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The Super Bowl and the Oscars as text

Frank Baker and I chat around the same time each year.

And when we do, the journalist, media literacy expert and author of Media Literacy in the K-12 Classroom, reminds us all of the importance of offering learners the opportunity to thoughtfully examine the prevalent texts of our culture.

In the coming weeks, two global events present learning opportunities that are far too good to miss.  The Academy Awards and the Super Bowl offer librarians, and our classroom teacher partners, serious resources to promote discovery about media creation, media messages, and the language of persuasion.

Using Super Bowl Ads in the Classroom  is designed to help teachers and librarians incorporate media literacy into curriculum across the disciplines.

Frank defines media literacy as the analysis and creation of media messages. He contends:

The annual Super Bowl game is one of the last appointment TV events: we still gather around the television at the time the game is played.  Huge amounts of money are spent and for months before the big game, the media has been abuzz about the commercials.  Yet, we tend to view the game myopically, not as the global event it truly is.

He points to the reality that our friends around the world see different commercials and wonders about the value of exploring: What are those differences and what do they reveal about national culture?

Frank shared his concern that the word text in the Common Core standards, is not often interpreted by educators to include non-print media and that colleges of education do not value media as a significant area of study.  As we prepare students to present effective argument, will we remember to include media?

Media are also rich informational texts, ripe for analysis, begging to be deconstructed, and re-constructed.  They help us understand how language and images and sound are used to persuade. They help us make sense of our economy, our own society and the cultures of others in an interconnected world.

So, what’s new?

In the old days, companies like Nielsen used diaries and people meters to gathers consumers’ feedback and share with advertisers. Social media offers a new lens. More and more people actively engaged in social media as the game is played.  We can consider how ads are monitored and measured for effectiveness.  How are advertisers and marketers examining what we post and re-post about the ads we view and how do they use and respond to the metrics they collect?

I love the Getting Started questions to share with students this week, before the game:

  1. What do you know about the Super Bowl game? Where did you learn it?
  2. Why does the game get tremendous media attention every year?
  3. What makes advertisers want to put their ads on this once-a-year sporting event?
  4. Why does ad time cost approximately $4.5 million for just one 30-second ad?
  5. Who decides what order the ads air during the game?
  6. How do advertisers create buzz about their ads, even before the game is broadcast?
  7. Create a chart listing the known advertisers and research their parent companies.
  8. How many ads are for: alcohol? cars? TV shows? movies? Why is this so?
  9. Which ad(s) are you looking forward to viewing and why?
  10. Which propaganda/persuasion techniques would you expect to be used in each ad?
  11. How do advertisers make money from their Super Bowl spots?
  12. Might you find ads inside/outside/above the stadium? If so, where?
    Be on the lookout for not-so-obvious ads during the broadcast. (Students might want to create a list)
  13. Based on the ads scheduled to be broadcast, what demographic (gender, age) do you think each advertiser is trying to reach?
  14. How was social media used, if at all, by advertisers and the game itself?
  15. How do you plan to use social media, it at all, during the game?

Among the valuable media literacy resources aggregated on the site:

Also consider exploiting another wealth of engaging resources and instructional materials gathered at Teaching Movies at Awards Time.

Beyond his own site, Frank, who conducts workshops for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, highly recommends the Teachers Guides Series on site.

The downloadable PDF Guides include:


Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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