Made by Sarah Morris and the NewsFrames team. Released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
75 minutes with optional extension activities
Lesson 1 of 3 in the NewsFrames Curriculum Kit
This lesson will introduce learners to the concept of framing in news media. Learners will explore framing and will learn and use strategies to identify framing techniques and devices in the media they encounter.
Mozilla Web Literacy Skills
21st Century Skills
Internet Health Outcomes
- Learners will explore the concept of framing in news media
- Learners will analyze how framing shapes the media they encounter
- Learners will use strategies to identify framing techniques and devices
- Learners will examine how people and stories shape frames in the media
- Learners will develop strategies for asking questions to explore the people, stories, and motivations behind frames
- Teens and undergraduate students
In this lesson, learners will:
- Discuss and define framing in media
- Evaluate and analyze framing in sample articles
- Select and explore framing issues in a topic of their choosing
- Reflect on their learning
Preparation for Instructors
Familiarize yourself with NewsFrames, including the introduction to framing and associated materials. Explore the following links and resources:
- For general information see About NewsFrames
- For guides on working in the NewsFrames environment and creating NewsFrames content see How to Start Your NewsFrames Exploration guide and Getting Started with Investigation Methods
- For an introduction to the concept of framing see Introduction to Framing
- For an overview of the tools in NewsFrames see NewsFrames Tools
- You can also read through NewsFrame Investigations to see the types of stories produced by the NewsFrame community
Activity Facilitation Tips
- Familiarize yourself with NewsFrame materials and introduction, linked in the Preparation for Instructors section.
- In the activity instructions you will find some sample articles to use for the activity. However, feel free to select different articles or a different topic to explore with your learners.
- In the activity instructions there are some talking points you can use to introduce the concept of framing to your learners. Depending on your audience, you can expand on this topic with additional material from NewsFrames, which explores framing as a concept in disciplines such as linguistics and history. You can see the additional material here.
- You can also divide this lesson into smaller chunks to be completed over a series of class sessions.
- Framing - the connection between how information is presented and our interpretation of it
Lesson Introduction15 minutes
Opening Activity: Media Perspectives Ice-Breaker
- Ask your learners to think about a story they recently heard. This story could be from a friend, something they read on Twitter or heard on the radio, etc.
- Give your learners the following prompts:
- How would you translate that story using a different tool or storytelling method? For example, how might you tweet a story you heard from a friend?
- How could you change the tone of the story you heard to make it different?
- Have your learners share and discuss their ideas with a small group
Brief Lecture: Introduction to Framing
- Framing is how information is presented and how we interpret it.
- Faming mediates and shapes our understanding of information and it is how we tell stories.
- How a story is framed influences how it is understood and received, and understanding frames can help us be more critical of the media we consume and produce.
Brainstorm and Discussion
Ask your learners what contributes to framing - audience, the purpose of an article, technology, etc.
Introduction to Framing Activity Instructions
In this activity you and your learners will work through different examples of framing together. Learners will develop skills in asking questions and identifying frames. This activity will allow you to guide and model ways of asking questions to explore frames and having conversations about polarizing issues.
- Facilitation tip: Use the Introduction to Framing document to see example articles you can use for this activity.
- Facilitation tip: Note that this activity is repeatable and you can explore different topics and examples with your learners across multiple class meetings.
- Explain to your learners that you’ll be working as a group to examine frames in the media together.
- Give everyone a copy of the NewsFrames Guided Questions handout, which will guide discussion. You can select the questions you would like to focus on, or add your own.
- Explain that you will focus on asking questions and on people and stories. Some guiding questions here will include who is telling the story, who is the audience for the story, and who is not being heard from in the story.
- Introduce your chosen topic and show a series of articles that frame the topic differently.
- Use the NewsFrames Framing Questions guide to ask questions about the sample article and discuss.
Group Activity Instructions: Analyzing Frames
In this activity your learners will look at a sample story and explore framing.
- You will select two articles for this activity. You can use the two sample articles below, which both discuss the issue of self-driving cars. You can also select your own articles to use. Try to select a topic and articles that are somewhat controversial but not overly polarizing. Some sample topics could include space travel, housing issues in a city like San Francisco, social media, organic food, etc.
- See a list of sample articles on self-driving cars that you can use for this activity.
- Divide your students into small groups of about 4 people.
- Give half the groups one article, and half the groups a different article. Depending on your class size, you can introduce more articles to different groups.
- Groups will read and discuss the framing issues they notice in their article. Have your groups take notes.
- Combine different groups and have them present and share their respective articles with one another.
Individual Activity Instructions: Exploring Framing in a Topic
- Have each individual learner select a topic of interest and explore framing in it. Tell learners to think about a hobby, a local topic of interest, something related to their major or favorite subject, etc.
- Tip: If your learners are having trouble selecting a topic or finding articles with their search, have them try searching with the sample topic you already used, or suggest they try one of the unused sample topic ideas listed above.
- Students will run a search (Google is fine for this) and see what articles they find.
- Have your students consider what frames they are seeing and how they might frame this topic for people to understand
- Have learners briefly discuss and share their topic ideas and findings in small groups.
- Have learners jot down their topic ideas and tell them that they will return to these topics next time and will further explore their topics.
Optional Activity: Topic Interviews
- Tell students to find someone to share their topic with outside of class. This could be a roommate, a friend, a family member, a coworker, another teacher or professor, etc.
- Tell students they can select some of the questions from the Guided Questions handout from Lesson 1, or develop their own questions.
- Have students ask these questions to whoever they choose to see what this person thinks about the framing issues in their topic.
- Students can approach their questions however they think is best. They can show someone sample headlines and ask questions, or they can describe the topic and ask more general questions.
- Have students report back at the next class on their interviews. Was it difficult to ask questions that elicited useful answers? Did anyone ask a question that worked really well? Did anyone hear surprising responses?
Reflection and Assessment
Reflection questions for learners
- How would you describe framing to someone after today?
- What is one way that framing mediates our experience with media?
- What topic did you use to explore framing issues?