Media Shaping Cultural Perceptions

 In Elementary, Lessons and Ideas, media literacy, Resources, Secondary


This lesson was created as the culminating project in the The Association for Media Literacy’s Spring 2022 Additional Qualifications Course.

The AML is grateful to Sara Kim for her creativity and permission to share this lesson. Please credit Sara Kim when you share the lesson.

by Sara Kim OCT

Grade 8 (may be adapted at Secondary level)

Length of Time: 1-2 double periods (2 x 120 minutes)

Lesson Description:

In this mini-unit, students will watch and analyze the Bollywood movie Dangal. They will investigate and question the power of media to shape new ideas/ concepts they are unfamiliar with, which in this case is South Asian culture. Nearly all of my students have never interacted with someone of South Asian descent/with South Asian culture. Therefore, I wanted to use media as a way to expose my students to South Asians while having them question the medium itself as a method to execute this purpose.

These lessons will take place once most/all theoretical instruction, including the Media Key Concepts, have already occurred.

Media Connections:

For students to understand if a film is a good way to explore a new concept, idea, or—in this case—culture, they will have to engage critically with film as a medium.

Class Profile:

This is a Grade 8 private school classroom. Approximately 99-100% of classes at this school are made up of East Asian—specifically Chinese—students.

Curriculum Expectations

Ontario Curriculum – Overall Expectations

1. Demonstrate an understanding of a variety of media texts

2. Identify some media forms and explain how the conventions and techniques associated with them are used to create meaning

3. Reflect on and identify their strengths as media interpreters…and the strategies they found most helpful in understanding…media texts.

Ontario Curriculum – Specific Expectations

1.3 Evaluate the effectiveness of the presentation and treatment of ideas, information, themes, opinions, issues, and/or experiences in the media text.

1.4 Explain why different audiences might have different responses to a variety of media texts.

1.5 Demonstrate understanding that different media texts reflect different points of view and that some texts reflect multiple points of view.

1.6 Identify who produces various media texts and determine the commercial, ideological, political, cultural, and/or artistic interests or perspectives that the texts may involve.

2.1 Explain how individual elements of various media forms combine to create, reinforce, and/or enhance meaning.

2.2 Identify the conventions and techniques used in a variety of media forms and explain how they help convey meaning and influence or engage the audience.

Lesson Goals

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

* Identify the strengths of different media as tools to learn something new.

* Analyze a primary source from South Asian culture using knowledge of several Media Literacy Key Concepts.

* Assess the effectiveness of using film to learn more about South Asian culture.

* Analyze the unique ways the movie engages the audience and reflect on how these choices impact the medium as well as the message that is received.

* Utilize their media knowledge to engage with their own sense of identity as learners by reflecting on how they have chosen and hope to choose to engage with similar media in the future.


Success Criteria

* students can identify the strengths of different media as tools to learn something new.

* students can analyze a primary source from an unfamiliar culture using knowledge of several Media Literacy Key Concepts.

* students can assess the effectiveness of using film as a medium to learn more about an unknown culture.

* students can analyze the unique ways a director may choose to engage their audience within a film and reflect on how these choices impact the medium as well as the message.

* students can utilize their media knowledge to engage with their own sense of identity as learners and consumers of media.


Media Literacy

Teaching through media:

My aim is to have my students learn how to analyze and critically process different forms of media as a method of learning. In this lesson, students will be asked to reflect on the strengths of using film as the medium of choice to discuss—amongst other issues—Dangal’s treatment of gender equality and patriarchy. I will ask students to consider what film allows that the written text, still images, or audio alone do not. Alternatively, I will also ask students to consider what these other forms provide as learning tools to expose (and teach) oneself about South Asian culture that film does not. Asking these questions will allow students to indirectly engage with McLuhan’s idea of ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ media as well as Stuart Hall’s notions of power.

Teaching about media:

My aim is to have my students critically understand the unique ways Dangal engages (or fails to engage) its audience through film. Students will learn to question the specific techniques and choices the director makes to shape how this particular film is delivered. Questions include, but are not limited to the following:

1) What does the choice to have only subtitles available instead of dubbed voices communicate to the viewer?

2) What may be communicated as a result of keeping the original voices (paired with subtitles) and what may be lost?

3) What scenes are most powerful and why?

4) How does Dangal use elements such as time, dark/light, music, silence, words vs. body language to capture and communicate ideas and/or emotions? Do they help shape the story and/or narrative being shared? Why or why not?

My hope is to indirectly introduce students to the concepts of hegemony and ideology as a result of these discussions.

Media Literacy Key Concepts directly addressed:

Media construct versions of reality – students will be asked to consider how Dangal is one individual’s version of South Asian culture and reality. Discussion and/or reflection will engage how we can, in fact, know that what is being presented is accurate.

Audiences negotiate meaning – students will be asked to consider how we—as individuals engaging with South Asian culture and/or a product of South Asian culture for the first time—might understand what we are watching and how we are interpreting what we are watching.

Media communicate values messages – students will be asked to critically analyze a film from a different culture for its value messages as well as for what value messages are being communicated.

Media communicate social and political messages – students will be asked to determine what social and political messages are being shared in this movie. They will also be asked to consider how they—as outsiders to South Asian culture—might see/interpret messages differently from native South Asians.


Assessment Mode: verbal discussion, written response (Padlet, written reflection)

Assessment Strategy: collaborative inquiry (assessment for and as learning), teacher-directed instruction and observation (assessment of learning), verbal discussion (assessment as and of learning)

Assessment Tools: collaborative inquiry, observation, peer discussion, written reflection, rubric.


* Chart paper
* Markers
* Laptops
* White board
* Projector


Lesson Plan
Motivational Hook:

1. After watching the film, students will be asked to share in  groups of 3-4 what their favourite and/or memorable part(s) of the film were and why they found it/them so engaging. Each group will be asked to share 1-2 responses. If time allows, a poll or graph may be done of what scenes were shared. They will write their answers on another piece of chart paper.

2. The class will share any questions they may have about the film or about scenes from the film they did not understand. (Depending on the class’ energy level, engagement, etc. these questions may be reversed.)


Lesson 1
1. As a whole class, we will discuss how using a film was/was not a good method to learn about South Asian culture. (Mini-lessons about the concepts of ideology, hegemony, etc. will likely be scattered about here.)

2. Following discussion, students will be asked to analyze and critically process different forms of media as a method of learning about a new culture in groups. (Questions will be general and not specifically for South Asian culture.)

Each group will take one or more of the following media (more media may be added later): picture/still image, book, song, podcast, YouTube video, documentary. Answers will be recorded on a Doc or chart paper. Students will present/share answers.

3. The whole class will consider what these other media forms provide as a learning tool to expose (and teach) oneself about South Asian culture that film does not provide.


Lesson 2 (taught during another class)

1. Whole class discussion: How might we assess if what we viewed is an accurate portrayal of South Asian culture?

2. Students vote to:
1) Complete a mini-research project on a specific topic in South Asian culture to consider what the film omitted or emphasized.
2) Compare and contrast a scene from their own culture with those of Dangal.

Lesson 3 (taught during another class, if time allows)

1. Whole class discussion: How do you think a Western European filmmaker would have represented South Asians similarly and differently? Why? To what effect?

Consolidation (15 mins):

1. To consolidate students’ learning, students will be asked to complete a reflection/journal. Students will have the choice to select a prompt from a list that will be shared with them or to choose to write freely without a prompt.

A rubric will be shared for how the reflection will be evaluated.

2. Students will complete this journal for each lesson.


Extension Activities:

* students can be asked to share their reflections in small groups during a later class. Allowing students to share their thoughts with each other may serve as a helpful lubricant and/or inspiration for fostering a safe, peer-to-peer co-learning environment.

* Media Literacy Key Concept application can be extended to other foreign media and/or cultures students are not familiar with. In lieu of being able to travel, this can help students to become thoughtful and critical consumers of global and/or multicultural and/or representational media.



* To accommodate for socially anxious/shy students, groups may be pre-determined to allow for balance in group discussions.

* Laptops and an electronic document will be available if preferred over chart paper.

* Students will be allowed to participate in group discussion by providing answers on a Padlet page instead of speaking publicly. (Some students simply need more time to process or are able to get their ideas out better when seeing the words in front of them.)

* If necessary, extra time can be provided.

* A stretch break/body break may need to be incorporated in the middle of class to provide a change of pace. This will allow students an opportunity to come back to see things in a new way.

* “Necessary food groups” (i.e. candy) may be distributed for low-energy students.

(Everyone seems to have “low energy” whenever the candy option is offered. LOL)


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