All The News About Fake News

While this is not exactly new “news,” this year I did a 7th grade history lesson on fake news and wanted to share resources that we used from the Stanford History in Education Group. Stanford collected data from over 7,800 students and researchers were “shocked” by how many students failed to effectively evaluate the credibility of information. Intrigued, I decided to test our students with the assessments that you can find in the executive summary of the study. More exercises from this study should be released before the end of the school year.

First, we had students complete the assessments. The majority of our students were not able to recognize that “sponsored content” meant that something was an advertisement and not a news story. Additionally, many students failed to note the source (pleasegoogle…..) of the flower image and instead focused on the flowers themselves to explain their reasoning. Finally, the tweet proved especially difficult, but I think this is likely due to the fact that many 7th graders are not familiar with Twitter! I was not surprised by these results and used this as a “teachable” moment. (My professors would be proud! :))

We then went through a presentation that explained to the students what fake news is and the importance of triple checking sources. The flower image was a useful transition to our presentation since the creators of the photo were trying to deceive people with a fake image that purported to provide real information.

Next, we split the students into two groups. One group wrote a real news story and the other group wrote a fake news story. On the board we wrote criteria for a real news story (author’s name, contact information, about us, quotes, reliable sources, etc.) and what you might expect in a fake news story (no contact information, no names, unnamed sources, stretching the truth, etc.)

After the students completed their stories we shared them with 6th grade history classes. The students in these classes did not know if they were reading a real news story or a fake news story. We used this as another “teachable” moment 🙂 to introduce 6th graders to fake news. After our lesson on fake news, we had a reveal to see which students had a real news story and which ones had a fake news story.

This was a fun, collaborative project to do across grade levels. Students were intrigued by the fake news, and I like that they got a bit of writing practice as well….and some of our 6th grade students were definitely fooled! 🙂



5 thoughts on “All The News About Fake News

  1. Great stuff here, Ellen! Thanks so much for sharing. I, too, have been surprised by the gullibility of our middle-school students. These are great resources, and I will certainly follow up to see what new materials Stanford has to offer in the future. This is a critical part of our jobs in the 21st century, and despite their assertions to the contrary our students need this practice. My kids may make fun of how slowly I text, but I can spot fake news waaaaay faster than they can. Ha! I win! (Oh, wait–this was a competition, right??)

  2. Thank you Jennifer! You are kind, and I always enjoy your posts on here! 🙂 Kudos to you for winning the competition! 🙂 When I taught the lesson I also used a survey from Buzz Feed and it turns out Buzz Feed had been called out for using Fake News….so the students were all over me and the presentation! Ha! Pretty sure that counts as losing for me….but at least they were learning, right?? 🙂

  3. Ditto to Jennifer’s comment. Great stuff! You’ve inspired me to make putting together assessment tools for my middle and high schoolers. It’s been a glaring hole in our research/info lit/digital lit curriculum so it’s time to fill it. Thank you! Really great post!

  4. Thank you David! If you create/find some good assessments please do share! You are right, this is definitely a constant area for growth! The more, the better! Happy Summer!! 🙂

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