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Tips for Decoding – Leading Constructivist Media Analysis in the Classroom

When/Where: Monday, 9:00-10:30am in Flower.

Presenters: Chris Sperry, Projct Look Sharp. Presider: Jasmine Hood

Objectives: This workshop explores Project Look Sharp’s Tips for Media Decoding through modeling the process, naming strategies, discussing concerns, reflecting on pedagogy, and sharing resources.

Audience: PK-12 Schooling, Higher Education


I have spent the last 30 years practicing the integration of media analysis (and production) into my social studies, English, and art classes at the secondary level. My work with Project Look Sharp over the last 15 years has enabled me to examine and reflect on how K-12 educators facilitate the analysis of media messages in different subject areas and at different grade levels. While the decoding process is as much art as craft, there are specific patterns in decoding, both successful and problematic, that need to be codified if our field is to progress. We need to give educators the language, practice and skill in assessing, probing, and developing student meaning-making while simultaneously teaching and reinforcing core content. Educators need to become aware of traditional practices that undermine the effectiveness of the decoding process including our tendency to deliver information rather than draw out student understanding, to insert our own perspectives rather than enable students to develop and defend their own positions, and to use media to instruct and entertain rather than to teach critical thinking.

This workshop intends to lay out some of the key language, concepts and concerns regarding the process of classroom media analysis (see Tips for Media Decoding at I will model both positive and problematic examples of media decoding and involve participants in reflecting on and discussing both technical aspects of the process and pedagogical implications for education. I plan to show short video clips of classroom practice for analysis and include student reflections on the process. Participants will have access to follow-up resources including materials on the Project Look Sharp web site and excerpts from Cyndy Scheibe and Faith Rogow’s new book that spell out the constructivist decoding process at different grade levels and for different subject areas. We will offer the opportunity of follow-up networking on this work.

Participant Involvement

I will use the interactive modeling of media decoding to engage participants in developing language, observing and critiquing practice, and reflecting on pedagogy. I will do this through in-person modeling and short video clips. I will use audio, video, print, slide and web formats including a variety of different media forms (film, TV, paintings, etc.) The media documents, lesson plans, articles and handouts on the process will be available (free of charge) to participants at


  • Chris Sperry, Projct Look Sharp: Chris Sperry is Director of Curriculum and Staff Development for Project Look Sharp. He has taught social studies, English and media studies for over 30 years. He is the author of numerous curriculum kits including Media Construction of Presidential Campaigns and Media Construction of the Middle East. He received the 2005 Leaders in Learning Award for Media Literacy and the 2008 National Council for the Social Studies Award for Global Understanding.
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Welcome , today is Monday, 03/30/2015