3Helix Teacher-Fellow Kickoff

John Drazan
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Vince Amodeo and I met for a few hours as part of a fellows-teachers kickoff event to discuss the upcoming year. I will be working with Vince on with two of his “Foundations of Living Environment” Classes which is a class designed to review material for students who have previously failed the Regents test. The class meets every other day. We have pretty free rein on what topics we can cover as long as it ties to the curriculum. Vince and I talked about two different topics for a lesson sequence.

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Testing the Media: Media Literacy and the Scientific Method

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Using the scientific method(s) students test the claims that brand name products are better than the generic brand. Many students will find that the brand names did not live up to the commercial claims.

Lesson Summaries:

Lesson 1 – Students will watch television commercials that make claims to a product’s superiority through comparing it to a competitor. Students will choose one commercial to study and critique. Students will answer question about authorship, format, audience, content and purpose. Using media literacy skills, students will deconstruct the commercial and ask a question about the company’s claim in the commercial. Based on information in the commercial students will construct a hypothesis, determine what materials and procedures are needed to test the hypothesis, figure out what data will be collected and how it will be represented/organized. Finally, students will need to outline what the experimental and control groups and independent and dependent variables are.

Lesson 2 – Students will conduct the experiment. Based on their previous experiment design, students will recall their choices for organizing and representing data. Students will test their hypothesis, record their results, and organize them for the “target audience” of their commercial.

Lesson 3 – Based on their findings, students will research what types of claims companies can legally make when advertising their products in TV commercials. Students will present their findings to the class alongside their organized and “targeted” data.

Media Literacy Skills: NAMLE Key Question, Media Critique/Deconstruction

Scientific Literacy Skills: Scientific Method


Windex Commercial (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vMXzpxSJA4),

Bounty Commercial (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruIpTQAIbLE)

Windex and two competitor products, glass surface, and towels

Bounty towel and two competitors and messy surface

Lesson 1

Time: 40 Minutes

Handout: Pretest (Do It now), CML/Science deconstruction questions, Scientific Method definition and procedure worksheets.

Introduction – 10 Minutes

Students will pick up the pretest as a Do It now. They will work on the pre-test for 8 minutes.

Collect the pre-tests and begin to explain the “Testing the Media” project.

First, introduce the project: Students will watch two commercials that make claim their product is better than a competitor. Students will choose one commercial and test the claim of that commercial using the scientific methods.

Second, introduce the concept of “media literacy.” Being able to analyze the purpose, target audience, and point-of-view of message/advertising. Explain that the scientific method can be used to become media literate.

Third, students will present their conclusions in a form that speaks to the commercial’s target audience.

Mini-Lesson – 6 minutes

Pass out the NAMLE Key Media Literacy questions hand out. As a class watch the two commercials. For each commercial go through the questions as a group.

What is the purpose of this ad?

What is the ad trying to persuade you of?

What visual and audio techniques do you think they are using  to get your attention?

Who is the target audience?

What stereotypes are portrayed in this ad?

Students should write answers down on their handouts as the class discusses.

Guided Practice – 7 Minutes

Pass out scientific method definition handout.

Ads often try to persuade you to buy their product. Often viewers either rely on past experiences with the product or take the ad at its word. However, the scientific method allows you to test the word of the ad and make a choice as to what to spend your money on in the store, as well as evaluate the truthfulness of the media. So lets take a moment to learn about the scientific method.

Ask students what they know about the scientific method. Write answers on board. Based on their answers, explain, The scientific method is the way scientists learn and study the world around them. It can be used to study anything from a leaf to a dog to even the media. It consists of a number of steps: that starts with a question and hypothesis, moves to experimentation and data collection, and finally evaluating and representing data in a conclusive form.

Watch the commercials again and go through step-by-step of the scientific method. Work through these procedures as a class.  Use the ad to form a question and hypothesis . How will you test your hypothesis and what data will be collected? What is independent variable and dependent variable? And, what is your experimental and control group? Figure out what materials are needed to test the hypothesis?

Activity – 17 minutes

Have students work in groups of 3. Pass out scientific method procedure worksheet, which includes the following question

•               What claim is the commercial making about its product?

•               What is your question about the claim?

•               What is your hypothesis?

•               What data would need to be collected?

•               What is the experimental group?  What is the control group?

•               What is the independent variable?  What is the dependent variable?

•               What materials will you need to test your hypothesis?


Lesson 2

Handouts: Data Recording Worksheet, Stereotype Handout

Resources: Windex and two competitor products, glass surface, and towels; Bounty towel and two competitors and messy surface.

Introduction – 5 Minutes

Students will take Media Survey, as Do It Now. Pass out students work from the previous class as they are doing do it now.

Introduce the lesson for the day. Today students will test their hypothesis about that is based on one of the two commercials.

Mini Lesson – 10 Minutes

Pass out the Stereotype handout. Have students read the definition of a stereotype. Ask students if they know any stereotypes.

Show the two ads. Have students write down what stereotypes are in the ads on the handout. Ask students to share their ideas.

Explain to students that Stereotypes are used by media for typecasting, it is an institutional problem with the media that we as consumers must face. Part of the problem with being a media producer and scientist is putting people into boxes or representing them as numbers in data.  As scientists and media producers we must be conscious of the fact that stereotypes can be harmful and that people are diverse in nature.

Guided Practice – 7 Minutes

Pass out the data recording worksheet.

Explain to students that they will need to work in their group of 3 to test their hypothesis.

Go through the materials with the students. What materials are for what commercial. Also, demo an experiment and show students how to record their data.

Activity –  18 Minutes

Students will work in their groups of three to perform the experiment and test their hypothesis.


Lesson 3

Resources: Poster board to represent finding to the target audience and law and advertising handout

Introduction – 2 Minutes

Handout students past work.

Introduce students to the lesson for the day. Students will need to make an ad that reports their experiments conclusions.

Mini Lesson – 7 Minutes

Handout the target audience and law and advertising handouts.

Remind students what a target audience is. Have students share who they think their target audience is for advertising their conclusions. Their target audience should be the same as what they through for the commercial.

Watch commercials, ask student to write down and share what techniques the commercial uses to get the target audiences

As a class read through the law and advertising handout, which explains why companies can make erroneous claims in commercials.

Guided Practice – 5 Minutes

Explain to student that they need to make a billboard to advertise their findings to their target audience. Show students materials.

Activity – 18 Minutes

Students will create billboard ads for their target audience.

Post-Test – 8 Minutes

Students will take Testing the Media post-test

Skateboarder Activity

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Skate Boarder modelMath: Geometry, Algebra, slope, graphs

Science: Friction, Energy, Wind resistance, acceleration

Materials Needed: glue gun, cardboard, toy cars, finger skateboards, scissors, marbles, computers

Prep: Run Skateboarder CSDT – may need to install java on computers and download SB applets to computer hard drives. Optionally, you can just open in a browser: http://csdt.rpi.edu/subcult/sb/index.html

Open the Skateboarder application for each student, spend a few days letting them play around and experiment with the software, asking questions wherever they find the need to. During that, spend days on lessons talking about circle degrees for using the arcs for ramps, moving segments programmatically using translation or rotation, and elasticity and friction.


  • Create your own skate park (to be referenced when you create your cardboard model).
  • Try to get your boarder to stop on a ramp.
  • Change the background of the application to a picture of your face and create a skate park so the skater skates around your face!
  • Once you are content with your software skate park, create models out of cardboard mimicking the software models and compare what the software skater does compared to how a marble/finger skateboard/toy car behaves on the cardboard model.

Teaching materials are also available