Middle Grade Lesson Plan


Grade 7-9
Subjects history, social studies, English, media literacy
Time Required 2-3 class periods

Overview In signing the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson hoped to establish a national television and radio broadcasting service that was both non-commercial and educational. The goal was to give every individual a chance at self-betterment, but these terms are broadly defined and understood. Over the years, PBS and NPR have been lauded as vital and necessary and derided as elitist and boring. This lesson wants middle-grade students to connect personal reflection with critical thinking and analysis to explore what television has meant in their lives and what a national, educational television might look like.

Objectives To remember the most influential shows in one’s childhood
To understand the audiences for those shows, based on content, time, mode of presentation.
To apply that thinking toward a new model of national public television and radio.
To analyze the current broadcasting schedule of the local PBS station versus one in two other cities.
To evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of Austin’s schedule.
To create an idea for a new television show for Austin public television, including its audience, its format, and its scheduling.

Investigative Questions How did television influence your early life?
How are programs designed to reach children?
How is the television schedule organized today?
How does it compare to the schedule in other markets?
How would you improve public television for the future?

Resources Corporation for Public Broadcasting
How TV Ratings Work
List of TV Markets
Johnson and Public Broadcasting Act of 1967

Steps 1. Divide students into groups of three or four. Ask them to
brainstorm what their favorite shows on growing up and why.

2. Ask them to remember if any of the shows were “educational.” If so, how could they tell? Did they like “educational television”?

3. Provide students with a schedule of the local PBS station. Austin’s is available here. Do they watch or recognize any of the mentioned shows? Why or why not?

4. Encourage the students to research some of the show titles, using either the internet or a directory from the library, such as The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present or The Encyclopedia of Daytime Television.

5. Ask them, Who might be watching these shows? Would they watch these shows? Why do you think these shows were selected?

6. Compare with a PBS schedule in a different market. For example, here is Seattle’s and Raleigh’s. What shows appear across all three? Which one are added onto the schedule? How might that reflect different audiences?

7. Develop an idea for your own public television show for students your age. What issues do they need information about? How would you make the show educational, yet also fun to watch?

8. Have the groups meet with other groups to workshop ideas.

9. Present your proposed shows to the class for feedback.

10. Ask each student to write a reflection about what public television means to them and why it may be needed.

Evaluation The students are engaging in a range of activities, including class discussion, small group work, presentations, and reflection writing. Connecting back to Bloom’s taxonomy, it might help to evaluate each aspect individually to charge comprehension, development, and mastery.