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.
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.
Breaking News Bellringer Answer
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.
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.
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.
Bellringer #3: To Share or Not To Share
This post has gone around dozens of times; I have to include this reshare Facebook example.
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.
Again, let them discuss and give them hints before unveiling the final answer.
To Share or Not To Share Answer
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!
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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.