Navigating the News: Fun Activities to Develop News and Media Literacy
In this digital age, media literacy is crucial for all ages because most communication about the world comes through the media and news outlets. Teaching media literacy in the classroom will prepare students for years to come as they navigate and understand the world around them.
In this blog we will discuss the importance of media literacy and offer activities and resources teachers can use to incorporate news and media literacy in their lesson plans.
News and Media Literacy: What Is It & Why Is It Important?
Both types of literacy include looking beyond the messages and promoting curiosity about the news and media we consume and create.
The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) defines media literacy as the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and participate in messages in a variety of communication forms.
The Center for News Literacy defines news literacy as the development of critical thinking skills that help students judge the reliability and credibility of news and information, differentiating between facts, opinions, and assertions in the news we consume, create, and distribute.
3 Guiding Philosophies of Media Literacy
As we mentioned before, students need to be able to understand how to analyze and comprehend messages as well as design and distribute media themselves.
In the classroom, teachers can build their media literacy lesson plans around 3 guiding philosophies:
- As digital citizens, we have both rights and responsibilities. This philosophy focuses on the impact each person has online and the notion that every decision we make has a ripple effect, whether we mean it to or not.
- Be critical, not cynical. This philosophy encourages us to be curious and ask questions rather than immediately assume everything in the news and media is a lie. Asking questions is how individuals will construct their values and beliefs.
- Don’t just identify misinformation, examine the values systems behind them. This philosophy reminds us that looking at things from a different perspective is important. This means continuing to try and understand the reasoning behind every message, even the ones that we may not agree with.
These philosophies will help students navigate the news and media they see every day so they can make informed decisions based on facts and their own set of beliefs.
Activities For Teaching Media Literacy
Below, we’ve provided some activities teachers can use in their classrooms to get students engaged and put their skills to the test.
It should be noted that while many of these activities are geared toward upper elementary through high school students, teachers can make adaptations to use in younger classes as well.
This activity will help students assess advertisements and address the key elements of an ad. By looking at a variety of ads, students can determine who the target audience is and what the intent is behind the ad itself.
First, teachers can review the types of questions students can ask and how they can use critical thinking skills to evaluate ads. For example, some questions could include:
- Who made this ad?
- Who paid for this ad?
- Is this ad fact or opinion?
- How does this ad make me feel?
- What is the creator of the ad trying to influence me to do?
- Who is the target audience for this ad?
As the students are looking at each ad, teachers can encourage them to use an idea web or other type of graphic organizer to take notes and answer the questions listed above.
Next, teachers can show different types of ads to their class including print ads, video ads, audio ads, etc. To do this they can create their own presentation or use this slideshow of popular advertisements.
Dissecting Movie Messages
The goal of this activity is to teach students about how there are underlying messages in all types of media even when they may not realize it.
Teachers can encourage their students to focus on underlying themes or messages displayed throughout the film. As students are watching, they can use main idea worksheets to outline their thoughts and notes to share when it’s over. After viewing, the class can discuss their thoughts and how similar messages are portrayed in the news and media.
This activity can be used to strengthen cross-curricular connections with other content areas, like social studies.
For example, you can show students a movie that takes place during a time period that you are studying. Provide students with primary sources, such as news articles or speeches, and have students compare and contrast the historical accuracy of the movie. If there are any discrepancies or inaccuracies, have the students discuss why they think the filmmaker made those changes.
Multiple Sources Showdown
This activity is a fun and effective way to encourage students to look at news and media from different perspectives and sources. Teachers will create a bracket-style competition where students evaluate multiple sources.
Assign students with a current event that is circulating in the news and media. Then, teachers will instruct students to do research by looking at a variety of sources reporting on the same event. We recommend that teachers also encourage their students to find different types of sources, like articles, videos, and podcasts.
Below we’ve provided a list of educational websites and news outlets that teachers can share with their students as they do their research.
Once they’ve collected their sources, students can use the CRAAP test to determine the credibility of each source and decide which is more reliable than the next. At the end of every round, there will be a winning source.
Whenever a source wins, it will move up a spot in the bracket. This will continue until there is only one reliable source left, making it the winner.
Is This Story Share-Worthy?
The goal of this activity is to teach students how to spot fake news in the media and how to evaluate the credibility of a news source.
Teachers should first review what to look for when analyzing a news or media story. They can review the right questions for students to ask and what elements of a story are most important. Below are two resources teachers can share with their students:
Then, teachers can break students up into small groups and assign each group a real media or news story. Choosing different types of media for each group may be helpful to show the variety of sources. For example, one group may have an article while another watches a video.
Students can use the resources above to evaluate the reliability and purpose of their message or story. If the story is true it can be considered “share-worthy.”
After their discussions, each group will create a presentation to show what they found. They will demonstrate whether their media was fake news or not and explain why they came to their conclusions.
Tech For Teaching Media Literacy
Teaching media literacy in the classroom can be difficult without the right edtech tools. The online resources below can help you prepare your lessons and encourage students to practice news and media literacy in fun and engaging ways.
This website is a hub for helpful resources, information, and events regarding media literacy. Created by NAMLE, teachers can use the site to find basic lessons on media literacy as well as other resources to use in their classrooms. It also offers tools teachers can share with parents to encourage media literacy at home and opportunities to get the whole school involved.
This website features an assortment of short videos students can watch to learn about copyright and digital ethics. The lessons geared towards younger students (K-2) introduce age-appropriate concepts of sharing, ownership, and attribution. The site also offers lessons for grades 3-6 which dive deeper into copyright topics such as fair use, public domain, and open sharing.
This website features high-interest articles on a wide variety of topics and subjects which students and teachers can use to evaluate the credibility of sources. They can research daily news updates, stories, and subject-specific products for ELA, social studies, science, and SEL. Students can compare and contrast different types of sources and have the opportunity to use featured quizzes and writing prompts to reflect on what they’ve learned.
This website offers a variety of free resources that help students learn and practice media literacy. Students and teachers have access to collections, digital archives, lesson plans, interactive tools, and quizzes. Topics range from historical events to news stories circulating in the press at present, as well as lessons that teach students about the components of media literacy.
This online game introduces students to a fake social media site where they learn to spot unreliable news stories and false information. While playing, students will learn about high-quality journalism and how to detect misinformation and biased news. The game will teach students about verification, transparency, and credibility on social media platforms.
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