7 Tips for Teaching Students How to Recognize Bias in an Era of Fake News

Media literacy is more important than ever.

When students are learning about research topics and current events, they must also learn about how perspective and bias may affect the information they are reading. Teaching these lessons explicitly is critical in this era of “fake” news.

The following tips and activities are designed to help students understand the choices that journalists make that may affect how readers interpret a story.

1. Help students identify the problem.

Put your students in groups and ask them to discuss the following questions:

  • What is “fake news”?
  • Have you ever believed in fake news? When? Why?
  • What happens if we can’t tell real news from fake news?

Just because the terms “fake news” and “news bias” are all over the news media doesn’t mean that your students know what they mean or why they matter.

2. Give your students fake information to fact-check.

Show your students a website like All About Explorers: Christopher Columbus and ask them to locate information about Christopher Columbus. Students may find that information on this site does not match up with what they know to be true.

Was Columbus really born in 1951? In this case, the information is actually false. Ask your students to discuss the differences between false information and biased information.

3. Show your students how to cross-check information.

Instead of relying on their own knowledge, ask students to cross-check the information they found with a more reliable website. Put them back in groups to discuss:

  • How do you know when a source is reliable?
  • Can you believe everything a reliable source writes?
  • Could a reliable source be biased?

Have students Google whether a source is considered to have a liberal or conservative bias. Show them how to choose from more than one source to maintain a balanced perspective or to showcase differences of opinion.

4. Teach students the vocabulary.

Discussing bias can be a challenging experience for students who have not had to defend their opinions before. Many students may be surprised to realize that they disagree with the bias of their friends and family after learning more about a topic.

Showing them how to use the vocabulary assigned to these issues will help them feel more confident in their stance.

  • Bias: A judgment based on a personal point of view.
  • Claim: A statement put forth as true in an argument or on an issue.
  • Exaggeration: An overstatement or stretching of the truth.
  • Reason: A general statement that offers support for a claim.
  • Evidence: Facts, statistics and examples used to support reasons.

Teach students about liberal, conservative and middle-of-the-road perspectives. You can find differences on websites like Student News Daily. Just be sure to curate the information for your students depending on their age.

If kids understand how different people think and why, they will ask better questions of the information they are evaluating and relying upon.

5. Show your students how the media’s choices affect reader perception.

The choice of what images or words to use or exclude in a news story is an important decision. This decision helps to shape the viewer’s or reader’s opinions about an event or person.

Use the following websites to have your students guess the implied bias in: headlines and images.

6. Help your students identify different kinds of fake news or bias.

There are many words used to describe fake news. Teach your students to identify them. Send them on a scavenger hunt to find:

7. Investigate how biased news has become a business model.

Ask students to create a movie trailer or presentation on the concept that biased news is now an American business model. Remind them to discuss whether or not this has been good for the American public.

Looking for a high-quality source of independent news to use with your students? We like The Week, which covers current events, arts, science, government, business and more. See how you can use it in your classroom>> 

Kimberley Moran

Posted by Kimberley Moran

Kimberley is an editor at weareteachers.com. She used to teach first graders. She lives along the Penobscot River in a little yellow house and starts her day with a blueberry muffin. Her work has appeared in parent.co, Good Magazine, and Public Radio International. Her book Hacking Parenthood is coming out in October 2017.

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