The Internet TESL Journal

Critical Thinking: How Much of You Is You?

Brent A. Jones
bjones_jp [at]
Kwansei Gakuin University (Japan)


This lesson plan was designed to encourage critical thinking about the influences of mass media and popular culture. Specifically, students will investigate, discuss and write about what parts of their lives are influenced. This is followed up by a group writing project and learners read and respond to essays written by other groups. This activity was designed for first-year non-English majors enrolled in a required university EFL course, but could be used in other learning contexts.



Outcomes or Productions

The main products will be group essays describing the influences of mass media and popular culture on their lifestyles. Again, these will be posted around the room for public viewing and eventually bound together as a class resource. Another outcome will be the reflective journal entries, which will hopefully encourage students to explore multiple perspectives and explain their ideas and opinions in more detail. This task-chain should provide opportunities to practice each of the four language skills and encourage learners to begin thinking more deeply about their own actions, activities and lifestyles. I also hope students will begin looking at mass media and popular culture more critically.


Evaluation will be based mainly on observation notes, the finished group essays and reflection journal entries. Ideally, instructors can use this activity to build on earlier lessons and follow it up periodically to take advantage of feeding functions.


The success of this activity is at least partially dependent on what material is chosen and how willing students are to scrutinize their own lifestyles. Instructors will need to experiment with different materials and ways to introduce the activity, maybe modeling for learners as they scrutinize how their own life is influenced by mass media and popular culture. Finally, for classrooms that don't have access to a VCR, teachers can collect more magazines and other examples of mass media and popular culture as a springboard for discussions and writing.


This task chain should provide learners with the opportunity to develop not only language skills but also critical thinking and reasoning skills they will need in their other studies and after graduation. The following concepts and strategies were taken into consideration.

Major Concepts

Main Teaching Strategies

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. X, No. 9, September 2004