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8 Strategies to Teach News Literacy

8 Strategies to Teach News Literacy

By Bob Hand

Whooo's Reading - Learn MoreThe ability to access credible information is perhaps the most important skill when navigating modern society.

Nevertheless, millions of students in the U.S. lack the ability to do so. This is alarming, considering the ease in which completely fabricated news stories, images, and videos are shared online and accepted as reality.

Teachers need to equip students for the realities of information access today.

When students do a Google search, they are just as likely to encounter information from irrational sites espousing conspiracy theories as they are a study from an accredited institution—but the former will be more accessible.

It’s necessary to teach new generations of students the importance of critically analyzing information. Here are eight strategies and tools that can help educators do just that.

More: 10 News Sites for Paperless Current Events

1. Make Media Literacy the Focus

English and Language Arts classrooms have to cover a lot of material, so it’s understandable that instructors may want to forego media literacy lessons. However, this habit is a disservice to students; media literacy bolsters a student’s overall ability to find, interpret, and evaluate information.

It’s wise to make time for lessons on media literacy several times throughout the school year. The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) provides a wide range of lesson plans that can help teachers get started.

2. Teach Students Proper Etiquette for Disagreeing

Regardless of a student’s grade level, each course should quickly establish the proper etiquette for expressing disagreement. The ability to do so is part of being a responsible citizen in a democracy. Your gut reaction may be, “Should that really be part of my job?” If you want to maintain some semblance of sanity in your classroom during media literacy lessons, it must be.

Students are bound to have different interpretations of information, and they should be able to discuss those both individually and as a class in a constructive manner. Fostering this ability could be one of the most important steps to improving media literacy, since it will permit students to learn about new, unfamiliar perspectives. Here are several methods for teaching students to respectfully disagree from We Are Teachers.

More: How to Debate: 12 Resource’s For Your First Class Debate

3. Escape the Echo Chamber

Curated social media feeds, targeted content by advertisers, and armies of online bots all work together to create “echo chambers”—situations in which one’s existing beliefs are repeatedly confirmed and in which detractors are perpetually ridiculed. This is an extremely unhealthy way to view the world, since it glosses over inconsistencies in your own worldview while marginalizing those with different perspectives.

Emphasize to students that they should listen to dissenting opinions, even on social media. Practice this in the classroom by objectively analyzing information from a wide variety of sources on the political spectrum.

4. Teach the Impact on Digital Profiling

Similar to the manner in which social media news feeds only present what we are presumed to like, search engines will often base results on your browsing history and habits. Not to mention your Internet activity constitutes valuable data to marketers and students’ Internet activities can even impact future education and employment opportunities.

Teach students about how they are being tracked online. In order to prevent digital profiling from skewing class efforts to find information, it is necessary to disable personalized searches; this can be done via advanced settings on the search engine.

More: What Do Your Students’ Digital Footprints Look Like?

5. Workshop on Finding Credible Sources

Learners need to be capable of independently accessing credible information. When it comes to evaluating information, we want to transform our pupils into healthy skeptics. This requires many skills, as outlined by Edutopia.

Teach students the four dimensions of critical evaluation, including relevance, accuracy, bias, and reliability. Have students evaluate several sources as a class, then work individually or in groups. Discuss the results as a class to reinforce these concepts.

6. Use a Primary Source Analysis Tool

If you’re having difficulty finding an easy method to help students organize their thoughts during source assessments, check out this tool: Created by the Library of Congress as a resource for K-12 educators, the Primary Source Analysis Tool is a deceptively simple print out that guides students towards analyzing, interpreting, and questioning information.

It’s also useful in literary studies, in conjunction with tools like Whooo’s Reading, to help learners determine author intent. After using these forms regularly, many teachers note that their classes tend to internalize the process, leading to a notable improvement in critical thinking.

7. Deconstruct Memes and Viral Videos

If you’re looking for a fun warm-up at the beginning of class, spend ten minutes taking a look at a relevant meme or viral video. Was the video, image, or story staged? Is it part of an ad campaign? Ask for students to carefully examine the item in question. After students provide their hypotheses, break it down and explain how it was faked.

If this seems like too much work, check out some content creators online that regularly debunk such stories and videos. Here is an example of someone debunking the Superhuman Tape Measure Skills viral video that even mainstream media outlets reported on unquestioningly a couple years ago. This will encourage students to be more guarded against false claims and sensationalist stories.

More: 10 Ways to Use Emojis for Learning

8. Encourage Student Practice

After trying some of these techniques in your classroom, assess your students through practice. Take real-world examples of “fake news” and have students evaluate them to check if they’re legitimate.

NPR outlined a lesson curated by The News Literacy Project that serves as a perfect example of this form of assessment. In it, a teacher had students view several viral news stories. While some are from legitimate news sources, others are propoganda, advertisements, or hoaxes. Having groups of students evaluate these sources could be a great way to analyze how they can put critical thinking strategies into action.

Media literacy skills are part of the foundation needed to become a functioning member of society. When these skills are neglected in the classroom, students suffer for it. Foster a balanced worldview by encouraging disagreement and discussion. Teach students to critically analyze sources of information. Through these tools and strategies, we can help students become truly independent thinkers.

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8 Strategies to Teach News Literacy in the Classroom

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