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January 6, 2017

Tackling Fake News: Strategies for Teaching Media Literacy

By John DePasquale
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    It should come as no surprise, but many middle school students are undeniably impressionable. This impressionability serves our students well as their developing middle school minds expand to interpret and understand some of the complex ideas and realities of our world. Watching this process unfold in the classroom is remarkable, yet it also reminds me of my responsibility as a teacher to ensure the ideas and messages my students receive from media sources are well founded and valid. This responsibility takes on a greater importance now in this new, murky, time when fake news seems to dominate the headlines in the real news.

    To emphasize this urgent need, a recent study from Stanford University found a majority of students are unable to tell the difference between real news and fake news. The study revealed that over 80 percent of middle school students are not able to distinguish a news story on a website from an advertisement labeled sponsored content. I found this report troubling, and it justifies to me the necessity to teach my students skills and strategies to better understand the variety of messages presented to them through media.

    LIVING IN A MEDIA WORLD

    Young people, like adults, wade through a thick marshland of countless media messages each and every day. We receive these ubiquitous messages from television programs, Internet, radio, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, music, video games, and other forms of media on an ever-expanding list. Meanwhile, more and more of this media are being consumed from the screens of devices that fit into our pockets.

    A survey from Common Sense Media found that tweens (ages 8–12) spend an average of 6 hours a day using various forms of media. This time, however, does not include time spent using media for schoolwork. Since we are truly living in a world saturated with media, students can easily be confused and inundated as they try to navigate these messages. Teaching students specific media literacy skills provides them with the tools needed to be responsible and critical consumers of media.

     

    WHAT IS MEDIA LITERACY?

    The National Association for Media Literacy Education defines media literacy as “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act using all forms of communication.” This critical thinking and careful reading of media texts is similar to the literacy work that is commonplace in most classrooms, but it becomes even more relevant in the lives of students when it is applied to media literacy. Media literacy skills help students to make sense of the pieces of information they receive throughout their day.

    Expanding on the definition of media literacy, the Media Literacy Project maintains these literacy skills can help youth and adults:

    -       Develop critical thinking

    -       Recognize what media maker wants us to believe or do 

    -       Recognize bias, spin, misinformation, and lies 

    -       Discover the parts of the story that are not being told 

    -       Evaluate media messages based on our own experiences, skills, beliefs, and values 

    -       Advocate for media justice

    The different types of media students encounter can seem overwhelming, and it is unreasonable to think the discrete literacy skills needed to interpret each of them can be tackled in a single classroom session. Instead, I begin with news literacy as an introduction to teaching my students about media literacy.  News literacy is a subset of media literacy that deals primarily with critical thinking skills needed to evaluate the reliability and credibility of news reports. News literacy involves evaluating news reports presented in a variety of mediums that include print, digital, video and audio. Since I teach a weekly lesson on current events in my classroom, I decided to explore with my students ways they can be more informed and thoughtful consumers of news media.

     

    RELIABLE AND CREDIBLE SOURCES: ALL THE NEWS THAT’S FIT

    Determining the reliability and credibility of a news sources is an important skill for students to develop as they build their awareness of news literacy. The museum educators at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. developed a strategy that can be used to analyze various media sources, including news reports. I adapted this strategy, and I now use it with my students during our weekly current events lessons. The strategy positions students as consumers of news media and guides them through a series of seven questions that allow them to determine reliability and credibility of a news media source. The seven questions are:

    -      Who made this story?

    -      Where was the story published?

    -      How was this story made?

    -      Why was this story made?

    -      When was this story made?

    -      What is this story missing?

    -      Where do I go from here?

    Through these questions, students consider the author, purpose, and content of the news report. I particularly like this series of questions because it encourages students to examine parts of the story or perspectives that are missing or under-represented. If there is any doubt to the credibility or reliability of the information in the news report, students are then encouraged to explore ways to verify the information. This might include searching for an additional source or using websites like FactCheck.org or Snopes.com.

    To download a copy of my Seven Questions worksheet, just click on the image to the right. It is my hope that through this strategy, my students become active consumers of news who are empowered to take charge of the information they receive and not let it take charge of them.

     

    MEDIA LITERACY RESOURCES

    For additional resources and lesson plans that can help you to promote media literacy in your classroom, I encourage you to explore the following sites.

    -      Hoax or No Hoax? Strategies for Online Comprehension and Evaluation; ReadWriteThink

    -      Fake News and What We Can Do about It; The Anti-Defamation League

    -      Fake News vs. Real News: Determining the Reliability of Sources; The New York Times Learning Network

    -      Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Fake News Edition; On the Media

    -      The News Literacy Project

    If you are teaching media literacy in your classroom, I hope to hear from you. How are you combating the rising tide of fake news with your students?  

    It should come as no surprise, but many middle school students are undeniably impressionable. This impressionability serves our students well as their developing middle school minds expand to interpret and understand some of the complex ideas and realities of our world. Watching this process unfold in the classroom is remarkable, yet it also reminds me of my responsibility as a teacher to ensure the ideas and messages my students receive from media sources are well founded and valid. This responsibility takes on a greater importance now in this new, murky, time when fake news seems to dominate the headlines in the real news.

    To emphasize this urgent need, a recent study from Stanford University found a majority of students are unable to tell the difference between real news and fake news. The study revealed that over 80 percent of middle school students are not able to distinguish a news story on a website from an advertisement labeled sponsored content. I found this report troubling, and it justifies to me the necessity to teach my students skills and strategies to better understand the variety of messages presented to them through media.

    LIVING IN A MEDIA WORLD

    Young people, like adults, wade through a thick marshland of countless media messages each and every day. We receive these ubiquitous messages from television programs, Internet, radio, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, music, video games, and other forms of media on an ever-expanding list. Meanwhile, more and more of this media are being consumed from the screens of devices that fit into our pockets.

    A survey from Common Sense Media found that tweens (ages 8–12) spend an average of 6 hours a day using various forms of media. This time, however, does not include time spent using media for schoolwork. Since we are truly living in a world saturated with media, students can easily be confused and inundated as they try to navigate these messages. Teaching students specific media literacy skills provides them with the tools needed to be responsible and critical consumers of media.

     

    WHAT IS MEDIA LITERACY?

    The National Association for Media Literacy Education defines media literacy as “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act using all forms of communication.” This critical thinking and careful reading of media texts is similar to the literacy work that is commonplace in most classrooms, but it becomes even more relevant in the lives of students when it is applied to media literacy. Media literacy skills help students to make sense of the pieces of information they receive throughout their day.

    Expanding on the definition of media literacy, the Media Literacy Project maintains these literacy skills can help youth and adults:

    -       Develop critical thinking

    -       Recognize what media maker wants us to believe or do 

    -       Recognize bias, spin, misinformation, and lies 

    -       Discover the parts of the story that are not being told 

    -       Evaluate media messages based on our own experiences, skills, beliefs, and values 

    -       Advocate for media justice

    The different types of media students encounter can seem overwhelming, and it is unreasonable to think the discrete literacy skills needed to interpret each of them can be tackled in a single classroom session. Instead, I begin with news literacy as an introduction to teaching my students about media literacy.  News literacy is a subset of media literacy that deals primarily with critical thinking skills needed to evaluate the reliability and credibility of news reports. News literacy involves evaluating news reports presented in a variety of mediums that include print, digital, video and audio. Since I teach a weekly lesson on current events in my classroom, I decided to explore with my students ways they can be more informed and thoughtful consumers of news media.

     

    RELIABLE AND CREDIBLE SOURCES: ALL THE NEWS THAT’S FIT

    Determining the reliability and credibility of a news sources is an important skill for students to develop as they build their awareness of news literacy. The museum educators at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. developed a strategy that can be used to analyze various media sources, including news reports. I adapted this strategy, and I now use it with my students during our weekly current events lessons. The strategy positions students as consumers of news media and guides them through a series of seven questions that allow them to determine reliability and credibility of a news media source. The seven questions are:

    -      Who made this story?

    -      Where was the story published?

    -      How was this story made?

    -      Why was this story made?

    -      When was this story made?

    -      What is this story missing?

    -      Where do I go from here?

    Through these questions, students consider the author, purpose, and content of the news report. I particularly like this series of questions because it encourages students to examine parts of the story or perspectives that are missing or under-represented. If there is any doubt to the credibility or reliability of the information in the news report, students are then encouraged to explore ways to verify the information. This might include searching for an additional source or using websites like FactCheck.org or Snopes.com.

    To download a copy of my Seven Questions worksheet, just click on the image to the right. It is my hope that through this strategy, my students become active consumers of news who are empowered to take charge of the information they receive and not let it take charge of them.

     

    MEDIA LITERACY RESOURCES

    For additional resources and lesson plans that can help you to promote media literacy in your classroom, I encourage you to explore the following sites.

    -      Hoax or No Hoax? Strategies for Online Comprehension and Evaluation; ReadWriteThink

    -      Fake News and What We Can Do about It; The Anti-Defamation League

    -      Fake News vs. Real News: Determining the Reliability of Sources; The New York Times Learning Network

    -      Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Fake News Edition; On the Media

    -      The News Literacy Project

    If you are teaching media literacy in your classroom, I hope to hear from you. How are you combating the rising tide of fake news with your students?  

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