By: Isaiah Mora
The following project stemmed from our class discussion concerning the general lack of news literacy in the American public. I knew that I wanted to do my project on news literacy after our class discussion addressed the fact that news literacy, despite a desperately needed skill, is not addressed in high school. As an urban studies, and communication major I am personally interested in education. For this reason, I decided that one of the ways I can address help address the lack of this skill is to create a lesson plan about news literacy for local high schools. Although I was initially hesitant to move forward with the project after conducting some research I discovered that there is a lack of practical lesson plans that focus on news literacy because they are either outdated, or stretch out a period of weeks, which is difficult to integrate into class that needs to prepare for a state exam.
The final product is a lesson plan and PowerPoint to help the instructor lead the lesson. For practical purposes the lesson plan is adapted to be integrated in classrooms across Texas as it addresses a number of TEKS, or objectives students need to learn to take the state mandated exam, the STAAR. These specific TEKS, TEKS 29 (E)(F)(H), stem from the 11th grade U.S. social studies objectives students need to organize and understand electronic sources. To ensure that students are engaged in the project the lesson begins with a hook, a news piece from CBS New York about the conspiracy theory about Pizzagate. This piece will be used to introduce the concept and generate class discussion to then introduce a definition of news literacy, and the “VIA” method to analyzing electronic news stories. After discussing with several social studies teachers, I decided that the best way to have students practice the skills presented to them is to have them as a group read two electronic news articles and determine which is factual, and which one presents inaccurate news. Given that news organizations are constantly updating their websites, and reporting the news, I decided that I would include a limited number of inaccurate news reports, and their sources if the instructor wants to choose their own articles.
To help the students translate the “VIA” method, as suggested by past teachers, I created a list of questions for student to consider when trying to determine the validity of a news article.
After checking with other news literacy resources, and articles I determined that the “VIA” method and the questions to consider activity also lacked some of the questions that students should look at when reading electronic sources. For this reason, I integrated a section of other questions to consider that can be secondary signifiers that a news source may not be presenting accurate information.
Lastly, because this is a one day lesson plan that is intended to be integrated into a 11th grade social studies class it is not a comprehensive lesson on news literacy. There are additional terms, and concepts that can be introduced in the lesson in the case the instructor want to continue the lesson. For this reason, at the end of the lesson plan is a list of additional resources that an instructor can visit to gather more information on other news literacy lesson plans and concepts.
Understanding News Literacy
A brief introduction to news literacy concepts for electronic news sources
Subject: 11th grade U.S History
Objective: This is a one day lesson plan where students will learn about news literacy. Students will be informed on how to analyze news articles to determine the authenticity of a news piece, determine its basis, and accountability.
TEKS: 29 (E)(F)(H)
The student applies critical-thinking skills to organize and use information acquired from a variety of valid sources, including electronic technology. The student is expected to:
- (E) Evaluate the validity of a source based on language, corroboration with other sources, and information about the author, including points of view, frames of reference, and historical context;
- (F) Identify bias in written, oral, and visual material;
- (H) Use appropriate skills to analyze and interpret social studies information such as maps, graphs, presentations, speeches, lectures, and political cartoons.
- Whiteboard and screen projector with audio
- Internet enabled computers or laptops. A minimum of one computer per 5 students, or per group as determined by the instructor.
Open the class outlining the objectives for the day (Slide 2).
Transition to the news clip about the debunked conspiracy theory Pizzagate from CBS New York (Slide 3). Use the news clip to begin a brief discussion about the implications of believing inaccurate news. Steer the conversation into the need for news literacy by asking students what are the other consequences for reading false news (Slide 4).
Understanding the Concept
Introduce students to the concept of news literacy as written on the PowerPoint presentation (Slide 5).
Definition: The critical-thinking skills and techniques that citizens need to analyze and judge the reliability of news and information in the media they consume, and distribute
Continue the discussion by asking students why news literacy, given the definition, is important. Some important touch points are:
- In this Digital Age of consumerism the overload of information on the internet through mediums like Facebook, and Twitter makes it difficult to sort out what is reliable, and it is our responsibility to verify the information we given
- By the same token, social media makes it easy to create content that appears to be true and then share it virally
- We prefer information that supports our beliefs, and the Internet and social media makes it much easier for us to select information that supports our ideas rather than challenge them
- What we read informs our actions, this is increasingly important in the United States, because as a democracy information our information informs the way we vote
Introduction to the “VIA” method
Outline to students the “VIA” method for validating news information (Slide 8).
Verification: The author presents data and statistics collected from authoritative sources such as research studies and government agencies that are cited by names. The author has listed the first and last name of their sources, their credentials to help the reader verify if they are reliable for the topic of the piece (Slide 9).
Independence: The piece is free from control, influence or support of interested parties. This also means that the journalist has no personal stake in the matter he or she is reporting on, including, economically, personally, intellectually, or politically (Slide 10).
Accountability: The author of the piece takes direct responsibility for the truthfulness and reliability of the report by citing their name in the byline, or in digital sources such as audio and video reports by signing off (Slide 11).
Classroom Activity: Think-Pair-Share
Have students in a group of three to five members read two news articles, a factual news article and an inaccurate news article. Have the students determine which news article is not factual. Have students answer the “Questions to Consider” slide posted in the PowerPoint presentation (Slides 11).
Questions to consider:
- Can you name the organization, or news media outlet where the story is posted?
- Who owns the news media organization, is it an independent outlet, or part of a larger corporation? Is it well known?
- Who wrote the news piece you are reading? Do they have a visible bio? If so, what do they write about? Did they have a degree in journalism, where did they graduate from? Do they write for any other news organizations?
- What is the news article reporting on?
- Does the type of news call for data, or statistics? If so, is there data used in the report? If there is, are the sources of the data clearly outlined? Are the credentials of the organization clearly outlined? Is the think-tank, or organization that produced the data well known? Who runs the organization?
- Can you find at minimum two other sources that are reporting the same news story?
Wrap up: Contextualize and Present
Have the student representative of each group report back to the class. Have students note anything they found interesting, or important that the questions did not address.
Here are some other questions to consider that can be opened to the entire class:
- What did the URL look like?
- Did the headlines of the stories change the way you processed the story?
- Were there any quotes in the article? If so, who was quoted? Can they be easily identified, or searched up?
- What type of comments were posted on the stories? Did they differ between stories?
- Was there a photo in the story? If so, is it unique to the story? Was someone from the news organization credited for the photo?
Resources for the classroom activity:
Inaccurate news sources:
Examples of invalid news:
- During U.S. Visit Netanyahu Garners Congressional Support to Relocate Palestine to Wyoming
- Obama Signs Executive Order Declaring Investigation Into Election Results; Revote Planned For Dec. 19th
- Obama to sign Bill Making “Alternative Media Illegal
- Bombshell: Clinton Foundation paid Glenn Beck and Bill Kristol to suppress votes?
Share on Facebook: A website that create fake stories to “prank” your friends.
False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or satirical “News” Sources: A list of tips for analyzing news sources created by Melissa Zimders, an assistant professor of communication and media at Merrimack College.
Fake Or Real? How To Self-Check The News And Get The Facts: An article written by Wynne Davis on NPR with a list of tips for identifying nonfactual news.
The Digital Resource Center: The Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook is a center that generates and collects lesson plans to teach news literacy to students at all grade levels.
SchoolJournalism.org: A go-to education site for k-12 journalist and educators. The organization provides lesson plans and information about the First Amendment and news literacy.
News Literacy: Critical-Thinking Skills for the 21st Century: A news article by Peter Adams, the senior Vice President for education programs at Edutopia.
 As stated by the State of Texas.
 Questions adapted from News Literacy: Critical-Thinking skills for the 21st Century, and Fake or Real? How To Seld-Check The News And Get Facts