I am often skeptical to what I read online, especially on social media sites such as Facebook. It is hard to decipher “fake news” from real news. Which brings to my attention the need to equip our students with tools that help them decipher between “fake news” and real news. If we can give our students the tools and experiences of unarming “fake news” we can help them be smart consumers, use reliable resources to increase knowledge, and help end an ongoing phenomenon. But how? What are some tools we can use to decide if news is “fake’? How can we teach these things in a way which they connect to curriculum? Keep reading, hopefully I can help you answer these questions.
Let’s discuss the first step in understanding fake news for ourselves. Claire Wardle wrote, “Fake News It’s Complicated”, in this article she discusses fake news as an “information ecosystem”. She explains this ecosystem as being polluted and that it is our responsibility, as consumers of the internet, to be checking what we see online. She tells us we need “emotional skepticism”, to second guess our instinctual reactions. To do this she suggests we use tools to help us, an easy first tool is to wait about 2 minutes to check our feelings before clicking share. This allows our brain to catch up with our feelings. We must check our source, check other sources about the topic, and check our biases and opinions.
Next let’s talk tools, I have compiled a nifty list that may be useful for elementary students using the resources linked below my list.
Tools for deciphering fake news:
- If the author is anonymous, assume it is “fake”
- Look for opinion words like, “think”, “probably”, or “likely”
- Find recent dates
- Ask the person involved in the news or read their article/ watch their videos
- Use 2+ resources to see if information matches
- Use websites such as, FactsCan, org, Snopes, and Hoax Slayer to verify websites
- Identify biases by using a media bias chart, to understand perspectives
Please note that in my tool kit, I am attempting to use language friendly to students grades one – five. I also tried to write the list in order which I would teach the tools. Please give me any feedback as to how I could use friendlier language for children or any tools you might add!
How can we connect to the Saskatchewan Curriculum? Great question!
I have chosen to focus in on grade one, three, and five using only one or two outcomes to show you how I might teach fake news with my students.
English Language Arts Outcome
CR1.1 – Comprehend and respond to a variety of grade-level texts (including contemporary and traditional visual, oral, written, and multimedia) that address:
- identity (e.g., All About Me)
- community (e.g., Friends and Family)
- social responsibility (e.g., Conservation) and relate to own feelings, ideas, and experiences.
Through this outcome I would teach students the dangers of fake news, how it can hurt people’s identity and feelings. I would create a fake news article about myself and who I am, with an anonymous author, old date, and the opinion words we discuss in a previous lesson. I would then show them an example of real news about myself using my name as the author, a recent date, and no opinion language. I would then have students think and discuss how the fake news could hurt my feelings or make me sound like a bad teacher. By using myself as an example I am hoping the students would feel more connected and empathetic about the fake news.
This idea would connect directly with the grade one Health Outcome
USC1.1- Examine healthy behaviours and opportunities and begin to determine how these behaviours and opportunities may affect personal well-being.
English Language Arts Outcome
CR3.4- Read fluently and demonstrate comprehension of grade-appropriate fiction, script, poetry, and non-fiction from various cultures (including First Nations and Métis) and countries (including Canada) and explain reactions and connections to texts read.
I would discuss the importance of interviewing, asking questions of the person involved in the news, reading articles or viewing videos of those involved. I would demonstrate how this is important by asking students to share a story about an event in their lives that mean a lot to them, then I would have their partner try to retell the story using as much description as possible. Hopefully the retelling is not as accurate and descriptive (I may have to work out some kinks here) to show students how their own story is more important, more detailed, and accurate.
I would then model how to find matching information between two articles to find true facts about a topic or news story. I would then allow students to work in small groups to try to fact check two articles on their own. These experiences will allow students to think critically about their sources and hopefully weed out fake news.
I would try to use current articles discussing Canadian or Aboriginal news, keeping their learning relevant. I believe these activities could lead to writing their own news article using the facts they cross reference in their two articles, demonstrating their comprehension.
I believe these activities tie directly into the grade three Social Studies Outcome
RW3.3- Evaluate the ways in which technologies have impacted daily life.
The curriculum asks that we teach about technologies which are not electronics. So, this would be the perfect opportunity to discuss news beyond the internet and into magazines, billboards, and newspapers. I would facilitate a discussion asking questions about how we could discover fake news that is not on the internet, how this news spreads, what is oral story telling, and more that would engage students in critical thinking beyond the internet.
English Language Arts Outcome
CR5.2- View and evaluate, critically, visual and multimedia texts identifying the persuasive techniques including promises, flattery, and comparisons used to influence or persuade an audience.
I would teach about fake news by addressing all the tools listed in our list. I would put special focus on the last two, checking websites using the website verifiers provided, discussing biases (what are they), and using bias charts to understand perspectives. I would allow students to choose between a set of topics to research for this learning experience. The topics would include links to real and fake news in which the students would have to all sources and decipher the fake from the real, they would do so by using the tools taught and specifically demonstrating their use of the bias chart. I would first model a few examples for the students on how to use the bias charts and other tools. I would provide feedback along the way to give students opportunity for success and growth in discovering the difference between fake and real news.
I realize that my curricular connections need more details to create a true lesson plan with more logical sequence, critical questions, and specific articles. I also realize that the lessons might need trial and error while working with students to work out any kinks. Any feedback or suggestions to my curricular connections would be greatly appreciated.
“In the 1990s, the National Council of Teachers of English [NCTE] and the International Reading Association established national standards for English language arts learners that anticipated the more sophisticated literacy skills and abilities required for full participation in a global, 21st century community.”
The NTCE recognizes the importance of teaching our students about digital literacy and wants teachers guiding students to become critical consumers while online. Some of the points outlined by the article are as indicated below, please know there are more (I encourage you to check out the website). However I chose these in specific as I believe they support the curricular connections I have made.
“Design and share information for global communities that have a variety of purposes”
The NCTE asks “do students critically analyze a variety of information from a variety of sources?”
“Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology”
The NCTE asks “do students evaluate and use digital tools and resources that match the work they are doing?” and “do students find relevant and reliable sources that meet their needs?”
I believe my ideas on how to teach students about deciphering between fake and real news directly meets the NCTE’s Framework for the curriculum.
I believe it is so important to begin teaching students about fake news as early as possible to help them become critical consumers.