Fake news – a lesson plan

Fake news, post-truth, and alternative facts are three buzz terms that seem to sum up this strange time we live in. It’s something that fascinates me, and as a language teacher I feel that I’m in a position where I can not only discuss this with my students of all ages, but also help them to become more critical in how they interact with the news that comes their way.

This is essentially what I have been arguing in my talk English Teaching in the Post-Truth Era which so far I have done at conferences in Brazil, the UK and Belgium. In order to support the talk I have prepared a lesson plan to be used with teen and adult students, as well as many of the resources and articles I mention in the talk. The lesson is designed to introduce students to the notion of fake news and teach them some strategies to become better, more critical readers. It is adapted from a lesson plan by the Anti-Defamation League (link) with elements taken from here.

Fake news – lesson plan

Fake news – lesson powerpoint

Note: I haven’t included any explicit language activities as the plan is designed to be used with a variety of ages and levels. I think there are numerous opportunities to include language points in the lesson depending on the needs of your learners. My suggestions are introducing relevant news and internet related vocabulary at the beginning; functional language to discuss advantages and disadvantages (before slide 4); more specific lexis related to websites (links, hyperlinks, gifs, menus etc) (before slide 6); any interesting or difficult vocabulary that emerges from the video, or that you think needs to be pre-taught for lower levels.

Useful links


My article for the British Council
Chia Suan Chong for ETP with plenty of links and resources for teachers
Scott Bedley on teaching his students to become fact-checkers
Tyson Seburn on Fake News
Fake news and critical thinking in ELT by Philp Kerr

Teaching Resources

My lesson plan for brelt using a fake news story
Ricardo Barros’ conversation lesson on Bolsonaro’s fake news campaign
James Egerton’s lesson on fake news
Global Digital Citizen Foundation
IFLA “How to spot fake news” infographic
Project Look Sharp
Help Save The Endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus
Uberfacts Twitter page
Some examples of April Fool’s pranks
Newsela – reliable news stories for young people
The Onion – satirical fake news
Facts about Dihydrogen Monoxide – a site that presents lots of facts about water that makes it look dangerous. A great example of the need for scientific literacy.
The Media Manipulation Casebook


Fake News: The Game
Fake News: The Quiz Show
Bad News


Evaluating information: the cornerstone of civic online reasoning (An executive summary by Stanford History Education Group)
News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016 (by Pew Research Center)
Exploring Media Literacy Education as a Tool for Mitigating Truth Decay (RAND Corporation)

Fact Checkers

Politifact (US Politics)
The Washington Post Fact Checker (US politics)

Post Truth and Fake News

Oxford Word of the Year
Yellow News
Fake news in Brazil
Teach fake news says OECD
Wikipedia on the Daily Mail
Snopes on the Fukushima Daisies
Facebook on fake news

I will attempt to keep this list up to date. If you would like to recommend a resource or let me know that a link is broken, leave a comment below.


21 thoughts on “Fake news – a lesson plan

    1. Well, I wouldn’t describe them as left wing, as I think facts are apolitical, but I posted these fact-checkers as these are the only reliable ones I am aware of. If you have some others you think I have missed, feel free to send them over.

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  2. That’s a brilliant lesson plan, James. I used it today with students who study media and communication, and it went down extremely well. They particularly liked exploring the octopus website. And I heard some quietly murmuring wondering whether tree octopuses actually exist 😉
    You might be interested in these examples of fake and real news. They worked really well in this class:
    • Fake: https://www.burrardstreetjournal.com/city-that-never-stops-complaining-about-rain-desperate-for-rain/
    • Fake: https://www.irishcentral.com/news/politics/remote-irish-island-seeks-americans-fleeing-donald-trump-presidency
    • True: http://fortune.com/2018/01/15/artificial-intelligence-ai-china-alibaba-reading-comprehension-stanford/
    • Fake: http://archive.is/earRt
    • True: mantis shrimp strike so quickly that they set the surrounding water boiling: https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/shrimp-packs-punch

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Hi James, this is a brilliant resource! Thank you! Ran it with my ECDL adult Ls today and it worked really well. Great discussions, particularly around Tree Octopuses! Thanks for sharing. Keep up the good work

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