3 Fast, Free Lesson Plans to Fight Fake News

The fake news epidemic is disturbing. How do we fight it? Well, we can take a hint from how the medical community fights the flu or any other virus. We inoculate ourselves. In this post, I'll teach you how I teach about fake news.

[callout]This blog post is part of the CM Rubin World Global Search for Education which poses a question each month to leading educators for reflection and sharing. This month's question is “how do we fight the fake news epidemic?”[/callout]

Just as the flu shot exposes a person to enough of the dead “harmless” virus to cause immunity, we can also expose students to things that have already been verified or shown to be fake. By exposing our students to things that look very real, we can help them notice and understand that many things that look real, are lies. We can also help them understand why shady companies and organizations actually benefit from fake news (like a movie coming out this month in one of these examples.)

How does a “fake news” lesson flow?

First, you ask students to research to see if something is true or not. Second, ask students to recommend what a person should do about the information. These mini-lessons can take from 8-15 minutes and so, they are perfect for short, beginning of class “bellringers.”

When students come to class, they get a copy of the bellringer and have a timer (usually 4-5 minutes — there should be some time pressure) set for them to give their recommendations.

I'm including screenshots in this post, but if you fill out the form at the bottom, I'll email you the PDF copy of these three lesson plans.

Example #1: Breaking News Bellringer

In this case, we share a tweet and some “news sources.” When selecting topics, I like them to be recent enough as to feel real to students and also so that Google search results aren't “full” of the answer.

teach about fake news using this bellringer with a fake news article


[callout]TIP: After students examine and discuss their answers, I'll often give them a “clue” if they aren't close and have them go back and look again. I like them to find pieces of the answer before unveiling the answer slide on the board.[/callout]

Breaking News Bellringer Answer

teach about fake news using this bellringer with a fake news article - this is the answer sheet

I like this example because it hits on several current topics:

  • Fake news websites often use similar names to existing news outlets “Houston Leader” (fake news) instead of “The Leader” (a real newspaper in Houston.)
  • This example also has some motivation behind it and an emerging scandal that an emerging Fox movie “A Cure for Wellness” is now linked from the original news stories which have been taken down. This sort of redirect happens all the time. The website gets lots of links and then has the original content replaced with something new and totally unrelated. Redirects are why you should always click before resharing.
  • Finally, point out to your students that many times when something is fake and just comes out, that Snopes may not have the answer. Fake news outlets are good at what they do. Click-baiting is a billion dollar business. So, the best way to figure this out is by determining that these fake news sources are truly false. Learn to find out the legitimate newspapers for cities. The Sacramento newspaper is the “Sacramento Bee, ” and you can't find anything about the Sacramento Dispatch. If it were legitimate, you'd see a lot more about it.

[callout]See how using examples demonstrates to students how fake news works. No lecture in the world can teach like this sort of virus killing fake-news inoculation method. Onto the next one! [/callout]

Example #2 Viral Video News Story

This example has a video released just a week ago that has gone viral. Now, don't go sharing this yet. Wait until you verify the source.

teach about fake news using this bellringer with a fake news video

The Video

So you can play this video in my blog post, here it is. Again, DO NOT SHARE before you research this one!!

Viral News Video Story Answer

Again, give students just 3-4 minutes to find their answer. (I like shortening the time for each of these until students have to make a call within a minute because that is how quickly they have to make this sort of snap judgment in real life.) Don't “give” them the answer but if they are not on the right track, give them clues before revealing the answer. If you're not careful, some students will share videos like this via social media if you don't warn them to do research.

teach about fake news using this bellringer with a fake news video answer

Bellringer #3: To Share or Not To Share

This post has gone around dozens of times; I have to include this reshare Facebook example.

teach about fake news using this bellringer with a fake Facebook post

This example is a difficult one. Also, note that I give this information to students so they have to type it into a search engine.

[callout]While you could post these online, somehow having students have to type in the information helps them understand how they research. For example, if this text above was posted, most students will copy all of it and paste into Google. It is easy to mix up the spacing and a few words so that such a search won't turn up and students mistakenly think they are in the clear.

Again, let them discuss and give them hints before unveiling the final answer. [/callout]

To Share or Not To Share Answer

teach about fake news using this bellringer with a fake Facebook news article

In Summary

Once I've done these with students, I often mix in true things (that sound a bit crazy just to make it interesting.) I also have students make their bellringers to share with the class. Notice how I include sources of information at the bottom to know where the information was retrieved.

I hope these examples inspire and help you to fight fake news in a way that works. The biggest mistakes many educators make:

  • the “fake news” lessons are lecture based (doesn't work)
  • the “fake news” lessons use irrelevant examples that are easy to detect as fake
  • the “fake news” lessons use old stories that have so many search results that it doesn't represent the real world. They're just easy to spot that they are fake. You want more challenging, current topics. If it was on the news last night, those are the best! I'll often type one of these up and do it the next day!
  • they DON'T TEACH IT AT ALL!!!

So, I've given you three examples for use in your classroom tomorrow. So, get out there and FIGHT FAKE NEWS!



Get these 3 fake news lessons free when you sign up for my newsletter

The Cool Cat Teacher newsletter includes freebies like this. Newsletter subscribers get bi-weekly emails with tips, links, and ideas to teach and inspire you to do remarkable things in your classroom. If you're already on the list, you'll get a copy of these three lesson plans in the February 17, 2017 Email.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Jean Chodos February 16, 2017 - 5:11 pm

Please email me a PDF copy of the 3 lessons. Thank you so much. I just signed up for the emails.

Vicki Davis February 16, 2017 - 5:56 pm

Hi Jean – there is a form that you fill out at the bottom of the page and it will send it to you in email!!!

Kimberly Clayton February 17, 2017 - 9:27 am

Here is my favorite “fake” website that I use to teach students that not everything you read on the internet is true:

I have students look at this website and answer some questions as to whether they feel this is a legitimate website. Most students think that it is as it “looks” legitimate and scientific. In fact, dihydrous oxide is WATER. Great lesson.

Vicki Davis February 17, 2017 - 10:49 am

Thank you! And my sister did a petition in college asking for people to ban it and even some profs signed it!

Carol February 21, 2017 - 12:07 pm

Please send me the PDF of the “Fake News” lesson plans. The lesson looks great and I would love to share it with my students.

Vicki Davis February 21, 2017 - 12:13 pm

You just fill in the box with your email and name and it will send it to you.

Christine February 21, 2017 - 1:59 pm

I filled in the box with my email and name to get the lessons, but instead I got the 200+ tools handout, not the fake news lessons.
Am I missing something?

Vicki Davis February 24, 2017 - 6:38 pm

Check your inbox. I had a glitch in the software but sent the handout to everyone who signed up.

alison statton February 21, 2017 - 2:22 pm

Please send the PDF for fake news.

Tec February 22, 2017 - 8:44 am

No lesson plan – have checked two different email accounts provided – no confirmation email (yes, I’ve checked SPAM folders.)

Vicki Davis February 22, 2017 - 11:42 am

Please email me at Vicki at coolcatteacher dot com – it is automatic and should come through. That is odd.

Vicki Davis February 22, 2017 - 8:23 pm

I just sent it out via the email service to everyone who signed up just in case. If you didn’t get it then email me at Vicki at coolcatteacher dot com! Thanks for letting me know!

Jacqueline Hicks June 17, 2017 - 3:14 pm

I would love a copy of your PDF lesson plans – I am planning a unit on manipulation of information with my Year 12s and am looking for some ways into the process,

Many thanks,

Vicki Davis June 18, 2017 - 1:17 pm

Did you fill out the form? It will email them to you as a PDF.

Melinda A. Adams December 7, 2017 - 9:25 am

These look awesome. Please email the PDF lessons!

Melinda A. Adams December 7, 2017 - 12:01 pm

Please email the free PDF’s. Thanks!

Margaret Stanley March 1, 2018 - 11:06 am

Please email me the PDFs of the lessons. I think this subject would be fantastic combined with Trump and all his declarations of “Fake News ! “

Vicki Davis March 8, 2018 - 11:59 am

Just sign up at the bottom of the post and it will send automatically!

Casey Francis May 16, 2018 - 10:34 am

I am interested in taking a closer look at each of these lessons to teach my students the importance of asking questions and to get them to look at the credibility of the sources they are using for the bulk of their information.

Thank you in advance!
E. Francis

Vicki Davis May 17, 2018 - 8:19 pm

Just sign up at the bottom of the post and you’ll have it sent to you!

Paula Beres April 16, 2019 - 11:44 am

Wonderful bellringers! Can you send them to me, please?

Vicki Davis May 4, 2019 - 4:52 pm

The sending mechanism looks like it was broken for a moment but it is fixed – just sign up at the bottom! https://www.coolcatteacher.com/3-fast-free-lesson-plans-fight-fake-news/

Margo Newtown April 22, 2019 - 3:26 pm

I’d love a copy of these lessons. Thank you!

Vicki Davis May 4, 2019 - 4:51 pm

Just scroll down on the ink and sign up so you can get it!

Holly Ford February 3, 2021 - 11:19 am

Please email the pdf of the lesson plans. Thank you

Vicki Davis January 26, 2022 - 7:55 am

I believe you can just use the form at the bottom of the page.

Laura Andrews May 12, 2022 - 10:51 am

This is fantastic! I would love a copy of it. Thank you!

Vicki Davis May 14, 2022 - 1:21 pm

There is a box at the bottom of the post – type in your name and it will be emailed to you!


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