Monday, August 4, 2014

Media Literacy And Graphicacy: 4th Graders Pitch Their States

ASIDE, 2014
Every year our fourth graders complete a state project. Instead of doing the usual travel brochure or poster with their research, we decided to have them pitch their states by designing a travel magazine cover. It sounds simple, but it actually incorporated the skills of media literacy and graphicacy. On the one hand, it required them to think about the message, and on the other, to visually construct the design to sell it.

This involved understanding the vocabulary publishers use to lay out the cover content of magazines as well as the techniques used to engage the eye in persuading people to purchase one magazine over another. It reinforced their ability to hone their visual literacy skills to visually think about how to design their own work.

At the basic level, students know that companies advertise to sell products, but the competition is fierce. The design of information matters. To help them grasp this idea, we posed the question, “If you walked into any waiting room, what would it take to have someone pick up your magazine over any of the others on the table?” The cover sells magazines, just like it sells books.
ASIDE, 2014

We showed our students a host of different examples of travel magazines to discuss design, layout, text, and images. They analyzed the text to separate titles, subtitles, tag lines,  and cover lines. Given that many of our learners love to get carried away with fonts and colors, we talked a lot about selectivity. The students quickly realized that most covers used two or three font styles, and that color was limited and worked with the image. The most important typeface was reserved for the title, and the color complemented the design.

The project strengthened their understanding that media messages are constructed and that design decisions such as font hierarchy, word placement, and color all play a role in the visual branding of a product. Each part is a media carefully orchestrated to maximize that idea into sales.

ASIDE, 2014
ASIDE, 2014

We provided a handout for the students to talk about the cover elements of a magazine, and the students used PicCollage on their iPads to design the images in this post. They used alliteration to create their titles, and they invented catchy, selling tag lines based on a current advertising slogans or jingles to be placed just below them.

One of our examples was, “What’s in your state?” Of course, the kids happily chimed in that it came from the Capital One credit card commercials. This lead to a flood of ideas, including “Idaho Is On Your Side” (Nationwide Insurance), “I’m Lovin’ New Mexico (McDonalds), “Like A Good Neighbor Maryland’s There” (State Farm Insurance), and “America Runs On Peaches” (Dunkin Donuts).

The kids had a great time with this project. They became selective about how to display the content and realized that less is more. Their careful wording to create the cover lines also reinforced their knowledge about the topic.

Ideally, anytime we infuse our lessons to include the techniques used by advertisers, we not only build the media savvy of our kids, but we also enhance their visual thinking to graphically decode information and successfully design their own.

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