Literacy ShopTalk

"Prepare self-directed learners to think critically about the messages received and created by media.”

Inquiry-Based Approach to Media Literacy

Written By: Paula Neidlinger - Feb• 09•17

Three years ago I was offered the opportunity to create a Mass Media class from scratch.  What an opportunity!!!  The most difficult immediate task, was to determine the objectives and standards that would encompass the newly created class.  My class has evolved and continues to change, as does the media industry.

My first determination was establishing the difference between media literacy and media education.  Whereas, media education is simply the process of teaching and learning media in the classroom, my mass media class is a compilation of competencies known as Media literacy.  Utilizing an inquiry-based approach, my class objective is that students will be able to analyze, evaluate, and create messages in a wide variety of media modes, genres, and formats,

I established the following objective and learning language objectives for my classes based on the inquiry-based model of media literacy:

OBJECTIVE:  Students will be able to create engaging presentations, news stories, and radio shows, which integrate multimedia components and visual displays to clarify information.

Language Learning Objective:  Students will summarize informational text, current news and facts in which to write news stories within their medium.

Mass Media is a relatively new class throughout the country, especially at the middle school level.  I have utilized the power of Twitter to help connect with other mass media teachers during the past three years. During the next several posts, I will share several great resources, lessons, ideas, and more that I have discovered.

If you are a media teacher, especially at the middle school level, I’d love to connect with you.  My class includes:  a radio station, a television studio, website design, photography/videography, social media, graphic design, and publicity/marketing.

Below, I’ve included a list of broadcasting terms, which I introduce in my media 1 classes, as an intro into basic media literacy. Feel free to use these in your class as well.  There are numerous terms that can be utilized, but these terms fit well within the middle school mass media curriculum.


Affiliate – a local station that subscribes to the services and programs of a network.

Anchor – the newscaster who hosts the studio portion of the newscast. The anchor is the dominant voice in the presentation of the news to the audience. S/he must be proficient in writing, producing, and editing the news.

AP Wire – Associated Press news service that supplies international, national and regional information and stories.

Back timing – a convenient way of counting down the length of a newscast. This tells you when each story must run in order for your newscast to end on time.

B-Roll — video that is shot for a TV news story and used to visualize the script the reporter/anchor has written.

Break — place designated within broadcast programming during which commercials run.

Bumpers — small teases (with or without audio/video) that come at the end of one newscast segment often previewing what is coming up in the rest of the newscast.

Call Letters – a station’s legal ID (for example, WBIZ-EAU CLAIRE) is a legal ID, Z-104 is not a legal ID.

Cold Copy – aka; Rip-n-Read – A script not seen by an announcer until the moment s/he reads it.

Control Room – where the technical equipment for putting a newscast on the air is

kept and operated.

Cue — usually a physical signal by engineer or other technical person indicating to anchor to perform a task (start reading, wrap up, or go to break). Cue Up – Putting a sound bite, package, wrap, voice-over, or other recorded material at its beginning.

Dub – to make a recording of a recording.

Edit – to condense or revise material or footage.  Engineer — Technical personnel who can both operate, maintain and repair equipment.

Feed — a live or recorded report, or a set of recorded reports sent to a station/newsroom via satellite, phone, or other device for inclusion in a news program.

Feedback – an ear-splitting squeal or howl caused when sound from a loudspeaker is picked up by a microphone and re-amplified. “Happy Talk” — the casual banter that goes on between news anchors and other “on-air” people.

Headlines — a kind of “tease” read at the beginning of a newscast.

Kicker – an offbeat or humorous story that typically is used to mark the end of the news segment and the beginning of the sports/weather segment. The kicker can also be used to end a newscast.

Lead-in — a broadcasting term for beginning part of story news anchor reads introducing the story and/or person reporting story.

Lead story (aka Lead) — first story in a newscast or segment (in broadcasting) or a story that is above the fold in print-this considered the most important news story of the day.

Live shot/Live Report — a TV news story during which a news anchor or reporter is live at a remote location. Within this report can be included a SOT, VO/SOT or PKG

Natural Sound – aka Nat Sound, Nat S-O-T, or Ambient Sound – Background voices, music, machinery, waterfalls, and other environmental sounds that are recorded on-scene and used to create a sound bed for a recorded or live report. Primarily used for setting a mood or providing atmosphere for a report. This technique is frequently overused, but when used properly it adds immeasurably to a story.

Nielsen — service primarily used in determining television ratings.

Out cue — usually the last thing a reporter says in either a live or recorded news story indicating the piece is ending. (Example: “FOR UPDATE NEWS, I’M BILL SMITH.”)

Outro — usually the “Goodbye” or end segment of a newscast often during which news and sports anchors engage in “happy talk.”

P-S-A – aka Public Service Announcement – an advertisement for a not- for-profit organization such as the American Heart Association, Partnership for a Drug-Free America, etc..).

Ratings — measuring units used to tell broadcasters how many households and/or viewers have their stations/programs on at a particular time. This information is used in determining how much station will charge advertising for commercial time.

Rundown -aka; lineup – a chronological outline or order of stories or segments to be used in a newscast. This is the producer’s blueprint for the newscast.

Spot News — an unexpected event that can be covered in various ways

Sound bite (SOT) – edited slice of a newsmaker speaking. Similar to actuality in radio except the person can be seen. Often several SOT can be spliced together with the edits cover with video. These can be included in PKGs and VO/SOTs or can stand alone. Spots (aka Commercials) — individual commercials that run during breaks. Spot News — An unexpected event that can be covered in various ways

Stand-up — part of package with reporter on screen reading/presenting information.

Story Tag — closing to a story, live shot, or on-set piece usually read by the story report but can also be read by an anchor.

Voice-over (VO) — a TV news story during which a news anchor or reporter reads a script live as video is played.

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