Learn about how CommonLit’s English Language Arts curriculum engages students in media analysis tasks that bring each CommonLit 360 unit’s topics and themes to life.
Maintaining high student engagement has always been a challenge for teachers. This was a main consideration when we designed CommonLit 360 units. Our approach, like everything else, is backed by research and the science behind why kids become authentically invested in reading — to uncover the deeper meaning and build an enduring understanding. Our ELA curriculum is packed with texts, reading instruction, writing instruction, vocabulary activities, grammar practice, independent reading, and much more — all within units that are centered around a singular topic or theme, like the costs and benefits of social media (7th grade).
In this blog post, we will explore an innovative piece of the CommonLit 360 curriculum that builds knowledge and student engagement at the same time, a lesson type called “Related Media Exploration.” The Related Media Exploration brings the topics of the unit to life through a guided analysis of multimedia, including photos, charts, videos, or podcasts. This lesson type is highly interactive, requiring students to collaborate and discuss in small groups or pairs.
Below, I will walk through an example of a Related Media Exploration and discuss the ways in which teachers can customize the lessons to work for different settings and build reading comprehension.
Related Media Exploration Walkthrough
To explain the main pieces of a Related Media Exploration, I will use a lesson in 9th Grade Unit 1: Following the Crowd as our example. In this unit, students read about fictional characters who find themselves making choices based on the influences of others, and they’ll learn about the psychology behind why people often go along with the crowd, even when it contradicts their individual beliefs.
Each unit’s Related Media Exploration comes after students have read at least a few of the unit’s essential reading lessons. These lessons usually take about one class period to complete and are opportunities for the students to deepen their understanding of the content and themes of the texts in a way that adds excitement to the unit. To assist in facilitation, Related Media Explorations include:
- a slide deck with ready-made activities, all editable in Google Slides,
- a student handout, also editable in Google Docs, and
- a teacher copy, with answers and facilitation tips.
Introducing the Lesson
Each Related Media Exploration introduces the lesson with a question asking students to take a side or respond to a scenario and a purpose for the activity. In this particular Exploration, students are reminded of a concept they recently read about (in this example, the idea of conformity) and are asked to apply that concept to their own lives.
The Multimedia Exploration
Related Media Explorations often include 2–4 videos, photos, graphs, or other digital media that provide differing perspectives of the same subject. The media are directly linked in the slide deck, and questions are displayed in the slide deck and student handout. We find that these materials are utilized most successfully in pairs or small groups so that students can discuss as they navigate through the multimedia.
For this particular ninth grade activity, students are asked to view three different videos that delve into the psychology behind conformity. Each video is under ten minutes and includes questions that progress in complexity.
The questions about multimedia require students to make connections to previous unit texts, compare two videos or multimedia, and/or synthesize information across the media. Students are also asked to reflect on their opinions and notice any changes in their own perspective.
In short, CommonLit 360 Related Media Explorations are highly engaging, rigorous, and collaborative activities — and we’ve done the work to make them extremely easy to facilitate!
The Independent Reflection
After students have collaboratively explored the multimedia links and discussed the aligned questions, they are prompted to reflect in writing through a culminating question. This open-ended, opinion-based question is intended for students to answer independently in preparation for a class discussion.
The Whole Class Discussion
Finally, the Related Media Exploration ends with a class discussion of the reflection question to give students a chance to show mastery of the knowledge they gained.
Starting the lesson with small group or partner work provides students the opportunity to practice discussion techniques in a lower-stakes setting before having to speak in front of a larger group. Students also have the ability to prepare for the discussion by developing their thoughts in writing during the Independent Reflection portion of the lesson.
Flexible Facilitation Options
All CommonLit 360 lessons come with useful teacher guides and editable slide decks to assist teachers in maximizing student engagement for their particular classes.
Recommended: Partner Work
If all students have access to internet-connected devices, we recommend giving students the opportunity to complete Related Media Explorations collaboratively with 1–2 partners. This way, all students can have opportunities to share their opinions and practice their speaking and listening skills throughout the Exploration. Meanwhile, teachers can circulate and provide targeted support to pairs that need help.
Teacher-Directed Option: For Low Connectivity Environments
For classes with fewer internet-connected devices, a teacher-led discussion is recommended. This facilitation method involves the teacher displaying the slide deck and playing the videos for all students on a single internet connected device that all students can view, pausing to allow for a partner or class discussion along the way.
Because there are multiple facilitation options, we recommend teachers preview the slide deck and customize the directions to meet the specific needs of their students.
If you are interested in learning more about Related Media Explorations and CommonLit’s comprehensive digital literacy program, here are a few options for next steps: