Developing skills for analysing argument are important for success in VCE, but the reality is, few teenagers read traditional news platforms. However, the skills used for analysing argument can be easily transferred to more relevant (for students) and engaging websites, rather than being used only in traditional media. Since most teenagers are deeply engaged with social media platforms, teaching them to critically analyse these sites can be a vital life skill.
The photos celebrities post on their Instagram accounts, for instance, can be analysed much like an ad campaign. After all, celebrities (and most Millenials) are trying to ‘build their brand’, that is, create the version of themselves they most want to see.
The trouble is, when students look at Instagram (or whatever), they just see a whole bunch of pictures of their favourite celebrity looking cool – it’s difficult for them to see that the Instagram account is trying to develop a narrative or argument for the type of person they want to be seen as. So we can lead students to a critical reading, by asking them to look at one photograph at a time.
Ask students to look at several photos of their favourite celebrities, like the ones of Kanye West below:
Provide students with a list of words like this:
And then ask them to complete a sentence like this one for each of the photographs they analyse:
The photo of Kanye West [student to write a brief description of chosen photo] evokes a sense of Kanye as a…and…man.
Ultimately, we want students to see that celebrities are creating a sense of themselves (an argument) for who they are, like this:
With his Instagram account, Kanye West wants his audience to view him as a deeply spiritual, loving and kind family man.
Students can use a model like the above sentence to demonstrate that they understand how celebrities are manipulating their audience. Use the table below to help create sentences like the one above:
|Prepositional phrase||Celebrity + verb||link to audience||list of adjectives|
|With his Instagram account…
In her Facebook page…
By posting images of herself on Snapchat…
|Kanye West wants….
|his audience to view him as…
a sense for her audience that…
the picture for his audience that he is…
her audience to see her as…
for his audience that…
|a deeply spiritual, loving and kind family man.
a…, …., and…person.
Students should ultimately be able to see that social media platforms are an essential tool for celebrities, because they dispel some of the ideas that we might automatically have for famous people. Get students to brainstorm words that they associate with celebrities and famous people (it helps if you give them examples of people they won’t want to admit they like – such as Katy Perry). They will probably come up with words like:
stupid, pointless, no talent, vain, selfish, self-absorbed….
So then students can connect the sentence about the celebrity they admire with a greater concept, like this:
With his Instagram account, Kanye West wants his audience to view him as a deeply spiritual, loving and kind family man, rather than the selfish celebrity he could be seen as.
Use the sentence stems below, along with the table above, to create analytic sentences.
…rather than the…
…instead of being a…
…which is preferable to being seen as…
Your students don’t need to have instagram accounts to view instagram pages. Simply doing a Google search for a celebrity name + Instagram (i.e Katy Perry + Instagram or Kim Kardashian + Instagram) will show them the celebrity’s instagram page.