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Our Instructional Approach

We encourage educators and students to not only analyze the media messages they encounter, but to also reflect on why they interpret media the way they do and why others may decipher or convey information differently. Through this inquiry-driven, evidence-based approach, learners develop compassion and confidence to effectively collaborate and communicate across differences.

Constructivist Media Decoding

This method of teaching is the cornerstone of our approach to media literacy pedagogy.
It enables busy educators to integrate media literacy into their curricula in any core content and grade level.

Media Decoding
is the process of analyzing and evaluating the messages conveyed by diverse forms of media—a necessary skill in today’s digitally mediated world.

A Constructivist Approach
is inquiry-based - teaching through reflective dialogue. It enables learners to “construct” new knowledge for themselves by reconciling new information with their previous experiences and ideas.

Constructivist Media Decoding
engages diverse learners, deepens their understanding of subject material, and hones higher order thinking skills in analysis and reflection. It is highly relevant for students’ mediated reality, and is highly successful with traditionally disenfranchised students.

Educator Developed, Standards-Aligned

Common Core


All our materials are linked to specific Common Core standards so that teachers can choose particular media decoding activities and lessons for teaching to specific standards and grade levels.

Social Studies


The new C3 standards require a shift to inquiry-based methodologies that teach students to ask questions, evaluate sources, provide evidence, and communicate well-reasoned conclusions. The National Council for the Social Studies recent Position Paper on Media Literacy, co-authored by Project Look Sharp, illustrates how our materials and training address the shifts in pedagogy and instruction proposed by C3.

Reading in History & Science


These standards require the integration of literacy skills into content area instruction. This has been our focus for over 20 years!

Science


The new Next Generation standards emphasize the integration of critical thinking and literacy skills with core content instruction. Our approach, as outlined in the Science Scope article, Teaching Critical Thinking Through Media Literacy, requires students to apply scientific knowledge to the critical analysis of diverse and often conflicting representations of scientific information and to reflect on how their own biases impact their interpretation of information and assessment of the credibility of sources.

ELA


These standards require teaching students to analyze and evaluate ALL media messages - in print, web sites, popular culture, entertainment, music and more. Use the Key Questions to Ask When Analyzing Media messages to integrate the habits of critical thinking across the curriculum.



Explore our library of over 500 free media decoding lessons.

Demonstration Videos

This 5-minute video shows Chris Sperry leading high school students through an inquiry-based decoding of Israeli and Palestinian maps to discover concepts about bias in maps and apply their knowledge of the Arab/Israel conflict. It is annotated to demonstrate the choices that a teacher makes in leading a media decoding to teach core subject area knowledge and concepts and media literacy skills.

Heighten Your Instruction through PD


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View Additional Videos Featuring Other Educators, Grade Levels and Topics:

Gender in children's commericals

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Critical Thinking and Health. Students in this video decode the commercial Magic Kissing Dragons to analyze media messaging about gender.

(Total Time: 5:26)

First contact between Europeans and Native Americans

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using our lesson, First Contact. Students in this video decode two opposing paintings to understand how Europeans impacted Native American life.

(Total Time: 7:50)

Paintings of King George and George Washington

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Causes of the American Revolution. Students in this video decode differences in paintings of George Washington and King George.

(Total Time: 7:58)

Decoding Money

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Introducing Africa. Students in this video compare two African currencies to the U.S. Dollar to gain insight about cultural differnces.

(Total Time: 5:25)

US Wars in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Media Construction of War. Students in this video are lead to decode Newsweek covers from various US Wars.

(Total Time: 9:00)

The Politics of Maps Israel/Palestine

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Media Construction of the Middle East. Students in this video discover that maps can be biased.

(Total Time: 5:01)

1800 Anti-Jefferson Political Cartoon

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Media Construction of Presidential Campaigns. Students in this video decode political cartoons attacking Thomas Jefferson.

(Total Time: 4:34)

The Great Global Warming Swindle

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Media Constuctions of Global Warming. Students analyze a short video clip from the film The Great Global Warming Swindle, compare the information in the clip with a chart, and reflect on issues of credibility and bias in media representations and our own biases when evaluating information.

(Total Time: 11:27)

Examining Credibility and Bias in Web Sites

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Media Constuctions of Martin Luther King Jr. Students analyze the white supremacist website martinlutherking.org and reflect on critical thinking and the internet.

(Total Time: 6:44)

Soviet History

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Soviet History Through Posters. Students are led through a decoding of five Soviet government posters from 1918 to 1988, where they apply historical knowledge while practicing media literacy skills.

(Total Time: 10:00)

National Geographic's Africa

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Seeing Africa. Students reflect on stereotyping while analyzing the representation of Africa in the lead pages from the 20 National Geographic articles on Africa in the 1990's.

(Total Time: 06:50)

WWI Propaganda Posters

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Economics in US History. Students in the video decode propaganda posters used in WWI.

(Total Time: 5:27)

Farming, Community and Sustainability

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Media Construction of Sustainability. Students in this video examine clips from a film and a commercial to examine farming in the US.

(Total Time: 9:00)

Hydrofracking, Media and Credibility

This 9 minute annotated video demonstrates constructivist media decoding using the lesson Exploring the Impact of Hydrofracking on Aquifers where college students analyze pro and anti-fracking diagrams.

(Total Time: 9:00)

2008 Election Magazine Covers

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Media Construction of Presidential Campaigns. Students in this video decode various magazine covers portraying Barack Obama during the 2008 election.

(Total Time: 9:10)

Decoding Last Words by Nas

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Media Construction of Social Justice. Students in this video decode the rap song Last Words by Nas to gain insight about prison life and the greater justice system.

(Total Time: 5:37)

Synchronous Online Media Decoding

Cyndy Scheibe shares 7 tips for leading a synchronized online media decoding - with excerpts from her media literacy class where students are analyzing charts about generational changes in media consumption during the pandemic.

(Total Time: 5:59)

Asynchronous Media Decoding

Cyndy Scheibe shares 8 tips for leading an asynchronous (preset, offline) media decoding with students using Padlets so students can respond to the teacher's questions and to the responses by other students, as well as posting their own media examples and questions for decoding.

(Total Time: 7:36)

Gender in children's commericals

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Critical Thinking and Health. Students in this video decode the commercial Magic Kissing Dragons to analyze media messaging about gender.

(Total Time: 5:26)

First contact between Europeans and Native Americans

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using our lesson, First Contact. Students in this video decode two opposing paintings to understand how Europeans impacted Native American life.

(Total Time: 7:50)

Paintings of King George and George Washington

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Causes of the American Revolution. Students in this video decode differences in paintings of George Washington and King George.

(Total Time: 7:58)

Decoding Money

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Introducing Africa. Students in this video compare two African currencies to the U.S. Dollar to gain insight about cultural differnces.

(Total Time: 5:25)

US Wars in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Media Construction of War. Students in this video are lead to decode Newsweek covers from various US Wars.

(Total Time: 9:00)

The Politics of Maps Israel/Palestine

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Media Construction of the Middle East. Students in this video discover that maps can be biased.

(Total Time: 5:01)

1800 Anti-Jefferson Political Cartoon

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Media Construction of Presidential Campaigns. Students in this video decode political cartoons attacking Thomas Jefferson.

(Total Time: 4:34)

The Great Global Warming Swindle

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Media Constuctions of Global Warming. Students analyze a short video clip from the film The Great Global Warming Swindle, compare the information in the clip with a chart, and reflect on issues of credibility and bias in media representations and our own biases when evaluating information.

(Total Time: 11:27)

Examining Credibility and Bias in Web Sites

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Media Constuctions of Martin Luther King Jr. Students analyze the white supremacist website martinlutherking.org and reflect on critical thinking and the internet.

(Total Time: 6:44)

Soviet History

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Soviet History Through Posters. Students are led through a decoding of five Soviet government posters from 1918 to 1988, where they apply historical knowledge while practicing media literacy skills.

(Total Time: 10:00)

National Geographic's Africa

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Seeing Africa. Students reflect on stereotyping while analyzing the representation of Africa in the lead pages from the 20 National Geographic articles on Africa in the 1990's.

(Total Time: 06:50)

WWI Propaganda Posters

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Economics in US History. Students in the video decode propaganda posters used in WWI.

(Total Time: 5:27)

Farming, Community and Sustainability

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Media Construction of Sustainability. Students in this video examine clips from a film and a commercial to examine farming in the US.

(Total Time: 9:00)

Hydrofracking, Media and Credibility

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Media Construction of Sustainability. Students in this video examine clips from a film and a commercial to decode farming in the US.

(Total Time: 9:00)

2008 Election Magazine Covers

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Media Construction of Presidential Campaigns. Students in this video decode various magazine covers portraying Barack Obama during the 2008 election.

(Total Time: 9:10)

Decoding Last Words by Nas

An example of leading a class through a constructivist media decoding using a lesson from our kit, Media Construction of Social Justice. Students in this video decode the rap song Last Words by Nas to gain insight about prison life and the greater justice system.

(Total Time: 5:37)

Synchronous Online Media Decoding

Cyndy Scheibe shares 7 tips for leading a synchronized online media decoding - with excerpts from her media literacy class where students are analyzing charts about generational changes in media consumption during the pandemic.

(Total Time: 5:59)

Asynchronous Media Decoding

Cyndy Scheibe shares 8 tips for leading an asynchronous (preset, offline) media decoding with students using Padlets so students can respond to the teacher's questions and to the responses by other students, as well as posting their own media examples and questions for decoding.

(Total Time: 7:36)


Published Articles and Webinars

Rx for an Infodemic: Media Decoding, COVID-19 and Online Teaching
Chris Sperry and Cyndy Scheibe, Social Education,, Vol. 84, Number 3, pg. 152-158, May/June, 2020
After describing the historical, political and social causes of our viral age of “fake news,” this article explore how constructivist media decoding provides a methodology for addressing the polarization of truth, with examples of how this work can be done in the classroom through face-to-face and virtual learning.
Media Literacy: NCSS Position Statement
Chris Sperry, Social Education, Vol. 80(3), pg. 183-185, May/June 2016.
The following is the National Council for the Social Studies official Position Paper on Media Literacy, approved by the NCSS Board in June of 2016. It was written by Project Look Sharp’s Director of Curriculum and Staff Development, Chris Sperry, in collaboration with Frank Baker and includes some language from the previous NCSS position paper on Media Literacy.
Briefing: Project Look Sharp’s Decoding Media Constructions and Substantiality
Sox Sperry, Journal of Sustainability Education, Vol. 23, April 2020.
Antonio Lopez, in his coda to Greening Media Education, summarizes the complex set of skills needed “to bring ecologically oriented cultural practice into the realm of media education (which) promotes systems thinking, collaborative learning, critical thinking, lifelong learning and digital media literacy.” This article offers cases studies of two Look Sharp lessons, one for elementary age students and another for upper level high school, each of which was designed with these skills in mind as a way to bring Lopez’s vision into practice in the classroom.
Constructivist Media Decoding in the Social Studies: Leveraging the New Standards for Educational Change
Chris Sperry, The Journal of Media Literacy, Vol. 62, Numbers 3 and 4, pg. 46-54, 2015.
This article explores the role that media analysis can play on educational reform tied to the new NCSS C3 Framework for the Social Studies and the Common Core ELA standards for secondary social studies. It uses examples from media decoding activities on the Project Look Sharp website tied to specific standards. It also explores professional development tools that support methodological shifts towards inquiry and assessments of critical thinking skills.
Voices from the Field: Sounds Great, But I Don't Have Time! Helping Teachers Meet Their Goals and Needs With Media Literacy Education
Cyndy Scheibe, The National Association for Media Literacy Education's Journal of Media Literacy Education,Vol. 1 No. 1, pg. 68-71, September 2009.


Explore Full Article Archive


View past webinars we’ve hosted

Integrated Media Literacy and Critical Thinking


How can you fit media literacy into the curriculum when it is already so packed? How can you use media analysis to teach core content and standards while also teaching critical media literacy skills?

Teaching Media Literacy & Sustainability for Younger Learners


Sox Sperry, Project Look Sharp's primary curriculum writer, leads participants in an exploration of elements from Project Look Sharp's lessons related to sustainability for teachers in the elementary grades.

Media Constructions of Martin Luther King Jr.


Sox Sperry, Project Look Sharp's curriculum writer, leads participants on a participatory exploration of lessons covering media representations of Dr. King.

Critical Thinking and Health: Media Literacy Lessons for Elementary Grades


Cyndy Scheibe, LookSharp's executive director, offered elementary school and early childhood educators pedagogical techniques and curriculum materials to help young children understand biases and misleading messages found in food advertising and toy commercials aimed at them.

Teaching about Climate Change Using the Tools of Media Literacy


Sox Sperry, Project Look Sharp’s primary curriculum writer, leads participants on a participatory exploration of lessons covering media representations of climate change. The lessons were drawn from the Media Constructions of Global Warming kit.<

Media Constructions of Presidential Campaigns


Sox Sperry, LookSharp's primary curriculum writer, leads participants on a participatory exploration of high school lessons covering media representations of U.S. presidential elections from 1800-2008.

Media Constructions of Energy Choices: Empowering Students to See Through the Smoke


Sox Sperry, LookSharp's primary curriculum writer, offers educators and teachers-in-training pedagogical techniques and curriculum materials to support a deeper understanding of how to address issues of bias in media documents about energy choices.

Media Constructions of Food Justice: Shining a Light on Equity, Economy and Sustainability


Sox Sperry, LookSharp's primary curriculum writer, leads participants on a participatory exploration of lesson elements from three of our curriculum kits that are directly related to food justice topics: Media Constructions of Chemicals in the Environment; Media Constructions of Sustainability Food, Water and Agriculture; and Media Constructions of Sustainability: Finger Lakes

Media Constructions of Peace and Social Justice: Reflecting Diversity


This interactive webinar includes a brief demonstration video of Chris Sperry, Project Look Sharp's Director of Curriculum and Staff Development, as he leads a class through constructivist media decoding of a lesson on peace and conflict studies.

Teaching about the Middle East through Media Literacy


Chris Sperry, Project Look Sharp's Director of Curriculum and Staff Development, presents about the Middle East through Media Literacy. Chris Sperry has had many years of experience with teaching high school students about the Middle East. In fact, during this webinar, Chris will have just returned from presenting at the first International Conference on Media Literacy in Iran with Cyndy Scheibe, the Executive Director and Founder of Project Look Sharp.