attached handout. The idea is to draw all of the students into the lesson (SL.9-10.1) and to use those contributions to begin to assess informally what they know about the topic.
Thought Questions for discussion:
How does the media portray race? Ethnicity? Science? Religious issues?
Why do you think sensationalism is used do commonly in news media?
How do we see the following elements of sensationalism in the media today? What would be the opposite (critical thinking)?
How does the following clip (link to satire video) poke fun at sensationalism in our media?
Students will enter into their base groups to analyze the images on the handout included in the previous section (page 2). These prompts range from the humorous, Calvin and Hobbes, to the ridiculous, "Batboy," to the neutral or even informational, Newspaper headlines (RI.9-10.6). The point is to get students to practice explaining to each other how these engaging images present an example of or a commentary on sensationalism (RL.9-10.2).
After students engage in their small groups, we will gather as a class to process what they have found (SL.9-10.1). I am assuming that this part of the lesson will be high energy and engagement; what will remain to be seen is whether or not they can apply this theme to the novel, as Bradbury brings out images of sensationalism presented in the politics of the book and the ever-present "family" on the t.v. walls that seem to rule the main character, Montag's, home.
Some questions to consider for follow-up discussion:
1. What do you think is Calvin’s point in this cartoon strip?
2. Why do you think Bill Watterson (the creator of Calvin and Hobbes) created scene?
3. What is he attempting to satirize? (satire = poking fun at human shortcomings)
4. This is a tabloid cover seems to be both ridiculous and attempting to be believable at the same time. Why do people read this stuff? Why do some create it? Do you think it’s fun? How is tabloid news different from “real news”?
5. How are these newspaper headlines somewhat sensationalized?
6. What do you think are good sources of information in our society? Where do you go to be fully informed of something that is important to you?
7. How do you think this theme relates to the novel?
I am still in the stage of trying to ensure strong reading practice outside of class, so I will wrap class up with a thumbs up/down check in on how the at-home reading is going. Students are to be making their way through the middle part of the book. In my 50th anniversary edition of the book, these are pages 63-102.
I also will offer the chance for students to select an image of sensationalism from their experience and bring it in to class to teach us about what they know. I am betting that this will get a few takers!