Janelle Coady
Information Science, Electronic Technology
Material Type:
High School
9, 10, 11, 12
  • Clickbait
  • Critical Evaluation
  • Fake News
  • MSDE
  • MSDE Library
  • NE ELA
  • ne-ela
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
    Media Formats:
    Audio, Downloadable docs, Graphics/Photos, Video

    Education Standards

    Facts or Fake News? Evaluating Media in a “Post-Truth” World

    Facts or Fake News? Evaluating Media in a “Post-Truth” World


    The amount of information being consumed on a daily basis is staggering and often leads to "information overload." As literacy has shifted to a digital landscape, it is even more imperative for consumers, especially students, to learn how to navigate this environment. This multi-day lesson helps students 1) examine terms associated with "fake news" and how to evaluate them for reliability and authenticity, and then 2) develp a set of skills to help them continue to evaluate sources for both academic and personal needs.

    "Fake News Image" by Pxfuel logo is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

    Defining "Post-truth"

    Ask students to visit the Oxford Dictionaries page. If the instructor or students play the video included below, one only needs to watch the "post-truth" section (first part).

    Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year: Post-truth


    Oxford Dictionaries declared “post-truth” the 2016 word of the year. In the same year, fake news would play a role in the presidential election.

    Read the Oxford Dictionaries "post-truth" Word of the Year page.

    Next, watch the first part of the video below to see how this word came about. 



    • How might “post-truth” help or hurt a person?

    • What might be the future impact of "post-truth"?


    The power of photos

    Ask students to discuss these questions:

    • What does fake news mean?
    • When and under what conditions have you or someone you know fallen for, or even shared, fake news?
    • Why does telling fake news from real news matter? 

    Ask students to compare the images "Fukushima Nuclear Flowers" and "Fasciated saguaro cactus". If you were trying to make sense of the reasons for plant mutations, would you trust the images, based on the source information provided? In your opinion, what context or source identifiers make a source trustworty?

    Image sources: "Fukushima Nuclear Flowers" from; and "Crested Saguaros" from the National Park Service.

    1. Have a discussion about the topic of "fake news" based on questions that your teacher provides.

    2. Compare the images "Fukushima Nuclear Flowers" and  "saguaro cactus image."

    • If you were trying to make sense of the reasons for plant mutations, would you trust the images based on the source information provided? ​​​​​​​
    • What context or source identifiers make a source more trustworthy? What do you find or not find in the images?
    • Is one image more trustworthy than the other? Why?

    Fukushima Nuclear Flowers

    Fukushima Nuclear Flowers On March 11, 2011, a large nuclear disaster occured at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. This image was posted on Imgur, a photo sharing website, in July 2015.

    One of the park's beautiful crested saguaros

    Crested Saguaros - This saguaro cactus image was posted by the National Park Service on February 4, 2015.

    Habits of critical evaluation

    Ask students to consider the main components of critical evaluation.





    Students can apply critical evaluation in relation to the images they analyzed in Task 2 by reading the Snopes article and the full Moapa Valley Progress news article. Students may use the Critical Evaluation of Online Media Template (attached Word Document) in order to make notes for each component.

    Critical Evaluation of online media

    Consider these questions when you evaluate media. Each question is connected to a component of critical evaluation.

    How do the images you analyzed in Task 2 hold up to this critical evaluation?


    Does the information fit my reading purpose or interest? Will it answer my inquiry need? Is there depth to what I am seeing, hearing, or reading?


    Is the information factual--especially if cross-referenced with alternative sources, like primary sources and reputable publications? Does the source itself include links to other accurate sources? Are specific names, places, dates, and data mentioned, as opposed to vague phrases such as a woman reportedthe incident happened near Chicago, or seen in area corn fields?


    How trustworthy is the publishing body or author? Does the source have an author or creator with identified credentials and contact information? What information do you find if you reverse search an image, using a site like TinEye?


    Why did the person or group put the information on the Internet? Is the information one sided? Could the information be offensive to, or even hurt anyone? Are inflated words like inside the nightmare and dumbest generation yet used? Do headlines, like ANOTHER 100-YEAR STORM!, use all caps?

    Apply your skills

    Snopes is a web site dedicated to fact-checking news and other trending media in an effort to stop the flow of misinformation. 

    What does the Snopes article Mutant Daisies reveal about the "Fukushima Nuclear Daisies" photo post that you analyzed?

    1. Who posted the original photo and where?

    2. What facts disprove the claim that the daisies mutated because of nuclear radiation?

    What does the Crested Saguaros post include that makes it truthful news?

    1. Why is the author reliable? How do you know the publication is an authentic local news outlet?

    2. How does the article maintain a balanced view about fasciation (unbiased)?

    But wait, there's more

    Provide the Task 4 Vocabulary to students. Ask students to discuss the terms. Google's Be Internet Awesome, Don't Fall for Fake: Vocabulary (page 21)  provides definitions for your reference.

    "Fake news" can be applied to numerous types of news:

    • Satirical news (from sites like The Onion)
    • The daily clickbait
    • News that shows a highly partisan bias
    • Invented news 
    • Advertisements disguised as news (often scams)

    Ask students to listen to the Breaking News Podcast. How does Melissa Zimdars break down the differences between the various types of "fake news"? What advice can students give their families or peers about consuming online news? 

    For the anchor chart assessment, provide students with False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical “News” Sources by Melissa Zimdars (attached resource link).

    Post or share the Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Fake News Edition image (According to WNYC terms, you may copy or print the image, provided that you do not modify the image in any way.)




    • Bot
    • Phishing
    • Spearphising
    • Scam
    • Authentic
    • Deceptive
    • Fraudulent
    • Malicious
    • Catfishing
    • Clickbait
    1. What terms are familiar to you?
    2. What do you discover based on definitions provided from a search in Oxford Dictionaries?
    3. Provide a few examples from your experiences with email, gaming, and social media?

    How can one best sort the truthful from the troublesome?

    Listen to Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Fake News Edition (November 18, 2016, On The Media)

    According to Melissa Zimdars, how can one best distinguish the differences between the types of fake news listed? What fake news might be considered troublesome vs. downright deplorable?

    • Flat out fake

    • Looks real (loosely connects to truth)

    • Clickbait

    • Satire

    What advice about consuming and sharing online news might you give your family members or your peers?

    Knowledge check

    Which type of fake news is the  Inside HGTV Nightmare, Joanna Gaines, Their Top Host of Fixer Upper Leaves Show To Start A Cosmetic Line article?

    How do you know?

    Create a "How to Spot Fake News" anchor chart

    Work with a small group. Based on the information you learned about factual news vs. types of fake news, create an anchor chart. Use chart paper or a digital tool to display your ideas. Break your ideas into two categories:

    True news will include

    Fake news will include


    How fake news spreads - A case study

    Ask students to analyze Washington's quote: "Serious misfortunes, originating in misrepresentation, frequently flow and spread before they can be dissipated by truth." The instructor may want to share the complete letter (National Archives, with the class to have a more invloved conversation about the context of his time vs. our time. Why do some things stay the same? What is it about human nature that allows the "flow and spread" of misinformation?

    Provide student groups time to deconstruct the Fake News Case Study. The assessment outcome allows students the ability to be creative. Students can share their hypotheticalverdicts with the class. Instructors may ask the class to compare "sentences."

    From what was learned in the case study, what can the students ADD to the Task 4 anchor charts? Consider rules of civility and norms for sharing and consuming media.

    "Serious misfortunes, originating in misrepresentation, frequently flow and spread before they can be dissipated by truth." 

    -GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to John Jay, May 8, 1796

    In order to overcome the threat of fake news, it’s important to know how it originates and what makes it tick.  

    Read How Fake News Goes Viral: A Case Study by Sapna Maheshwari (Nov 21, 2016 New York Times)

    Annotate the article on your own:

    • Apply what you have learned about types of fake news. How would you categorize Eric Tucker's news?
    • Where did real events occur, and what reasons did Tucker have for sharing his ideas?
    • How and why did his news spread?
    • Who were the main players in allowing the news to spread?

    Make a Case

    Meet with a group and deconstruct the incident.

    • Using chart paper, a white board, or a digital idea board (like Padlet), summarize and connect the timeline of people, ideas, and events that led to the fake news gone viral.
    • Include support material like dates/times, images, graphs, and source information.

    Share with the class:

    • What lessons are to be learned from this case? If you were a judge and jury who needed to give Eric Tucker and/or connected players a sentence for this "crime of civility" (note: this is not a real crime), what kind of "moral sentence" would you assign him/others? Provide justified reasons for what he/others is "guilty of" and share with him/others strategies for future use of social media.
    • To combat the spread of fake news, what "Rules of Civility" could be added to your Task 4 anchor chart?

    Shifting the tide - How to be more responsible consumers of information

    Ask students to complete a summative assessment of their choice. Three options are provided for students.

    How can you make a difference? Choose one of the following options. Consider sharing your thoughts with a wider audience per your instructor's guidance:

    Option 1: Compose an Editorial 

    How can average citizens and companies (like Facebook) maintain a balance between free speech and responsible use? What "rules" should users practice when posting opinions and re-sharing posts? How could media outlets be more responsible for distinguishing ads from news? How can they help control the spread of fake news? Following the directions your teacher provides either (1) Post your editorial to one of your social media sites, or (2) using a school-related platform, post your editorial to a course blog space or discussion board. 

    Be sure to reference facts and sources that support your argument. You might want to reference various sources included within the tasks completed in this lesson. Seek feedback, and have a respectful conversation with others about the topic.  

    Option 2: Debunk a News Story

    Find a rumor or suspected fake news article you have read recently and present the real facts. Use your critical evaluation strategies (as practiced in Task 3), and consider consulting one of the following fact-checking sites:

    To check the authenticity of images, you might try to reverse-Google them to find their origins. 

    Using a digital presentation tool (like Powerpoint), or a podcast / vlog (via an audio or video tool), summarize the fake news and present the facts and/or missing reliability components to your audience.

    Option 3: Analyze your News Footprint

    Spend a week keeping track of the news that pops up in your social media feeds, or news you choose to you click on, read, and share with others. Write down the source of each news story. Once you have tracked yourself for at least a week, use Wordle to create a visual representation of where most of your news comes from. For Wordle, type or paste in each source you listed as you tracked, even if you know you are repeating some sources. The Wordle will give you a visual of where you get most of your news.

    “Where do you get most of your news? Are your most-viewed news sites trustworthy? How do you know?” Do an Internet search on your most-viewed news sites for some insight into their trustworthiness. Be sure to apply what you've learned from other tasks in this lesson.

    Compose a journal entry that you will share with your instructor or others in class. How might you change your habits to get to more reliable news? If you are happy with the kind of news you follow and share, explain how you have managed to control your exposure to fake news. What personal goals do you have for yourself as you continue to grow up in a world that is riddled with fake news? What ARE the best news sites to follow in order to get fact-based, unbiased news, and how do you know? Which of these reliable news outlets have you made an effort to follow, and under what conditions do you consume this news (do you listen to podcasts, subscribe to paper copies, follow them on social media, etc)?