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LESSON

Analyzing How Words Communicate Bias

This lesson, part of the Digital Literacy series, focuses on teaching students to identify how writers can reveal their biases through their word choice and tone. Students will identify “charged” words that communicate a point of view. Students will understand how writers communicate a point of view implicitly by writing their own charged news stories.
Grade Level
6-8

Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Identify bias in news articles and stories
  • Discern the point of view of writers and reporters by analyzing their word choice
  • Discern the point of view of writers and reporters by analyzing their tone
  • Separate the point of view of the author from the facts of the news story
  • Be critical of the way they communicate information themselves
Essential Questions
  • How does word choice implicitly communicate bias?
  • How do we identify a writer's bias through their word choice?
  • Why is it important to read articles from a variety of sources?
Materials
  • Two different articles on a current event or topic relevant to the students.
    • Sources for a more conservative slant: Fox News, The Drudge Report, The Wall Street Journal
    • Sources for a more liberal slant: Politico, Al Jazeera America, Slate, The Guardian
  • Chart paper for class t-chart
  • Evaluating Bias in a Newscast handout
  • Creating a Biased News Story handout

Vocabulary

charged [chahrjd] (adj) filled with excitement, tension or emotion

tone [tohn] (noun) the general attitude communicated in a piece of writing

bias [bahy-uh s] (noun) prejudice; favoring one person or point of view more than others

point of view [point uhv vyoo] (noun) a particular way of considering a matter; the position from which an event or topic is observed

implicit [im-plis-it] (adj) suggested or assumed but not obvious or explicitly stated

Sources: Google Dictionary, dictionary.com, en.oxforddictionaries.com

 

Series Overview

As technology advances and the social landscape shifts, it is crucial for students to become digitally literate citizens. In this series, students will learn the ins and outs of media literacy, from choosing reliable sources and understanding online searches to navigating online security and participating in digital communities. More lessons in this series are listed below under "Related Resources."

 

Lesson Overview

This lesson addresses the importance of locating and verifying reliable sources when working with online information. Students will compare and contrast different sources on the same topic and think about what makes one source more reliable than another. They will then work collaboratively to develop a checklist of questions for source evaluation.

Students will also zero in on the significance of evaluating sources for bias. They will learn to identify the author’s or designer’s purpose in online information and use this skill to search out biased viewpoints. Students will react to sources presented online and identify common reasoning errors in reactions to digital information.

 

Procedure

  1. Give students one news story about an event. Put students into groups, and ask them to collect a list of facts from the article using the exact words the author used in the article.
  2. Give students the second article about the same event, ensuring that this one has a different tone. Ask the same groups to make a list of facts from the article, again using the exact words the author used in the article.
  3. For the whole class, model creating a t-chart with words from each article that depict the same fact or event. For example, you might write murdered in one column and killed in the other. Ask students to complete their own t-charts independently.
  4. As a class, define and discuss tone and charged as these ideas apply to word choice. Then, ask students to discuss in their groups what biases they identify in the two articles based on the tone and charge of the words. Allow them to use the Evaluating Bias in a Newscast handout to record their observations.
  5. Pose two questions to the class: (1) How do we figure out what really happened? (2) Why is it important to be aware of both stories? Discuss as a group or have students write their responses to each question. 
  6. Tell students they will now practice writing their own “charged” article based on a given scenario that is relevant to current events. Together, review the Creating a Biased News Story handout, which they can use to guide their process.
  7. Finally, have students share their pieces with each other. Ask them to highlight the charged words and identify the bias in each other’s work and explain how the bias is expressed.  

 

Alignment to Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6

Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.1

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2

Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4

Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.6

Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author's point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).