Train students as skeptical readers in the classroom and watch as they grow into informed citizens who think critically about the world around them.

Even adults have a difficult time distinguishing between fake news and legitimate information, therefore the young, growing minds of students have a more difficult task determining the legitimacy of sources. The key to teaching students to combat fake news is encouraging them to become skeptical readers who are able to sort through the media haystack to uncover accurate information by thinking critically about what they’re reading instead of mindlessly consuming content without considering where articles originated or why they were written.

1. Ask Them to Ask Questions

skeptical readersAdvise students to approach news with an inquisitive mind that is ready to investigate. To uncover the most legitimate resources for quality journalism, skeptical readers ask questions regarding every aspect of the articles they read, journalists they follow, and media firms they respect. Arm students with some questions to ask around who wrote the article, why they wrote the article, whether they cited credible sources, and where the article was published.

2. Origins of the Stories

When searching for unbiased journalism that is based on facts, students must research authors and their careers. For example, if a journalist started his or her career writing at a liberal — or moderate — news site, yet after a few years, joins the editorial staff at an outlet that provides a conservative spin, skeptical readers will investigate the reasons for the sudden shift. Writers who are committed to sharing accurate news will not simply abandon their journalistic principles to secure a new job.

3. Read on Through to the Other Side

skeptical readersReputable news sources should provide information that cultivates knowledge, not fear or conflict. When students read reliable stories, they should consider how the information could be skewed if written by a biased reporter. One of the most powerful questions to help students do this is “Would the facts of this story be different if someone else wrote it?” If the answer is yes, chances are good that it is not a piece written to inform, but rather to persuade the reader to see things from the author’s point of view.

4. Make a Meaningful Change

In June 2016, Washington State implemented “Digital Citizenship — Instruction in Public Schools,” also known as Substitute Senate Bill 6273, which requires public schools to include lessons regarding how students can become responsible digital citizens by using keen judgement when consuming media. Becoming involved in local and state government is an admirable goal for teachers, but it’s also time consuming. If changing guidelines at a school or district level is more feasible, meet with administrators and colleagues to discuss how to improve curriculum and add lessons to train students to become skeptical readers.

Devoting class time to cultivating skeptical readers starts by instructing students to investigate the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the stories they read. Over time, children will be able to identify common characteristics of unreliable information from different sources, while becoming familiar with journalists who share factual stories.

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