Last week, Stanford researchers released a “bleak” report showing that more than 80 percent of students can’t determine the difference between real and fake news. (Alas, it seems this is something adults struggle with, as well.)

The severity of students’ lack of media literacy was shocking to the study’s authors who were “taken aback by students’ lack of preparation…Many assume that because young people are fluent in social media they are equally savvy about what they find there. Our work shows the opposite.”

What to do about this? I’m going to start by using Stanford’s own assessment tools with my students. These two worksheets (click on the images below) will serve as a pre-test of sorts to assess where students are with their reasoning when it comes to media consumption and to help them focus their critical lens.

Click here for worksheet #1, where students will examine whether items on a Salon.com homepage are news articles or paid advertisements:

art1
Click here for worksheet #2
, where students will examine whether a photograph of mutated daisies is evidence of contamination from a nuclear power plant:

art2
These two handouts are just a starting point for what should be an ongoing conversation about what sources of information should (and should not) be deemed trustworthy. In the report, the authors also mentioned that Stanford’s education team is hoping to create a series of lesson plans to help develop students’ “civic online reasoning.” Can’t wait to see what they build.

Teach on, everyone!

Note: These materials are the property of Stanford’s History Education Group. I modified them to be more printer-friendly for teachers and included simplified answer keys to help streamline scoring. The full, original report and assessment materials can be accessed by clicking here.

Join the conversation! 16 Comments

  1. Thank you! We’re going to do a 20Time-ish version of our own TED talks 2nd semester, so this will be most helpful!

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  2. Brilliant, Laura!

    Will definitely be bringing this into the classroom! I’m very curious to see what the results are, although it may take some time…seeing I’m still not working this year…

    Finding interesting material for these teens to get talking is hard, but thanks to you this task has become easier for me!

    LOL! Maybe it’s not so much the material, but the way I approach present it. So VERY thankful to have you around to give me that nudge to get it right! (That sentence looks funny, not sure I wrote that right! :/)

    BTW, those daisies are scary!

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  3. My pleasure, Carolyn! Glad these will be useful to your future classes. 🙂 And, I agree, the daisies are definitely unsettling. Oh!

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  4. Awesome, Mrs. Turner! Sounds like a great assignment.

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  5. Great resources!!! Thank you. 🙂

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  6. You’re welcome, Valerie, but Stanford did all of the hard work. I’m just trying to spread their word! 🙂

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  7. This primary source idea has been a difficult road. Students rely on Wikipedia because they find information quickly and easily. I have said again and again that ANYONE can post on that website and that it is almost impossible for the Wikipedia staff to go through all of the “stuff” to verify its accuracy. Keep up the good fight, Laura!

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  8. Indeed, Mary, Wikipedia is just not enough and kids need to verify EVERYTHING they find there with a different, more reliable source. The one thing I do like Wikipedia for, though, is the collection of references and external links provided at the bottom of every entry. We’ve found some real gems down there when my students are doing their research papers.

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  9. I spent the majority of the day yesterday looking at the Stanford site after I read Mr. Kelly Gallagher’s tweet of this article. I printed out some items yesterday and at the end of the day I had a notification of your post. I’m in awe how quickly you formatted this information in your appealing sheets! Thank you so much, Laura, for your attention to detail and again for sharing your work. I will be using these today with my sophomores!

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  10. Thanks, Chantel! Yes, I saw the Fortune magazine write-up of the study on Saturday, nipped/tucked the worksheets to make ’em work better for my students on Sunday, and posted this on Monday. When I get inspired, I WORK! Glad these will be useful. 🙂

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  11. Another fantastic FREE media literacy resource is http://www.factinista.com. It’s a great way to help students become familiar with what constitutes high-quality journalism, as all content is curated from legitimate sources of news and analysis. The interface is designed to be consistent with how young people consume information (using a scrollable feed like Twitter). Factinista also doubles as a search engine, allowing students to research topics (and unlike Google, the results are always insightful and credible). Students can also sign up to “follow” content by topic, geography, or sources to get a customized daily or weekly digest.

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  12. What a relief, Micah! Wish more adults I know would visit Factinista.com before sharing ridiculous stories on Facebook. Great tip! 🙂

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  13. Do you have any other media literacy worksheets? These are awesome!

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  14. Sorry, Samantha, but these were the only ones in the Stanford report that I thought would work for my kids. There’s a third one tucked into the full report, but it was Twitter-based and built for a collegiate audience. Still, you might want to take a look at that one, too. Happy hunting!

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  15. This Stanford report was one of the most prominent news stories during Thanksgiving break, and I knew I wanted to incorporate discerning skills in my lessons, but I didn’t know how to go about it. And then, my favorite TPT seller comes up with the idea. Thank you! My middle schoolers need to learn this.

    As educators, we need to teach students to be better informed and smarter consumers. This will definitely be a step in the right direction. Thank you, Laura!

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  16. Absolutely, Michelle. It’s easy to assume our students already know these basics, but it’s clear (from the Stanford report and my own anecdotal experience) that they don’t. Let’s break it down for them. 🙂

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high school English, informational text, non-fiction, reading, social media, writing

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