Identify/Generate the principle
Time: 20-30 minutes
This activity (a variation of Film Evidence) introduces students
to the kinds of evidence they can use in writing about television
beyond plot. Students practice both finding evidence to suit a
claim and generating a claim after gathering evidence. This is
an incredibly useful exercise if you plan to ask students to write
papers of any length in response to TV.
Tape the opening credits to two television series: one that you
think most of your class has seen, one that you think they haven't.
It's especially effective to pair two shows with similar subjects,
one recent, one older ("Malcolm in the Middle" with "Leave
It To Beaver," "Ally McBeal" with "The Mary
Tyler Moore Show," "The West Wing" with "Yes,
Before you roll the credits, ask the students to brainstorm a short
list of claims about the first show: How does it depict families/women/politics/etc.?
Jot them down on the board. Then, roll the credits to the first
show. First, just ask students to watch and listen. Then, ask them
to choose a claim from the board and make notes of anything they
could use as evidence to support that claim. (Roll the credits
two more times for this activity; they go by quickly.) Finally,
share evidence, and make a list of the kinds of clues television
offers: music, camera angle, pace, shot choice, sequence, credit
Then, roll the credits to the less popular program. Ask students
to watch and listen without taking any notes. Then assign each
student to a particular category of evidence; roll the credits
twice more, asking students to take notes about their assigned
type of evidence. Share results. Brainstorm a list of claims about
the program that grow out of the evidence.