Lesson 3: Africa in the Spotlight ~ How does media portray Africa?


Grade: 3rd
Time needed: 90 minutes (or two days for 45 minute) 

Essential question of the unit being addressed in this lesson
What assumptions/stereotypes exist about the continent of Africa? What drives these 

How do these stereotypes affect our understanding of people, cultures, practices, 
countries, history, and politics in Africa? How accurate are the stereotypes about Africa?

Lesson Objectives
Students will be able to…
-         explore and identify common themes of African culture (language, foods, traditions,
      people, values, landscape, etc) found in various media sources

-          analyze the accuracy of these cultural themes in the media and the effects on viewers

-          consider the meaning of critical thinker/observer

-          practice collaboration skills by planning and creating a tableau with small groups 

MMSD standards
Behavioral Science
4. Explain how the media may influence behaviors, opinions, and decisions
6. Demonstrates an ability to interact within a group while performing various group roles

NCSS standards
I. Culture and Cultural Diversity
- to understand and apply the concept of culture as an integrated whole that governs the
  functions and interactions of language, literature, arts, traditions, beliefs, values, and
  behavior patterns 

IV. Individual Development and Identity
- have learners compare and evaluate the impact of stereotyping, conformity, acts of
  altruism, discrimination, and other behaviors on individuals and groups 

VIII. Science, Technology, and Society
- enable learners to identify, describe, and examine both current and historical examples
  of the interaction and interdependence of science, technology, and society in a variety of
  cultural settings

Materials needed

  • Multiple children’s books about Africa. Including, but not limited to…
    Africa is Not a Country (Burns Knight and Melnicove)
    Ashraf of Africa (Mennen and Daly)
    Big Boy (Mollel)
    A Child's Day in a South African City (Wulfsohn)
    The Day of Ahmed's Secret (Heide & Gilliland)
     Here Comes our Bride (Onyefulu)
     I Lost My Tooth in Africa (Diakite) 
    Ikenna Goes to Nigeria (Onyefulu)
    Musa's Journey (Grobler)
    My Father’s Shop (Ichikawa)
    On My Way to School (AfricAid and Losinoni Primary School)
     The Rise of the Golden Cobra (Aubin)
    Rows and Piles of Coins (Mollel)
    What's Cooking, Jamela? (Daly)
  • Newspaper, magazine, National Geographic articles on Africa; current events encouraged
  • Computers for one third of the students (utilize school computer lab)
  • Africa in the Spotlight worksheet (see attachment below)


Media Jigsaw
Students will “become experts” on a specific area of media that talks about Africa. There will be three stations where specific groups explore a different kind of media, including    (1) Children’s books  (2) Newspaper, magazine, and National Geographic articles  (3) internet. At each station, students will record any observations they make using the Africa In the Spotlight worksheet They will then combine to make groups of three and share with their peers what they learned at their assigned station. 

A suggestion for dividing students into randomized groups…

  • Use cards that students can select at random
  • 1/3 of the cards should be one color, 1/3 another color, 1/3 another color… these colors will be used to split students into the various media groups
  • On the same cards, write the name of various African country names. Each country should be written on 3 different colored cards (i.e. write Egypt on a red card, blue card, and green card). Repeat that pattern using different country names. The country names will be used to divide students into their peer group whom they will share their expertise with.
Identifying Themes
Once students have completed their observations at each station they will divide into small groups (based on the country name on their card). In these groups, they will share their observations and discuss the common themes they noticed in media portrayal of Africa. They will also discuss their thoughts on whether or not these themes are accurate or stereotypical.

Strike a Pose
Each group will create a tableau (still picture) to depict one of their identified themes. The rest of the class will observe their tableau and guess what the theme was. Each group will briefly share their process behind why they chose to depict a particular theme.

As a class, discuss the students’ observations about the media portrayal of Africa and stereotypes. To provide for maximum participation by all students, provide some opportunities for think-pair-share so all students can be heard. This discussion should lead to a reflection on how media can influence our perceptions about people/places and what it means to be a critical thinker/observed. Some guiding questions include:

  • How do you think media can influence what we think about people or places?
  • Do you think the media always tells the truth? Why or why not? How do we know if something is the truth or a stereotype?
  • Do media reinforce or discredit stereotypes? Or both?
  • What do you think critical observer means? How can we be critical observers when it comes to media?

Special Considerations
If the class does not have access to multiple computers, the computer/internet station can be a changed to a movie station. A single computer can be used for students to watch short clips from cartoon movies on set in Africa. The Lion King and Madagascar are prime examples. Short clips from these can be found on youtube.com.  

The assessment for this lesson focuses on participation level for the various activities. Each student’s participation will be assessed on whether they participated to a high, moderate, or low degree for a given activity. A quick assessment check list for each student may be similar to the following:

Circle participation level of student for each activity:

Recorded observations on Spotlight on Africa worksheet:                                 high          moderate           low

Contributed ideas to small group when identifying media themes                  high           moderate           low
Involved in creation and display of tableau                                                             high           moderate           low

Contributed at least one thought during whole class or think-pair-share        high           moderate            low

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