Teaching ELA with Popular Media

For thousands of years we’ve understood that stories can teach us both ethical and factual lessons. Now, popular media carries on this tradition. We learn important lessons from television and films everyday. At ClassHook we strive to help you utilize the power of media to better teach these lessons in the most effective way possible. In this blog post we’ll go over how ClassHook can help you teach your students key components of English Language Arts.

English Language Arts (ELA) is the study of the English language and the different elements that comprise it. Examples include grammar, figurative language, rhetoric, literary devices, and thematic elements. Mastery of ELA reinforces important life skills like writing, communication, listening, and comprehension, all of which are skills necessary to succeed in the world. Media is an excellent tool to use for teaching these lessons since it constantly uses these elements to delight and entertain us. Let’s look at just five short clips amongst hundreds of others available on the ClassHook website that help teach ELA.

Figurative Language: Simile (Forrest Gump)

In this iconic scene from the 1994 film, Forrest Gump, Forrest employs an excellent use of a simile. He compares a box of chocolates to life and uses the keyword “like.” A similarity has been drawn between two completely different things. Forrest then goes on to elaborate on the simile: “You never know what you’re going to get.” Both a box of chocolates and life are unpredictable. Forrest conveys a very complex idea about the randomness of life in just two wonderful sentences. It’s short and sweet, just like chocolate. 

Literary Devices: Clichés (The Office)

The hit sitcom, The Office, contains many literary devices, but in this clip we see Phyllis use the cliché. Clichés are overused phrases that have lost their original meaning or effect. Although they are predictable clichés are still useful in everyday conversation and in literature. They often are used to express or exaggerate a general idea or feeling. In this clip when Phyllis says, “It is raining cats and dogs,” she is expressing the severity of the rain. Similarly when she says, “Nobody knows how to drive in the rain,” she is exaggerating the poor driving skills of others. Her comment about plants and sleeping isn’t literal but simply her alluding to the fact that rain is good for plants and that she finds rain to be relaxing. Clichés help us communicate our thoughts and feelings without being too literal about it.

Rhetoric: Persuasion (Modern Family)

Rhetoric is the way we communicate our ideas. It is how we win over people who are opposed to us. In this mock debate from the show, Modern Family, we can see that how you say something can have just as much of an effect as what you say. Although it is exaggerated, Claire’s physical gestures and use of sarcasm all give off aggression which might dissuade people from listening to her actual points. Appropriate body language and tone help to improve one’s rhetoric and convince audiences to your side.

Writing: Diction (Friends)

Diction is important. When writing or delivering a speech our word choice can massively affect how our message is received. In this clip from Friends we can see that in his attempt to appear smarter Joey has ruined his letter. Although some words have the same meaning they can invoke completely different feelings depending on their context. When used sparingly  a thesaurus can be a great tool to improve diction. Diction helps us control the tone of our message and influence how our audience perceives us.

Literature Themes: Tragedy (Ted-Ed)

Theme is the primary subject of a piece of media. It is the idea we return to over and over again in a novel or television show. Theme is often the most important aspect of a work because it is the main point that is trying to be communicated. This Ted-Ed video explains why tragedies are so compelling and how the theme of tragedy can be developed. In hundreds of stories there is always an extraordinary hero who is morally ambiguous and has a critical flaw that ruins them. All of these elements help to build and reinforce the theme of tragedy.

Teaching aspects of ELA can be difficult at times. There are a lot of complex subjects that aren’t necessarily based on concrete facts like science and math. Having visual examples makes explaining these topics much easier. Our team at ClassHook has curated hundreds of clips pertaining to ELA and is constantly adding more. For more clips like the ones shown here, check out our Language Arts library to find more engaging and educational videos.

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