Media Detective

Teacher-Led Media Literacy Substance Abuse Prevention Program for Elementary School Students

New and Improved!

Major updates include sections on:

  • E-cigarettes and vaping

  • Smokeless tobacco

  • Commercials

  • Advertising in social media like Instagram and Twitter

“Students learned to find the hidden messages in advertising, and realized how much advertising is targeted at them.”

--Fifth Grade Teacher
drug alcohol tobacco prevention media literacy

Key Features

For Teachers and Administrators

  • Evidence-based program using established models of decision-making and research on how children interpret media messages.

  • Easy implementation for teachers/facilitators with inclusive materials and teacher training package

  • All-inclusive web-based kit

  • Comprehensive training for teachers including introduction to the background research and theoretical model

  • “Hands on” and group activities to experience parts of the program

  • Curriculum adaptable to a variety of classroom settings, teaching styles, and student skill levels

  • Includes fun homework assignments designed to further students’ understanding of media literacy and provide additional opportunities to practice newly learned concepts

  • Includes extension activities for teachers who want to provide their students additional instruction in media literacy education

  • Aligns with and easily integrates into health or language arts curriculum objectives

For Students

  • Entertaining, interactive activity-based program where students unravel the meanings behind advertisements and media messages

  • Mascots “Snoop” and “Scoop” help teach the important concepts and lead students through fun adventures in learning.

  • Students each get a Detective Notebook for class assignments.

  • Students create their own media messages to share with one another.

drug alcohol tobacco prevention media literacy

Program Structure

  • Approximately 45-minute class sessions

  • Grades 3-5

  • 10 class sessions

Program Components

  • Comprehensive, easy-to-use Teacher’s Manual

  • Student Detective Notebooks

  • Media examples and resources embedded in lessons

What makes Media Detective unique?

  • Evidence-based: It is one of the few, if not the only research-based, media literacy, alcohol and tobacco abuse prevention program currently commercially available for use in elementary school.

  • Scope and Sequence: While there are other media literacy activities available, Media Detective is the first randomized, controlled trial of a school-based, theory media literacy education program for alcohol and tobacco use prevention. Media Detective is unique because of the scope and sequence of the activities that were developed and organized to reflect the most up-to-date research findings in the fields of substance abuse prevention, social cognition, and media literacy education.

  • Fun, Interactive Learning: Although Media Detective has the goal of alcohol and tobacco abuse prevention, students are not necessarily aware that prevention is the focus of the program. While exploring advertising techniques, alcohol and tobacco advertisements are shown to the students as examples along with advertisements of many other types of products and services.

  • Lessons Based on a Conceptual Model: Media Detective is based on a conceptual model of how media messages are processed by children and has the goal of changing how children are able to think about and respond to media messages.

  • Teacher Training: Comprehensive training for teachers/facilitators includes introduction to research underlying the program and theoretical model.

  • Follows Standard Course of Study: The program and lesson objectives are integrated with curriculum objectives in language arts, information skills, mathematics, and healthful living.

  • Dynamic Presentation of Materials: All-inclusive kit includes scripted lesson plans and student activity notebooks. In addition to the Teacher Manual with accompanying materials, the program is presented in a unique, colorful, and entertaining format.

  • Curriculum is Adaptable: The program can be implemented equally well in a variety of classroom settings, teaching styles, and across a wide range of student skill levels.

  • “Hands on” and group activities to experience parts of the program.

How easy is it to implement this program?

Very easy after training! Materials were designed to be attractive, easy to use, comprehensive, and minimize the
time spent in teacher preparation.

drug alcohol tobacco prevention media literacy

Is there any accompanying training or certification for teachers of this program?

Yes – There is an in-person training that is highly recommended for teachers of the program. It is not included in the curriculum kit, but can be purchased separately and covers the research and rationale behind the program as well as training in how to implement it. A certification test is also available for teachers after they complete the training.

Who developed this program?

The Media Detective Program was developed by Drs. Janis Kupersmidt and Tracy Scull at innovation Research & Training with funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).


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