Talk of fake news is everywhere but how do you begin to teach about it in the classroom? Start with an exploration of the rise of fake news, and why kids should care. Then, delve into the media literacy skills that students need to evaluate news critically.
What is Fake News and Why is it a Problem?
Dictionary.com recently added a definition for the term fake news:
Fake news: false news stories, often of a sensational nature, created to be widely shared online for the purpose of generating ad revenue via web traffic or discrediting a public figure, political movement, company, etc.
Why is fake news created?
Fake news is created in order to influence public opinion about an issue or an election and for some it is about making money – it’s meant to be spread and be clickbait for online users.
In this amazing NPR interview, students can hear directly from a man who creates fake news for a living. He talks about both why and how he makes fake news: Hearing from a Fake News Creator.
Why is fake news a problem?
The internet has changed the way we view and create our own news and information. Fake news has been part of America’s media landscape since the colonial period, but the sheer volume of information at our fingertips today, thanks to social media, has changed the dynamics.
- A recent Stanford Graduate School of Education report shows that many students have trouble judging the credibility of information online. The results showed that 80-90 percent of high school students had a difficult time judging the credibility of news. Listen to this story about the research called “How Can Students Become Prepared to Spot Fake News” with your students.
- Check out this great TEDEd lesson by Damon Brown on how to choose your news. Very useful for explaining to students how news media has evolved with the internet and their responsibility as news consumers.
The Influence of Social Media
Social media plays a major role in the spread of fake news. Social media has fueled sharing of fake news (often without people realizing it). The Pew Research Center shows that Facebook is one of the main ways people are accessing political news online. These resources illustrate for students how and why a story can be fake or inaccurate but still widely shared.
How Do You Tell Fake News From Real News?
1. Teach students to think like fact checkers.
Students can use these checklists and strategies to learn how to fact check and vet information to know which sources to trust and which to reject.
- Fake Or Real? How To Self-Check The News And Get The Facts – NPR
- I taught my 5th-graders how to spot fake news. Now they won’t stop fact-checking me. – VOX
- Source reliability checklist – New York Times
- Fact checking: How to think like a journalist – Science News for Students
Fact Checking Websites
Chrome Browser Extension
2. Familiarize Students with REAL news
In order to spot fake news students need to understand what real news looks and sounds like. Here is a great list of news sites to find lessons and resources to build media literacy skills with your K12 students:
- Common Sense Media
- Getting to Know the NY Times Scavenger Hunt
- Youth Radio
- Allsides (news stories compared across multiple political perspectives)
3. Guided and independent practice in the classroom
Still looking for more fake news lessons and classroom activities? Here are other resources for combating fake news in your classroom:
- Media Literacy Resources – Believe it or Not – NewseumEd
- News Accuracy and Credibility – Project Look Sharp
- How to Teach Your Students About Fake News – PBS Newshour
- News & Media Literacy Toolkit – Commonsense Media
- Lesson Plan: Fighting Fake News – KQED
- Lessons in Civic Online Reasoning – Stanford Graduate School of Education
- Skills and Strategies | Fake News vs. Real News: Determining the Reliability of Sources – The Learning Network
- 5 Ways Teachers Are Fighting Fake News – NPR
- Facing Ferguson: News Literacy in a Digital Age – The News Literacy Project
- Digital Resource Center – Center for News Literacy