Media Fluency: Schoolhouse Rock has Lied to Us!

This week we’ve been practicing our media fluency skills by spending two days watching documentaries and answering questions on a viewing guide before, during, and after viewing. I thought the lesson was over and was ready to move on to a grammar review I’ve done in the past using Schoolhouse Rock clips. Again, there was a viewing guide that went with it. For the first three clips I wasn’t asking them to challenge the information they were receiving. It was pretty much just information gathering which we would later apply to a part of speech exercise. But then I threw the a curve ball to see if the two previous days of media fluency emphasis had made a difference. I showed them the clip “Verb: That’s What’s Happening” (1974) but prefaced it with the following information on the viewing guide:

According to The Little Brown Handbook, “Verbals are special verb forms such as smoking or …to win that can function as nouns (smoking is dangerous) or as modifiers (the urge to win)” (245). In other words, if it is in the infinitive form (to____) or ends with an -ing, it is NOT functioning as the verb of the sentence but rather a noun or an adjective. With that in mind, note any errors you find in the following cartoon meant to teach children what a verb is. What is the cartoon actually teaching?

Having warned them beforehand that the following clip was going to be delivering them incorrect information, and after going through what verbals were with them, I was surprised at how many students still failed to pick up on the errors in the video (posted below for your nostalgic viewing pleasure).

Only 24 out of 64 students identified the errors in the clip (using infinitives and gerunds as verbs). And of those 24 students, only one student recognized that what was actually being taught was verbals, not verbs. If a three minute clip from the 70s featuring an animated superhero misleading children about verbs can still outweigh a warning from the teacher and a printout stating the correct information, how much more work must we do to get students to analyze what they are viewing and not take everything at face value? And what happens when there’s more at stake then a grammar mistake?


Posted on 4 May 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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