Lesson Spotlight: Fake News Unit

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Internet Hoax Unit

Fake news, media literacy, and digital citizenship are some of the most critical skills students should have now more than ever. Do you find our society believes too much fake news? Do you want your students to be responsible digital citizens? The amount of fake news that circulates online is staggering and is truly impacting our Democracy. We can’t be a literate society if we are unable to determine what information is real and what is fake. This unit will touch on fake news, media literacy, and digital citizenship. These are essential skills of a literate person in the 21st Century

This activity requires students to answer several questions about South America on a fake site I created. Hear me out! The find function is an amazing tool if you want to find information more efficiently on a site. For example, if a student is on a site and they just want to find out how much bamboo a panda eats on a given day, they don’t have to read the entire site. They can do a quick search by using bamboo in the keyword search. With that said, students need to be aware of fake sites. If they are on a credible site, the find function is an amazing tool. This unit is done before we look at fake and real videos. Students become sleuths during that project.

When you get my unit, I share a story about how the unit has evolved and has turned into an amazing lesson for students. Of course, afterwards, they are upset that I had them looking up fake information. I tell them to always question information when they are online. When I did my original lesson on the Tree Octopus, the majority of my students wanted to sign a letter to save an animal that didn’t exist. After they came to me from elementary school, they said they knew about the Tree Octopus. I wanted to trick my students, so I made my own site on South America.

This is a skill that needs to be consistently covered in all classes. I did the Tree Octopus site with my 6th graders one year and did a similar lesson with the Find function with those same students when they were in 8th grade. They totally forgot about the lesson because I always encourage students to look at the URL of the site as a method of determining the credibility of a site. The site I used in 8th grade, which no longer exists, was Idiotica Encyclopedia. After I pointed that out at the end of the research, they were upset yet again.

Preview Teacher Resource Research

This unit will bring necessary attention to fake news online. One of my former students, who is now a teacher in our building, still remembers this unit.

A follow up lesson could include students locating fake and real information on the site. A document is provided for students to locate facts and misinformation. A disclaimer page is available on my site with the truth, which could eventually be shared with students.

This unit will lead to the following skills

  • How to use the find function

  • How to be more critical

  • To be more aware of fake news

  • To be more cautious when visiting sites

  • Pay attention to the URL

  • Create competent digital citizens

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