Lesson 4: Analyzing Media Messages

First published 2011. To view the latest Heads Up content, click here.

Students will practice analyzing messages in a popular song or music video to better understand the number of messages they are exposed to and how, over time, that exposure might influence their decision making.





Time Required: 20-minute class period with additional time for extension activity. Additional time needed for outside classroom research.

Setup: Show the class the “Download the Facts” poster (PDF). Generate a classroom discussion that reveals elements students should consider when viewing and evaluating the poster. Ask students who they think created the message, who is the target audience, what values it emphasizes, and why they think the message was directed to its specific audience.

Activity: Explain to the class that they are surrounded by many different messages, and that being aware of these messages is a way to help them understand how their beliefs and behaviors may be influenced. Ask students what messages they may have seen or heard during the day. Make sure they consider songs, advertising, television, the Internet, texts, and word of mouth. Ask students to consider how many messages they are exposed to daily. Instruct students to choose a song or video that mentions or portrays drugs. Have them analyze the song/video by completing the “Analyzing Media Messages” Activity 4 Printable (PDF).

Wrap-up: Select students to share their findings with the class. Conduct a class discussion of some of the most interesting findings presented by the class. You can also ask students how hearing and seeing the same messages over time affects the listener or viewer.

Extension: Separate students into teams of two. Have each team choose a song that a student analyzed. Ask them to rewrite the song to change the message to one that does not glorify drug and/or alcohol use or that includes the negative consequences of drug and alcohol use. 

Evaluation: Did students understand the concept and purpose of analyzing messages in popular songs? Were students able to re-create more positive messages for their selected songs?


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