Political events over the last year and a half (though it's felt like an eternity) have brought the blight of fake news in to sharp focus, and inevitably, thoughts turn to the future - to young people and how they can be equipped with sufficient skills to avoid a messy roadblock on the way to betterment. That this should fall to the lot of teachers to address - along with money matters, marriage and character - can make for a whole other blog, but the argument that students need support to develop their critical literacy is convincing. Because it's tricky isn't it, to ask an 10 year old for instance, with such limited life experience, to move from reading to learn and be informed, to reading critically and questioningly.
This is compounded too, by the truth that the fake news phenomenon is not simple and straight-forward, but a hugely complicated issue. Something that might once been called satire is now toeing the line of fake news, and it's all too easy to call out an opinion piece you don't agree with as fake news, without really engaging with the legitimate grievance or attitude behind it. How people access their news has changed dramatically, and the emergence of clickbait articles on monetised sites and the echo chamber of social media are helping to amplify this problematic environment.
The recent National Literacy Trust report examining this issue therefore makes for interesting reading. It's not only about the sites that young people are accessing, it's the fact (or should that be post-fact?) that they believe everythinh they read. Now more than ever, students need activities that encourage them to identify, question, check, and weigh up the arguments offered in news items.
- Students need to know before they can critically evaluate a news item. Give them or carefully scaffold them creating a factual outline of the issue before asking them to judge an article or broadcast against this knowledge
- Simply highlighting and discussing fact and opinion in a piece can help them determine its value
- It may be possible to put various news items on a scale, from robust and researched pieces, through those that manipulate the facts, to ones propounding out and out lies or hoaxes
- Deciding what language it was that demonstrated the author's views will help students to detect fake news when they read on their own the next time round - essentially asking them the connotations of key words will develop their critical literacy armoury.
State schools in England and Northern Ireland, and many in Wales and Scotland, hold the NLA Schools Licence that covers schools to copy from print and digital newspapers. If you're interested in making more use of news articles in your teaching, why not team extracts with one of the activites in our resource booklet.
BBC News Reality Check, whose aim it is to 'cut through the spin and concentrate on the facts'
Full Fact - An independent charity that helps users check the claims made by politicians and the media
About the Author:
Julie Murray is Education Licences Manager at CLA, which means she trains and educates licencees in schools, further and higher education institutions about CLA licences and how they fit in to the wider world of copyright. Prior to working at CLA, Julie was Head of History and Politics at an 11-18 comprehensive in London.