This summer, before the onslaught of headlines, I wrote about the challenges young people must face when trying to decipher real from fake news. I wondered how we, as adults, build a filter to determine reliable from unreliable sources of information action. These ideas led me to create a mini-unit to help students build a filter to assess the reliability of news sources and websites. It all begins with a questionable container of yogurt.
What do you do when you find a container of yogurt close to its expiration date? You give it the sniff test. Yes, peel back the cover and sniff. If your nose gives it an all clear you give it a small taste. If that turns out well you enjoy the treat. If either test fails the yogurt is discarded. This concrete example of everyday life at home created the foundation for my 4th and 5th graders adventure into investigating the reliability of websites and news sources.
When you come across a story or website give it the sniff test using CARS.
After defining each phrase we put our new stiff test into play by exploring Save The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. Armed with a QR code, their iPads, and a CARS checklist students worked to determine whether the information regarding the Tree Octopus was reliable. Thankfully they were up to the task and rightly identified the source as unreliable however, this was a set-up for the next site.
After accessing All About Explorers many quickly assumed it was a reliable source for information. Why? It looked good. After urging them to truly explore the site students realized they were duped. This led to a rich conversation on how appearances can be misleading and how media literate individuals would deeply explore a site and engage in some fact checking. After accessing reliable sources of information we discovered Christopher Columbus was not born in Sydney, Australia in 1950, as the site points out.
In the coming days we will build on our sniff test. Students will begin to research topics of their own choosing as we add note-taking, and topic sentence writing skills to the mix,
It is more important than ever that we help students develop they skills they will need to navigate the incredible amount of information that they will be exposed to on their lifetime. What if every student left elementary school with the skills to be media literate and an empowered member of their community?
This is just one experience in a classroom. Please share this with others and pass along any resources and experiences that can help me make this a more powerful experience for my students.
Resources I gathered as I researched this topic. I hope they pass the sniff test.
Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone Of Civic Online Reasoning by Stanford History Education Group
Infographic Walks You Through 10 Questions To Detect Fake News by Dahlia Bazzaz
When Narrative Matters More Than Fact by Ashley Lamb-Sinclair
Battling Fake News In The Classroom by Mary Beth Hertz
The Classroom Where Fake News Fails by Cory Turner & Kat Lonsdorf
The Remedy for the Spread of Fake News? History Teachers by Kevin Levin
Fake Or Real? How To Self Check The News And Get The Facts by Wynne Davis
5 Tools To Help Evaluate Sources In A World Of Fake News by Shawn McCusker
Can Librarians Help Solve The Fake News Problem? by Donald Barclay
Did Media Literacy Backfire? by danah boyd