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Lesson Plans Library 9-12 > U.S. History
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Grade level: 9-12 Subject: U.S. History Duration: Two class periods
 



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Objectives
Students will
  • Explain what is meant by the term "public agenda."
  • Identify the characteristics and components of the media.
  • Analyze how the media set public agendas and why.
  • Explore the connections between the media and public opinion in terms of the war in Iraq.
Materials
  • Operation Iraqi Freedomprogram
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Newsprint and markers
Procedures
  1. Begin the lesson by asking students if they know what the term "public agenda" means. Develop a class definition and write it on a sheet of newsprint. A sample definition is "The issues and problems that government leaders and the public focus on."
  2. Discuss with students where the public agenda comes from. Help them understand that the media play a role in setting what issues the public focuses on and sometimes even how the public thinks about an issue. In this way, the media can also shape public opinion, the ideas and attitudes of people about a particular issue or event. Ask students how the media accomplish this. Their ideas should include the following:
    • By the stories the media choose to include in the newspaper, newscast, or radio show
    • By where stories are placed in the paper or on the show. For example, a front-page story will get more attention than one in the back of the paper, and a story at the beginning of the newscast will be viewed by more people than one toward the end.
    • By the mix of positive and negative stories. Check to see if there is an equal distribution of positive and negative stories. Sometimes more negative information than positive information is printed about an event. This sometimes happens because negative information.
  3. Next, ask students to apply what they have just gone over about the media, the public agenda, and public opinion to a particular event-the war in Iraq. Pose the following question: How do the media help shape public opinion about the war in Iraq in your community? To answer this question, tell students to review media coverage of Iraq. As a class, draw up a list of items they should look for and record them on a sheet of newsprint. Key items include the following:
    • The number of stories about Iraq in the local media
    • The placement of the stories
    • The emphasis of the stories. Are the stories mostly positive? Mostly negative? Is there a balance between positive and negative stories?
  4. Have students select a partner to work with. If local newspapers are available at school, have students begin the assignment during class. Ask students to finish the assignment at home. Remind them to watch a newscast and listen to a radio show. Have students record the results of their reviews on a sheet of paper.

  5. During the next class, discuss what students discovered about the local coverage of the war in Iraq. Was the coverage balanced, or was it skewed in one direction or another? How do the media help shape public opinion? Make sure that students can support their ideas with documentation from the media.

  6. To show students one more way that information is conveyed, ask them to watch the program "Operation Iraqi Freedom." This show includes firsthand accounts of the experiences of soldiers in Iraq and their families at home. After viewing the program, ask students to think about the type of information being presented. Do these accounts differ from those found in the local media? If so, how?

  7. Conclude the lesson by discussing how students can get a balanced view of a complex situation, such as the war in Iraq. Do they think that reading different newspapers and magazines, as well as watching a range of newscasts and talk shows, is helpful? How do firsthand accounts fit in? Help students conclude that the more points of view they hear about, the more information they have to consider, and the easier it may be to develop an informed, balanced opinion.

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Evaluation
Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points: Students clearly explained the relationship between the media and the public agenda; conducted a thorough review of the local media, including all the points requested; and offered at least two suggestions about how to arrive at an informed, balanced opinion about a complex situation.
  • Two points: Students explained the relationship between the media and the public agenda; conducted a satisfactory review of the local media, including most of the points requested; and offered at least one suggestion about how to arrive at an informed, balanced opinion about a complex situation.
  • One point: Students partially or poorly explained the relationship between the media and the public agenda; did not complete the review of the local media and did not include most of the points requested; and offered no suggestions about how to arrive at an informed, balanced opinion about a complex situation.

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Vocabulary
balanced coverage
Definition:A equal distribution of positive and negative news stories about a topic, especially one that appears in the news on a regular basis
Context:A soldier in the program Operation Iraqi Freedom claims that there is not balanced coverage of the war in Iraq; he says he thinks most of it is negative.

firsthand account
Definition:Reports about an event, such as the War in Iraq, given by people in the field, not by journalists covering the event for the media
Context:Firsthand accounts of the War in Iraq given by soldiers and their families are personal and based solely on their opinions and experiences.

media
Definition:Forms of communication that can reach large numbers of people; these include television, newspapers, radio, magazines, and online news reports
Context:The media's choice of stories and approach to the stories they choose have an impact on the public's perception of current events.

public agenda
Definition:The issues and problems that citizens and government leaders agree need to be focused on
Context:The media help shape the public agenda because they determine what issues people hear about and consequently what they think worthy of thought and discussion.

public opinion
Definition:The ideas and attitudes that a large number of people have about an issue, an event, or the workings of the government
Context:Public opinion is determined by many factors, including family values, education, and ideas expressed in the media.

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<Academic Standards
Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visithttp://www.mcrel.org/.

This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:
  • Civics: Understands what is meant by "the public agenda," and how it is influenced by public opinion and the media
  • Language Arts: Understands the characteristics and components of the media
  • Language Arts-Viewing: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media
The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) has developed national standards to provide guidelines for teaching social studies. To view the standards online,click here

This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:
  • Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
  • Civic Ideals and Practices

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