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Teaching Strategies to Help Students Spot Fake News

Janelle Cox

Can your students spot fake news when they see it? Now that anyone with an Internet connection can publish whatever they want to online, it’s growing increasingly harder to spot what is real and what is fake. As young children start to get their information from social media news feeds (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat) it’s even more essential that they are able to decode what they read. Even as the world is beginning to crack down on inaccurate information, there is always a chance that a student will read something that is incorrect. Luckily, we can prepare students on what to look for by using teaching strategies like asking themselves a few questions to help them determine what is accurate and what is not. A few basic questions your students can consider when they encounter a piece of news is to ask if the information is accurate, relevant, reliable, timely, valid, and complete. Here we will take a closer look at teaching strategies that can help students can spot fake news by asking themselves these essential questions.

Teaching Strategies to Detect Accuracy

Students can determine if the piece of news that they reading is accurate by looking at where the information originated. They can also look to make sure that the sources were sited and documented. Students should be aware of websites that have bold claims but no sources to back them up. Another red flag would be a website that is vague and doesn’t offer any further details.

Relevancy

Students can ask themselves if the piece of information they are trying to determine is useful to them. The information quality has to address what they are searching for. They can also look to spot if the information included pictures, charts, or videos all will help them determine the relevancy of the information.

Reliability

The first thing students can do is ask themselves if the news article is reliable. They can look to see if it is full of facts or full of opinions. Students can also look for balance of perspectives as well as if the sources are trustworthy. They look to see what other news outlets are reporting the same news. If they determine that they are not, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the information is not true, it just means that they should dig a little deeper into it.

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Timeliness

Timely information is any new information or new information that replaces the old. Students should always check the publication date as well as fact check what they are reading. They can look for when the article was written and/or updated, if the links were up to date or dead, as well as if the content was outdated. Old news does not necessarily mean that it is fake news. It is important for students to note that news can be updated and made timely.

Validity

Students can determine if the news is valid or believable by doing a few things. First, they can check to make sure the author is an expert in the field. Next, they can check the website to see if it is a reputable organization. Last, they can check to see if the sources were stated and if they are able to contact the author.

Completeness

Students should make their search for fake news thorough. They can search for completeness by using specific terms or general terms when researching information. By searching multiple sources, it will help determine if the news is therefore fake or real. The more complete information they have, the easier it will be to determine its validity.

Additional Tips for Spotting Fake News

Here are a few more things to have your students look out for.

  • Type in “org” or “edu” into the search bar if you want to search for websites that are credible. Make sure that you use the quotation marks too.
  • Look for sites that are affiliated with the article that you are reading. You can find out this information usually in the “About us” section. If they make you register first then that is a red flag.
  • Check the website Snopes.com or Factcheck.org to help you see if what you are reading is indeed valid.
  • Look for poor quality writing, such as misspellings, grammar errors, and bold claims without any sources to back them up.
  • Look for unusual URLs. Websites that end in something like .com.co may not be a legit site.

The problem with news in today’s world is that there is too much of it. Too much information can get confusing for students, especially for the young ones who are just starting out learning how to research. The key is to teach students how to search using broad terms and narrow terms, as well as what sites to look out for. Once they understand this, then it will get much easier for students to spot the fake articles.

How do you spot fake news? Do you have any teaching strategies or suggestions that you would like to share with us? Please feel free to leave your ideas and thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to hear what you have to say.



Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Skyword. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.