Lesson 2: The Media Literacy Education Decoding Process

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Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this lesson, learners will able to:

  • Identify the importance of media literacy education
  • Understand the reason for using the media literacy decoding process for building habits of inquiry about media messages
  • Analyze the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) key questions and apply them to a selected social studies document for classroom use

Lecture: Media Literacy Education

Media literacy education relates to bringing media literacy into an actual classroom. Media literacy education can be used in all subjects, but this course is specifically designed to incorporate media education into social studies classroom. In case you forgot, media literacy is accessing, analyzing, evaluating, creating, and participating with media message in a number of different forms. The main idea of media literacy education is analyzing and evaluating the messages of different types of media. There are other aspects of media that are important, such as determining the target audience, identifying purposely left out information to appeal to a certain audience, techniques used to convey the message, and determining if the media document is credible.

During a lesson, educators are to present a media document(s) to students and ask a series of questions suggested by The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) in order to stretch their thinking. This is known as the decoding process of media. In a decoding process sequence, teachers ask a series of questions suggested by NAMLE. These questions will build habits of inquiry among students in the decoding process. Please keep in mind, all of the questions drawn up by NAMLE are not required to be asked. It is up to the teacher to determine which questions are appropriate for the media document students are going to decode. Here is the official list of questions courtesy of the National Association of Media Literacy Education:

Audience and Authorship

  • Who made this message?
  • Why was this made?
  • Who is the target audience (and how do you know?)
  • Who paid for this?
  • Who might benefit from this message?
  • Who might be harmed by this message?
  • Why might this message matter to me?
  • What kind of questions might I take in response to this message?

Meanings and Messages

  • What is this about (and what makes you think that)
  • What ideas, values, information, and/or point of view are overt? Implied?
  • What is left out of the message that might be important to know?What techniques are used?
  • Why were those techniques used?
  • How do they communicate the message?
  • How might different people understand this message differently?*
  • What is my interpretation of this and what do I learn about myself from my reaction or interpretation?

Representations and Reality

  • When was this made?
  • Where or how was it shared with the public?
  • Is this fact, opinion, or something else?
  • How credible is this (and what makes you think that?)
  • What the are the sources of the information, ideas, or assertions?

Source: National Association for Media Literacy Education

The Decoding Process in Action

Please click on the link to see the decoding process in action.

Activity: Selecting a Media Document and Choosing Questions for a Decoding Sequence

In this activity, I would you to please choose a media document that you would use in an actual class. If you are taking this course as an educator from another subject area, feel free to select a media document that is appropriate in your content area. After choosing a media document, analyze the NAMLE questions and use your best judgement to select the questions that would be most appropriate to ask students in a decoding sequence. Feel free to add follow-up questions.

Lesson Wrap-up

This lesson covered the definition of media literacy education, the analyzing of the National Association for Media Literacy Education, and applying them to the decoding process of media documents. In the following lesson, you will apply the decoding process to full-length lessons. You will learn prerequisite activities to implement, different ways to conduct a decoding process, and closure activities to lessons.

Proceed to Lesson 3: Applying the Media Literacy Education Decoding Process into Full-Length Lessons


Rogow, Faith & Scheibe, Cyndy (2012). "A Teacher's Guide to Media Literacy: Critical Thinking in a Multimedia World." Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin, a Sage Company