Fake news is more than just a hashtag. It is an issue with far-reaching ramifications. Just Google Veles, Macedonia. Two-thirds of the results on the first page focus on the people who earned thousands of dollars during the 2016 United States election from ad dollars on their fake articles.
Our students are growing up in a time where even traditional media sources can publish stories without definitively verifying the information. And once something is online, viewed and shared, it’s hard to rescind.
The sharing of fabricated or murky stories is amplified by everyone with a social media account and the ability to publish. Many people are willing to publish outlandish news and images in an attempt to try to go viral. This happens frequently during natural disasters; for example the same shark has been spotted swimming down the freeway of every recent flood. So by this point, we should agree that fake news is a problem, and that students need to be diligent when reading the news.
Flocabulary has part of the solution with the Fake News unit. This unit addresses the issue, highlights pitfalls, and teaches vocabulary. Words and phrases like confirmation bias, clickbait, point of view, and fabrication can guide discussions in class. Like all units, there’s an engaging video, but there’s much more:
Vocab cards highlight some of the important terminology that is used when talking about Fake News, like confirmation bias and clickbait.
Read & Respond provides pre-created text-based-questions that can help to reinforce vocabulary and encourage in-depth conversations in the classroom.
Under the Teacher Resources section, there is an activity where students can further their learning by creating their own partially fabricated news story–what a unique way to understand all sides of the story!
Just as you can’t rely solely on a headline to understand the full story, you shouldn’t stick with just one lyric. Students need to get in the habit of searching for relevant articles and reading them. Many adults suffer from confirmation bias; they are blinded by their preconceived notions and do not dig deeper. It is critical to teach young students how to question what they see and read online while they’re still naturally questioning everything.
So, how can you extend the Fake News unit into a larger lesson? Try Week in Rap. Flocab’s weekly recap of what’s happening in the news offers the opportunity to make the lesson more interesting and applicable.There are many ways of extending a Flocabulary unit, but here is one particular example of how I’ve found success.
Fake news is not something easily taught in a single lesson. Students need to see adults reading and discussing news stories critically. There are many additional resources that can support conversations with students or help them develop their digital news literacy skills:
- For additional practice, Factitious is a game to determine if students can determine real news from fake news.
- The University of Michigan has a Library Guide for analyzing news sites. As a teacher, I found it interesting, and there were links to many resources to explore.
- All Sides shows the slant of different published stories. They also have side-by-side comparisons of news sources on the left, right, and center.
- Students cannot understand stories that are written above their comprehension level. There are many different leveled news sites, two great options are Newsela and Tween Tribune.
- Common Sense Media surveyed almost 900 tweens and teens to discover their news consumption and perceptions, the findings are published on the Common Sense website. They also have some self-reflective questions for students to ask themselves while reading an article online to determine the authenticity.