Search Menu


This site is available only to JEA members. Please log in below.

Making media literate decisions about sound and audio cues


In this activity-based lesson, student journalists will create two versions of a photo slideshow that could hypothetically be published on a student media website: one with music, one without (or each with different background music). Students will evaluate and discuss how the sounds changed the meaning and information value of the slideshow and how to best use multimedia to provide quality information.


  • Students will create multimedia slideshows using background music and photographs.
  • Students will assess how background music affects the interpretation of information conveyed in the slideshow.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.


50 minutes


10-15 photographs on a single topic or story

Background music (can be found from Creative Commons music sites, see for more information)

Slideshow software — anything your students know how to use is fine (iPhoto, iMovie, Soundslides)

Lesson step-by-step

1. Purpose of the activity — 5 minutes

Break up your staff into working groups of 3-4, and explain that they will use the photographs provided to create a slideshow that could go online as a supplement to a news, sports or feature story. For each slideshow, they must create two versions — one with background music and one without. Or, they can do two slideshows with totally different types of background music.

1. The first slideshow should represent the most “straight” version of the story the photos tell. This version will either have no music or the most “neutral” music students can find that doesn’t affect the mood, tone or interpretation of the slideshow.

2. The second slideshow should have background music that represents a conscious editorial choice about the mood, tone or interpretation of the story that the students wish to convey.

2. Work and present — 35 minutes

Students should spend this time picking their music, arranging their photos in sequence and creating the slideshows. Then, they will play the slideshows for the other groups BEFORE explaining their choices. As each group presents, the audience should give input about how the tone and message change between the versions, and the group who produced the slideshows can offer information about whether the audience “interpreted” the musical slideshow in the way it was intended given the background music choice.

3. Debrief — 10 minutes

As a production team, consider these questions and how you might adjust your workflow:

What did students learn about how sound and music affect content? How can students make sure they aren’t unintentionally editorializing visuals by the way they are presented? Is it even acceptable to editorialize with sound at all? What policies or practices should the staff observe to make the best decisions for readers? What are the checks and balances in this kind of situation?