As the school year ramps up once again, it’s a good time to focus on one of the most important subjects students at all levels can study: media literacy. With fake news and distrust of the media making it harder for many people to know what to believe, there is ample need for news literacy lessons targeted at each and every student in America, from elementary-aged kids to university coeds.
The best place to get started is with the Alliance’s own Support Real News resources. The Journalism Glossary video will help every news consumer, old to young, understand what journalists mean when they start speaking in media lingo, while our Fake News Quiz, geared toward a more mature audience, guides participants through some truly insane headlines to show that you can’t always tell the real news from the fake just by looking at a headline or photo.
Below we offer media literacy resources organized by age group to help you start the school year off on the right foot.
Ages 3 – 6
In the book Tap, Click, Read, authors Lisa Guernsey and Michael H. Levine discuss how to share digital media with young children and begin to teach them the fundamentals of media literacy. Guernsey and Levine walk parents through exploring the digital world with young children, as well as helping them to navigate the tricky process of explaining the difference between real and make-believe.
Don’t have time for a full book? The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital has a handy guide that explains how to introduce and explain news media to young children. From setting a family media plan to making sure parents get familiar with all the information and technology their kids are accessing, this simple cheat sheet makes it easy for even the most beleaguered parents to help their children learn early media literacy.
Ages 6 – 12
With Checkology, teachers of young students can create an interactive and engaging lesson plan that helps kids understand the difference between quality information and junk. With a game-like design and easy-to-understand examples, kids are encouraged to take the driver’s seat in their news literacy education.
Ages 12 – 17
For students in junior high and high school, the Newseum offers guided classes to help explain the complex matter of media literacy to teens. Through the “Believe It or Not” class (offered in-person in D.C. or virtually), students are given the opportunity to discuss how journalists sometimes make mistakes, and what the proper ways of handling those mistakes can be. By learning how responsible journalists handle errors, students are taught how to determine not only if the news they’re reading is factual, but if the outlet it comes from is trustworthy.
In the Newseum’s “Fighting Fake News” class, students take a closer look at fake news and propaganda in order to learn how false stories spread online and how to spot fake news or opinion articles on social media. Through a careful examination of the differences between real and fake, opinion and news, students will learn the skills needed to help them determine whether a source is delivering quality news, no matter where they find it.
Stony Brook University’s Digital Resource Center offers a complete course pack on news literacy for use in college classrooms. Over the course of 13 lessons, Stony Brook’s media literacy class takes students on a journey from the basics of media literacy and what it means to be news literate, through the steps of determining the source and quality of information, to knowing how to read the news like a journalist. The free to download course includes PowerPoint lecture aids, media to study and suggested exams to ensure students are truly absorbing the lessons.
If you’re not looking to teach a full course but still want your students to have a basic understanding of news literacy, Johns Hopkins University Library’s CRAAP Test is a quick and easy way to share the key points. Through the catchy acronym, the test explains five important elements of quality news and how news consumers can use those factors to determine the trustworthiness of the information they’re receiving.
If you’re an educator teaching media literacy in your classroom, tell us what tools you’re using. You can reach the Alliance on Twitter at @NewsAlliance, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jennifer is the Alliance’s reporter on trends and insights, as well as the social media manager. Prior to joining the Alliance, she spent more than a decade working in news and magazines in New York City. She is the author of the young adult textbook, “You’re Being Duped: Fake News on Social Media” (Enslow, 2019).