My Favorite Media Literacy Lesson

Today I’m just quickly sharing my favorite, single period “fake news”/Media Literacy lesson. I’ve used adapted versions of this with 7th grade through 12th grade, and even with my teachers in very successful PD sessions. This is a great lesson for when you only have 1 class period and want something engaging, easy, and very useful to students.

Here is a slide presentation that goes along with this lesson.

MediaLit for Blog

Feel free to modify and/or reuse.

The Hook and the Set Up

  1. I start the class by having all students take the Easiest Quiz of All Time. It is a great “hook” and students have a blast taking this 7 question stumper. After they take the quiz (it only takes about 2 minutes) play the video that goes with it.
    1. News Lit Project’s Easiest Quiz of All Time
    2. Video that goes along with the quiz
  2. After the video, ask students:
    1. What did participants learn about Google when they realized they could use it to “cheat” and look for answers.
      1. Answer: That Google’s answers are not always correct.
      2. Explain to them that the reason for this is that most people click on the first results on Google, and that it is important that they realize that Google does not organize its results by usefulness or accuracy, but instead by rank and popularity. So results that are more popular, and are clicked on more often, are what will show up first in google, even if those results are outdated of not accurate (such as the myth that fortune cookies were invented in san francisco.)
    2. What did participants learn they must do in order to find the correct results on google?
      1. Answer: check multiple sources, double check answers across multiple sources (i.e. what we call lateral reading).
    3. Did anyone in the class scored 100% when they took the quiz? If anyone raises their hand, ask if they got everything correct because they knew it, or if they used google to find the correct answers (which you ARE allowed to do, the beginning of the quiz says there are NO rules).
  3. Discussion – You may want to have some discussion time to get students thinking about different types of “fake news,” or misinformation they are already familiar with. Ask if they can think of any examples of specific misinformation or of types of misinformation. Examples include:
    1. Extreme Bias
    2. Political misinformation
    3. Twisting of numbers via skewed or incomplete graphs and statistics
    4. propaganda
    5. manipulated videos and photos
    6. science denial/science misinformation (climate change, vaccines, “miracle weight loss pills,” flat earth, etc)
    7. conspiracy theories (Birther, Area 51,
    8. Hoaxes and Satire
    9. Celebrity tabloid type rumors/sensational stories
    10. Clickbait
    11. Sponsored content/hidden advertisements
  4. Please note that each of these distinct types of manipulated information could easily have its own separate lessons, so the point of this lesson is not to go in depth into each of these types but merely to get students thinking about them in general.
  5. After the class has brainstormed some of the types of misinformation they are already familiar with, ask them what methods (if any) they currently use to protect themselves from being manipulated by misinformation.  Explain that you are now going to teach them one method and tool they can use.

The Instruction

  1. Explain to students that the best way to evaluate information for reliability is to do a multi-step process that includes:
    1. Seeing if factcheckers have already confirmed or debunked the info
    2. Looking into the reliability and biases of the source
    3. Cross-checking and corroborating the info across multiple reliable sources (lateral reading)
  2. Today we will learn a method and free online tool that you can use to check the reputation and biases of your source. The best part? It takes less than 1 minute to do!
  3. Checking out your source is so important today because, unlike in decades past, we now have a nearly limitless amount of potential news and information sources. Back in the day there used to only be a couple newspapers and a couple tv news stations so we didn’t really worry too much about which sources were reliable. There were so few that we just tended to know their reputations.  Now, with the internet, you have access to bundles and bundles of sources, and unfortunately that means you won’t be able to always just “know” the source’s reputation. So you’ll need to always , ALWAYS look that info up. Luckily it is super easy and quick to do.
    1. First: Identify the name of your source. It might be the name of a tv station, newspaper, website, publisher, author, etc.
    2. Second: Go to and type the name of your source into the website.
    3. Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 5.41.48 PM.png
    4. If has your source in its database, it will show up in the results. Click on the result.
    5. Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 5.42.18 PM
    6. The result page will now tell you two very important pieces of information.
      1. It will tell you how the source leans on the political bias spectrum:
      2. Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 5.44.14 PM.png
      3. And it will tell you the reputation the source has for factual reporting:
      4. Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 5.44.51 PM.png
      5. With those two pieces of information, you should be able to decide for yourself whether the source is reliable or not.
      6. ** Don’t forget that checking the source’s biases and reputation is only ONE step in evaluating information online.  Just because the source is known to have a good reputation does not mean they never get it wrong, or never make mistakes and fall for misinformation themselves.  That is why it is important to always check the source AND factcheck AND corroborate information across multiple reliable sources!***
      7. You may want to show students several examples to demonstrate to them how complex a source can sometimes be. I usually use these as examples:
        1. New York Times – example of a source with a high factual reporting reputation and some left bias.
        2. Wall Street Journal – example of a right leaning source that has “mixed reporting” reputation. I stress with students how mediabiasfactcheck states that WSJ tends to have poor reputation when reporting on science topics, but a good reputation when reporting on economics and finance topics.
        3. Associated Press – as an example of a nearly neutral, high reporting reputation source.
        4. Breitbart or InfoWars or David Wolfe to demonstrate a clearly bad source (conspiracy theory, pseudoscience, quackery, etc)


  1. Now it is the student’s turn to try it.
  2. Have students brainstorm as many information sources as they can and have them use to check the reputation and biases of as many sources as they can in the time remaining.
    1. Ask students to name sources that show up in their Snapchat stories and to check those sources on mediabiasfactcheck (hint hint, the sources are NEVER good)
    2. Here are some examples of sources if students cant think of any.
    3. Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 6.06.10 PM.png
  3. Optional additional component: Its very fun to have students plot their findings on the whiteboard to create a class version of the infamous “Media Bias Chart.”  To do so, just draw a “t” shape on the board. Instruct students to plot their sources on the board according to whether the source is left or right leaning, and whether it has a high factual reporting reputation, mixed reputation, or questionable/quackery reputation.
  4. Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 6.01.10 PM.png
  5. Here you can see how our students created their own version of the above graph by plotting their sources according to the info they learned about the source in medibiasfactcheck
  6. Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 6.10.31 PM

Additional Resources to Help you Evaluate a Source for Reputation and Bias!

  1. MediaBiasFactCheck – This website is awesome for checking the biases and reputation associated with news sources. It will give you info about the source’s political leanings and reputation which helps you decide if your source is reliable.
  2. Red Feed Blue Feed​ – The Wall Street Journal created two feeds, one “blue” and the other “red.” If a source appears in the red feed, a majority of the articles shared from the source were classified as “very conservatively aligned” in a large 2015 Facebook study. For the blue feed, a majority of each source’s articles aligned “very liberal.” These aren’t intended to resemble actual individual news feeds. Instead, they are rare side-by-side looks at real conversations from different perspectives.​

  3. Open Secrets. Tracks how much and where candidates get their money.
  4. – find out who owns a website or domain name. You can then search for that person or organization’s reputation and biases.
  5. Washington Post Fact Checker. Although WP has a left-center bias, its checks are excellent and sourced. Bias because they fact check conservative claims more than liberal ones.
  6. The Sunlight Foundation. Uses public policy data-based journalism to make politics more transparent/accountable
  7. Snopes.  Often the first to set facts straight on wild fake news claims.
  8. ProPublica. Has won several Pulitzer Prizes. ProPublica produces investigative journalism in the public interest.
  9. AllSides. While not a fact-checking site, AllSides curates stories from right, center and left-leaning media so that readers can easily compare how bias influences reporting
  10. Fact Check. This nonpartisan, nonprofit monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by U.S. political players, including politicians, TV ads, debates, interviews and news releases.​
  11. Media Matters. This nonprofit and self-described liberal-leaning research center monitors and corrects conservative misinformation in the media.​
  12. NewsBusters. A project of the conservative Media Research Center, NewsBusters is focused on “documenting, exposing and neutralizing liberal media bias.”​

Download my Infographic

Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 5.55.41 PM

Please note that most of my inspiration and education on this topic comes from Mike Caulfield’s Four Moves (now called the S.I.F.T. method) for student factcheckers. He is excellent and provides tons and tons of free media literacy tools and education on this websites:

The rest of my own media literacy resources can be found here:

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