Fact check required! Critical Thinking Lesson Ideas for Primary and Secondary

The ABC’s Q and A is a wonderful thing. The very idea of having ordinary citizens pose questions to politicians, journalists, media and political influencers, and other people of importance is a win for democracy. Questions from both the studio and online audience drive the discussion (and often the drama) and hold our representatives to account when they need it, reminding them of the meaning of a “representative democracy”.

The show has also given rise to the excellent “Fact Check” function which viewers can use to question claims made by people on the show and by other public figures generally.

This service is highly needed in today’s world of “SHARE if you agree” clickbait and explosive fake news which circulates more quickly than ever. Reactionary reports, with questionable accuracy, are not a new thing. One only needs to consider the infamous Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds and the subsequent exaggeration of its impact on audiences. Both of these occurrences is an excellent example of news content being deliberately shaped by those publishing it and being blindly accepted by those consuming it- showing that humans have always been highly suggestible and therefore highly vulnerable to “fake news”. The only difference is that now, news is shared online so quickly and easily that it makes it far easier to react with little to know reflection.

At the VEC, we’re passionate about young people (and everyone!) being well informed so that they base their vote on facts, instead of either deliberate or unintentional misinformation. As part of our FREE Passport to Democracy and Partner Up!(VCAL) resources, students learn good quality research skills, practice critical literacy and develop their own “fact checking” abilities.

It’s vital that they learn the skills which the official ABC “fact checkers” use because with the rapidity of the way news is consumed in our world, students (and everyone else out there!) need to be armed with the ability to evaluate, not just blindly accept, what they read. In addition to our units of work, which you can download from the “Teacher” tab, some other handy resources include the great activities that the National Literacy Trust  (UK) have designed, as well as the wonderful article found on the ABC website. It may also be worthwhile to engage with the ICT or Design educators at your school, who may be able to demonstrate the ease in which images, sound and video can be manipulated, reinforcing for students the need for caution and critical thinking.

We’ve also designed a short introductory piece which you could use as an engaging lesson starter with your secondary students- both in the Civics classroom and in the English faculty. It asks students to consider a series of fake or misleading images, and to annotate how they know, or how they can find out, if the sources are fake. It requires students to consider not only what is obviously untrue (to anyone with a modicum of Photoshop know-how) but also how real pictures can be cropped or misleadingly captioned to suit the purposes of the creator – and the dangers that unquestioning acceptance can create.

We hope you and your students find these resources, and the ones on our website, helpful and that it gets more people off the clickbait hook – for good!

PTD – Blog Post – Real or Fake Blog Activity – 10 5 18

Key Knowledge and Skills Met

Critical and Creative Thinking
Investigate different techniques to sort facts and extend known ideas to generate novel and imaginative ideas (VCCCTQ012)
Investigate why and when the consequences of a point of view should be considered (VCCCTR015)
Consider the importance of giving reasons and evidence and how the strength of these can be evaluated (VCCCTR025)
Explore distinctions when organising and sorting information and ideas from a range of sources (VCCCTR017)
Consider ambiguity and equivocation and how they affect the strength of arguments (VCCCTR049)
Investigate use of additional or refined criteria when application of original criteria does not produce a clear conclusion (VCCCTR050)

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