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Understanding TelevisionUnderstanding-Television

  • Subject: Technology
  • |
  • Grade(s): 9-12
  • |
  • Duration: Three to four class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will understand the following:
1. Producing a television show is a complex task that requires many skills, many people, and a great deal of thought and planning.


For this lesson, you will need:
Computer with Internet access
Movie camera or video recorder
Movie projector and screen or VCR and monitor


1. Discuss with your students their experiences with television, asking them to mention their favorite shows, actors, and so on. Continue the discussion by asking students what they think goes into producing a TV show, from an original idea to the shows we see on the screen.
2. Tell students they are going to go through the steps of producing a television show themselves.
3. First, divide the class into groups, and allow group members time to research television on the Internet to get an idea of what goes into producing a TV show (see Links).
4. Have group members begin by developing an idea for their show.
5. Next, have them write a proposal, describing the plot, setting, and characters. The proposal should also specify the target audience for the show.
6. Once the group members are satisfied with their idea, they can proceed to write a script for one episode of the show. They might want to do some preliminary research to find out about the usual format for a television script.
7. After the script has been written, group members should create a storyboard, which shows the flow of the script in pictorial form.
8. If possible, have students choose actors for their shows and, after several rehearsals, film or tape their episodes. Then they can share their creations with other groups.

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Younger students will need more supervision at each stage of this activity.

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Discussion Questions

1. Television was first invented in 1886 by a German student, Paul Nipcow. How much television do you watch in one week? How would you spend your time if television had never been invented?
2. RCA's David Sarnoff was credited for bringing television to the masses at the 1939 World's Fair with President Roosevelt speaking. If television were invented today, with what programming would you choose to debut the new invention and why?
3. The first color television camera was the TK 41. Describe how would black and white television change the programs you watch?
4. The most recent invention in television is digital technology. Explain what could you invent to improve television programming and viewership?
5. Video recording has revolutionized the television industry and brought about channels like CNN, ESPN, and MTV. What would television be like for you without these channels? Describe the target audiences for these channels.
6. How will the agent or Intelligence Search Software affect your choice of television shows?

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You can evaluate your students on their proposals using the following three-point rubric:
Three points: clearly outlines plot, setting, and characters; well written and well organized; specifies target audience
Two points: outlines plot, setting, and characters, but lacks clarity; adequately written and organized; specifies target audience
One point: outline of plot, setting, and/or characters insufficient; poorly written and organized; fails to specify target audience
You can ask your students to contribute to the assessment rubric by determining how much a proposal needs to tell about the plot, setting, and characters of a show.

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You Are the Writer
Have students choose scenes from their favorite television shows and decide what they would like to change. Then have them rewrite the scenes to their new specifications.

With students, analyze the television programming available to American families. Have each student poll his or her family to find out each family member's favorite programs, and then create a database about the family's preferences. Once the information is assembled, students can write short computer programs that will enable family members to browse air times for their favorite shows.

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Suggested Readings

Television: Electronic Pictures
Lila Gano, Lucent Books, 1990
In addition to explaining the basics of television production, Gano provides a full treatment of the technological aspects of television, including its invention and development, as well as its societal impacts.

Television Production
Alan Wurtzel and John Rosenbaum, McGraw-Hill, 1995
This detailed handbook, a part of the McGraw-Hill Series in Mass Communication, is intended for professional practitioners, but would explain to the young adult reader what television production entails.

Opportunities in Television and Video Careers
Shonan F.R. Noronha, VGM Career Horizons, 1994
The production of television and the newer video programs offer challenging, exciting career opportunities for persons with a variety of talents, skills, and inclinations. Explore those opportunities in this guide to the field.

"Television" in: Machines: A Prentice Hall Illustrated Dictionary
Michael Pollard and Merilyn Holme, Prentice Hall General Reference, 1993
Electron guns, cathode ray tubes, shadow masks, and glowing, multi-colored phosphorus dots are all illustrated and defined in this dictionary's entry for "television."

World Book's Young Scientist, volume 7: "The Television Camera" and "Receiving Television"
World Book, Inc., 1991
"Painting with light" is the way that these entries describe the encoding of electron signals via TV camera tubes. All explanations are related mainly by clear illustrations.

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The media History Timeline Project
This excellent and extremely comprehensive timeline for the history of media fits well with the opening segments of "Understanding: Television."

The Farnsworth Chronicles
This is a concise and easily accessible site detailing the efforts of Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of modern television.

Exploratorium Exhibits
Exciting online demos and guided discovery help explain how we come to "make pictures" on the tube.

Bob Miller's Light Walk
Combining art and science, the exercises on the "Light Walk" reinforce the ideas raised in "Understanding: Television."

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    fiber-optic
Definition: Relating to thin transparent fibers of glass or plastic that are enclosed by material of a lower index of refraction and that transmit light throughout their length by internal reflections.
Context: The signal will be captured and temporarily be converted into laser light and fed down long strands of glass called fiber-optic lines.

speaker    bit
Definition: A unit of computer information equivalent to the result of a choice between two alternatives (e.g., yes or no, on or off).
Context: A television camera breaks the scene into bits and scans the world a bit at a time.

speaker    vacuum tubes
Definition: An electron tube evacuated to a high degree of vacuum.
Context: For the next 60 years, television cameras used vacuum tubes.

speaker    prism
Definition: A transparent body that is bounded in part by two nonparallel plane faces and is used to refract or disperse a beam of light.
Context: In broadcast color cameras, the light streaming through the lens enters a prism, which does the usual prism thing, splitting the light into three colors.

speaker    ray gun
Definition: A device which fires a stream of electrons toward a fluorescent screen. The direction of the stream is controlled by a magnetic field within a cathode ray tube (the point of origin for the stream).
Context: There is a ray gun at the back of the picture tube firing a thin beam to light up a tiny dot on your screen.

speaker    record head
Definition: An electromagnetic strip device which imparts a characteristic pattern on a storage medium such as magnetic tape, thereby saving information to the storage medium.
Context: All magnetic recording begins with an electromagnet called a record head.

speaker    segmentation
Definition: The process of dividing into segments.
Context: He could get rid of segmentation by a nice long scan with a tape wrapped around this big drum.

speaker    analog
Definition: Relating to a mechanism in which data is represented by continuously variable physical quantities (such as voltages).
Context: We live in an analog world.

speaker    digital
Definition: Relating to data in the form of numerical digits.
Context: To make our analog world digital it must be converted.

speaker    agent
Definition: One who is authorized to act for or in the place of another.
Context: And these days you use the word agents to do that.

speaker    Intelligence Search Software
Definition: Computer instructions, customized to the preferences of an individual.
Context: And the term agent refers to Intelligence Search Software that will be programmed to know what each family member likes.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: physical science
Understands basic concepts about the structure and properties of matter.
Knows that the properties of a compound reflect the nature of the interactions among its molecules, which are determined by the structure of the molecule (the kinds of atoms and the distances and angles between them).

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: technology
Understands the nature of scientific inquiry.
Knows that results of scientific inquiry--new knowledge and methods--emerge from different types of investigations and public communication among scientists; the nature of communicating and defending the results of scientific inquiry is guided by criteria of being logical and empirical and by connections between natural phenomena, investigations and the historical body of scientific knowledge.

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: U.S. history
Understands the economic boom and social transformation of post-World War II America.
Understands influences on American society during the post-World War II years (e.g., how family life changed after 1945, the influence of popular culture on American society after World War II).

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: world history
Understands global and economic trends in the high period of Western dominance.
Understands how government programs and technological development influenced the industrial nations of the Northern Hemisphere in the early 20th century (e.g., government programs that included social legislation such as Social Security, minimum wage laws, and compulsory free public education; the broad effects of technological developments in labor, capital investment, and industrial production).

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: language arts
Demonstrates competence in speaking and listening as tools for learning.
Makes explicit use of various techniques for effective presentations (e.g., modulation of voice, inflection, tempo, enunciation, physical gestures) and demonstrates poise and self-control while presenting.

Grade level: K-2
Subject area: the arts
Understands how informal and formal theatre, film, television, and electronic media productions create and communicate meaning.
Understands the visual, aural, oral, and kinetic elements of dramatic performances.

Grade level: K-2
Subject area: the arts
Understands how informal and formal theatre, film, television, and electronic media productions create and communicate meaning.
Understands how the wants and needs of characters are similar to different from one's own wants and needs. Knows appropriate terminology used in analyzing dramatizations.

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Kelley A. Devine, English teacher, Thomas S. Wooton High School, Rockville, Maryland.

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