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Lesson Plan

Becoming an Active News Consumer

Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time 90 min
Grade 9th-12th Grades
Author Scholastic Inc.-Shared by Victoria Graves

Overview  •  Standards  •  Instructional Plan  •  Documents


Goal Students will be able to identify disinformation disguised as credible journalism by looking at real-life examples.

Time Required 45 min

Standards-based skills Analyze and summarize text objectives cite strong and thorough textual evidence

Materials Activity sheet A


1.      Tell students that in order to become informed citizens with a good grasp of news literacy, they’ll need to be able to identify disinformation, often what people are calling “fake news,” when they see it. Disinformation intentionally misleads readers, and technology is making it easier to produce and spread this so-called fake news that looks like credible journalism.

2.      Discuss with students some of the types of disinformation and non-news content they’ve likely encountered. Start the conversation by writing some examples on the board:

a.      A movie studio’s strategy to market a 2017 horror film backfired when the fake website it set up confused international readers of a Houston newspaper. The campaign yielded public outcry and apologies from the studio: https://nyti.ms/2ljexJi

b.      In the lead-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, false stories spread rapidly online. One story identified candidate Hillary Clinton as the recipient of thousands of fraudulent ballots in her favor, while another present a false 1990s-era quote from Donald Trump that derided his future voters: http://cnn.it/2BQWosv

c.      Four hours of video footage broadcast a Facebook Live that purportedly shoed a real “rotating thunderstorm” was proven to be nothing more than a looped video that an artist created with a storm chaser’s high-resolution photograph: http://bbc.in/2ufzg53


3.      Distribute Activity Sheet A: Fact and Fiction. For a class discussion, students should se what they know about disinformation, building on their own definition and various exampled of it.

a.      Definitions for discussion:

                                                    i.     Propaganda information-often false-sued to shape public opinion to achieve an objective

                                                   ii.     Hoaxes tricks on the public; see Orson Welles’s “The War of the Worlds” hoax in 1938

                                                  iii.     Agenda-based misrepresentation new that is written to benefit a certain group or agenda by distorting the truth

                                                  iv.     Circular reporting news based on few or no facts but that is re-reported by one outlet after another

4.      Tell student that discerning fact from fiction also involves identifying non-news content. For example, “clickbait” describes stories with juicy headlines with sometimes offer few facts. Reporters’ errors-if not quickly corrected-can become part of widely circulate news stories. Sponsored content and native advertising-marketing content that can yield ad revenue for news outlets-don’t always look promotional and can be mistaken for news. Direct student to take the online quiz about theses types of non-news content and disinformation at www.scholastic.com/factsfirst  

5.      Going further organize a class debate to determine which kind of disinformation is intentionally used in a dangerous way. Divide students into groups and assign each group one kind of disinformation or non-news content. Have student prepare and argument about the dangers involved with their topics. Allows groups two minutes to present arguments and one-minute rebuttals. Afterward, hold an anonymous vote on which kind of misleading content the class agrees is most dangerous.

Lesson 2

Be and Active News Consumer

Goal Students will engage in critical examination of information found in the media

Time required 45 min

Standards-based skills Write argument to support claims; initiate and participate in a range of collaborative discussions

Materials Activity sheet B


1.      Tell students that become active consumers of news relies on critical-thinking skills. They should ask themselves these questions as they analyze news.

a.      Authorship Where did this news come from? Is there a reporter to whom the article is attributed?

b.      Sources Who shared this information with the reporter(s)? If there are unnamed sources-i.e. when people are listed as anonymous, possibly for legal or job-related reasons-can you trust the news outlet to provide context to support the reporting? Are there named secondary sources who corroborate the information?

c.      Format Does this article or presentation include evidence and logical arguments? Or is it mostly opinions and exaggerated or emotion-based language that is used to grab attention?

d.      Audience Who is the audience? Does the article target a certain group in a way that seems suspicious?

e.      Content what information is being presented? Is it based on facts? Does it seem objective, as in: Are the facts presented in a neutral and unbiased manner?

f.       Purpose of message What is the purpose? Is it simply to share information, or does it seem to be guided by an agenda?

2.      If you would like to delve deeper in these questions, visit The News Literacy Project at www.thenewsliteracyproject.org


3.      Distribute Activity Sheet B: Be an Active News Consumer. Return to Lesson1’s examples of disinformation and non-journalistic content. Help students search for other examples online. Students will use their activity sheet to paraphrase an example of disinformation or non-news item and a piece of credible journalism. Next, have students pair up and see if they can tell which of their partner’s stories are credible.

4.      Going further After completing the activity, encourage student to discuss similarities they found between their stories. Have students create one-page flyers detailing how to spot disinformation to share within the school community.