TEACHING STRATEGY

Cracking the Code

Responding to the Read-Aloud Text
Grade Level
K-2

What?
During Cracking the Code, students examine texts for bias related to race, gender, class, religion, age and sexual orientation, among other identity categories.

When?


During and after reading
 

Why?

As noted in the Common Core, critical literacy means more than identifying words, enjoying illustrations and following story lines. Children need to be critical consumers of  media and able to identify stereotypes or biased representations of groups. Cracking the Code provides practice identifying both overt and covert messages.
 

How?

  1. Select a central text and a variety of print and television advertisements. Ideally, select ads for products with which your students will be familiar and those that illustrate the strategy well.
  2. Look at the first advertisement and use it to discuss the purpose of advertising. Ask students:
    • What is being advertised?
    • Who is the intended audience? How do you know?
    • Who is not the targeted audience? How do you know?
    • What will happen if you use the product? What makes you think this?
  3. Using the Hidden Messages in Advertisements log, look at the rest of the advertisements. Ask students:
    • What techniques are used to get the viewer’s attention?
    • Is there music? If so, how does it make you feel?
    • Which colors are used?
    • What is the pace? Is it slow motion or fast paced?
  4. Identify and discuss any positive and negative stereotypes present in the sample advertisements. Ask students:
    • Who are the people in the advertisement?
    • What do families look like in the advertisement?
    • What friendships are represented in the advertisement?
    • What work relationships are represented in the advertisement?
  5. Discuss how some messages are obvious and others are hidden. Ask students to support their ideas with evidence from the advertisements:
    • How are the people in the advertisement like you?
    • How are the people in the advertisement not like you?
    • Who is familiar to you?
    • Who is unfamiliar to you?
    • What does the advertisement want you to believe about women?
    • What does the advertisement want you to believe about men?
    • What does the advertisement want you to believe about people of color?
    • What does the advertisement want you to believe about working people?
    • What messages about beauty and intelligence are being communicated?
    • How are different people represented (women, men, different cultures, races)?
    • Who is the “good guy”?
    • Who is the “bad guy”?
  6. Using the skills practiced with advertising, move on to examine the central text. Read the central text aloud as students follow along. Have students identify the style of language used, the storyline, illustrations and who’s telling the story. Identify stereotypes through what is and is not represented. Ask students to respond to these questions with evidence from the text:
    • What illustrations are present?
    • Who is the author/speaker?
    • What positive language is used? To whom is it referring?
    • What negative language is used? To whom is it referring?
    • Which parts of the text make you smile? Which characters are present?
    • Which parts of the text make you frown? Which characters are present?
    • Which characters are shown as clever or smart?
    • Which characters are shown as unsuccessful?
  7. Prompt students to consider the "So what?" question. Now that they have examined the text(s) for biases related to gender, race, class, religion, age and sexual orientation, what have they learned? What is the text trying to communicate to the reader? Why is this important?


English language learners

Multimedia or visual texts allow English language learners to identify composition, point of view and representation without having to decode unfamiliar language. In addition to anchor charts modeling the questions, modify the strategy for English language learners by providing sentence strips with question models.


Connection to anti-bias education

Discussions about bias and stereotype are critical to anti-bias education. Cracking the Code helps students critically examine representation in texts and encourages them to assess the messages being transmitted in those representations.