Media Literacy Lesson Plan: Identifying
a Message's Purpose
Student Resource: "Faces
in Sports: Jackie Joyner Kersee," by Judith P. Josephson
Media Type: Biography
Health Topic: Fitness, Character
After completing this lesson, students will be able to:
- Discuss how the character trait of perseverance can help
a person rise above social limitations and other setbacks
- Explain how goal setting can help a person achieve their
- Apply the media literacy skill of identifying a message's
purpose to a biography about a notable athlete.
Introducing the Lesson
Download or bring to class clippings from newspapers and/or
magazines about athletes students might recognize. Vary the
articles. Include simple reports of athletes changing teams
or negotiating new contracts. Others might be about athletes
who have set new records, or athletes who accomplished goals
in addition to their sports achievements.
Distribute these among students and ask them to skim the
articles. Discuss briefly what these articles have in common
and what is different about each. List some of students' comments
and reactions to this question on the chalkboard.
Explain that another important distinction among the articles
exists. Next to the list of differences on the chalkboard,
write the word purpose.
Note that every media construction is written with a purpose
behind it. Observe that sometimes the purpose is to explain,
at others to persuade, still at others just to entertain.
Add that some media constructions have more than one purpose.
Review with students the articles they skimmed. Ask what
was the purpose of the article that dealt with the athlete
who has contributed in ways other than in sports? Of the article
about the athlete who set a record? Note that an awareness
of the purpose is a vital part of media literacy.
Distribute copies of the biography, or direct students to
the Web site. Reveal that they will be reading one more media
construction about an athlete. Add that this construction
is a short biography, a non-fiction article about details
from the life of a sports personality. Instruct them to be
on the lookout for the message's purposes as they read.
Assign the following to student groups to use in their media
analysis. You may either follow up the analysis with a class
discussion, or may assign the analysis to be applied by individual
students to another media construction as homework.
- Awareness. What does the article reveal about
Jackie Joyner Kersee's childhood? For whom do you think
this biography was written? For what purpose was it written?
Why do you feel this is true?
- Analysis. The biography contains a message regarding
perseverance and how this character trait can help a person
achieve goals. What goals did Jackie Joyner Kersee achieve?
What difficulties and setbacks did she overcome? What does
this cause you to feel about her as a person?
- Evaluation. Do you think this construction is sending
a positive health message? Why or why not? Is it an effective
media construction? Why or why not?
- Communication. What is your overall reaction to
the information presented? What other forms of communication
would have been more effective at reaching you? Explain.
Applying Media Skills
Jackie Joyner Kersee came far on the road to athletic stardom.
One reason for this was the clear goals she set for herself
as a child.
Think about a goal that you share with many other teens in
your community or in the country. The goal might be something
as far-reaching as getting into a top college or something
as immediate as getting a good grade on an assignment. Map
out an action plan that can help a person reach this goal.
On the bottom of your action plan, note its purpose as a media
construction. Display your message along with those of classmates.