LESSON

Evaluating Online Sources

In this lesson, students will locate and verify reliable sources of information.
Grade Level

Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Evaluate sources for reliability
  • Use a variety of tools to evaluate sources for bias and accuracy
  • Understand and identify common reasoning errors
  • Create an evaluation method or tool for evaluating sources
Essential Questions
  • Why does democracy depend on fair and accurate media?
  • Why are some evaluation tools better than others for determining the credibility of an online source or news story?

Vocabulary

fake news [feyk nooz] (noun) False information or propaganda published as if it were authentic news

social media [soh-shuh l mee-dee-uh] (noun) Websites and other online means of communication that are used by large groups of people to share information and to develop social and professional contacts

evaluation tool [ih-val-yoo-ey-shuh n tool] (noun) A process or procedure to judge or assess the trustworthiness of something

credibility [kred-uh-bil-i-tee] (noun) The trustworthiness or reliability of something

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

accuracy [ak-yer-uh-see] (noun) The condition or quality of being true, correct or exact; freedom from error or defect

reliability [ri-lahy-uh-bil-i-tee] (noun) The ability to be relied on or depended on, as for accuracy, honesty or achievement

Sources: Dictionary.com, freethesaurus.com

 

Lesson Overview

A democracy thrives on an open flow of information and the public’s trust that the information they’re consuming is credible. In this lesson, students will locate and verify reliable sources of information. Working in small groups, students will discuss methods for evaluating the credibility of online sources and then use these strategies to review several websites or news stories.

 

Suggested Procedure

1.    Open the lesson by asking students how they get their news. Social media? News apps? Television? Traditional newspapers? Then give them some historical perspective—before cable and the internet, there were only four television networks, and the only method for readers to comment on news was to write letters to the editor. Ask students how they think the expansion of ways we can receive, share and comment on news has affected society and people’s understanding of the world.

2.    Show students the CNN story “Fake News Stories Thriving on Social Media.” As a class, discuss the following questions:

  • Why do you think some people share fake news stories?
  • What is the potential problem with fake news and not being able to tell what is fake and what isn’t?
  • Why do you think the public has become skeptical of the media’s credibility?

3.    Analysis of online behavior in 2016 found that fake news stories are more likely to be shared than factual stories on social media. As a class, discuss the following questions:

  • Why does it matter if fake news stories are shared more than legitimate ones?
  • What are the dangers of sharing fake information?
  • Do social media companies like Facebook and Twitter have a responsibility to warn readers that some stories are fake?
  • As consumers of news, do we have a responsibility to make sure stories we share on social media are factual?

4.    Organize students into think-pair-share groups and have them take the quick survey below in those groups. Ask a few volunteers to share how they answered each question and why.

  • I am more likely to read a story if I have an emotional reaction to it. Yes or no?
  • I am more likely to share a story if I have an emotional reaction to it. Yes or no?
  • I think about whether a story is true before I share it with others. Yes or no?

5.    After you’ve discussed the survey results, broaden the conversation by asking students the following questions:

  • Why does democracy depend on fair and accurate media?
  • Why is it important that we receive accurate information (factual and without errors)?
  • Why is it important that we learn to detect bias (unreasonable beliefs or prejudices) in news reporting?

6.    Tell students that there are many tools for evaluating information for bias and accuracy. Most of these tools look at the source of the information (author, publisher), the purpose of the story, the story’s objectivity and accuracy, reliability and credibility of sources, and audience.

7.    Organize the class into groups of four to five students. Have each group review the Evaluating Sources for Reliability handout. Then assign each group one of the misleading websites from “Evaluating Internet Resources: Misleading Websites.”

8.    Give the groups time to complete the Evaluating Sources for Reliability handout.

9.    After students have finished, use the following questions to facilitate a group discussion about the effectiveness of the evaluation tools. Be sure to point out the importance of effectively evaluating the credibility of sources before sharing them.

  • What conclusion did you draw about your website using only your knowledge and experience? Did you correctly determine whether the website was credible?
  • Did the tools help you determine the credibility of the website or news story?
  • Which aspects of the tool do you feel were most effective?
  • Which aspects of the tool do you feel were least effective?
  • What would you do to improve this tool?
  • Compare and contrast your first method of evaluating websites with the tool you used the second time. How did they differ? Which did you feel was more effective in avoiding common reasoning errors and why?

 

Alignment to Common Core State Standards

CCSS 9-10

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2

Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7

Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person's life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8

Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.

 

CCSS 11-12

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.2

Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7

Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Extension Activity

1.    Have students individually prepare short presentations summarizing the results of the source evaluation activity:

  • Name of the website and the story examined
  • Effectiveness of the first method versus the evaluation tool
  • Most and least effective aspects of the tool
  • A list of steps to take in the future to evaluate the credibility of sources
  • An explanation of why using effective evaluation methods is important for you and others

2.    Have your class create a criteria checklist that they can use to evaluate news stories and websites. Ask students to use it for a few days and then report back on what they learned.