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 will be arguing in my plenary talk at the BrazTESOL Goiania and BrazTESOL Teacher Development SIG Day in Goiania, Brazil today. It will be the first time I’ve done this talk and I hope it will be the first of many! 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 you think needs to be pre-taught for lower levels.

Useful links

Teaching Resources

ET Professional article with plenty of links and resources for teachers
My lesson plan for brelt using a fake news story
Global Digital Citizen Foundation
IFLA “How to spot fake news” infographic
Project Look Sharp
Help Save The Endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus
Scott Bedley on teaching his students to become fact-checkers

Resources for lesson activities

Uberfacts Twitter page
Some examples of April Fool’s pranks
Newsela – reliable news stories for young people
The Onion – satirical fake 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)

Fact Checkers

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

Post Truth and Fake News

Oxford Word of the Year
Yellow News
The quality of news in Brazil
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.


52: Bailout

52 by Lindsay Clandfield and Luke Meddings is an e-book collection of subversive activities for the ELT classroom (see also the support blog Subversive Teaching 52). Each of the activities in the book attempt to engage the learner and the teacher in a challenging conversation. They are both forced to question, investigate and debate the world that we live in.

Since I like to push my students to engage critically with materials, I’m always on the lookout for interesting and demanding stimuli for my lessons. Subsequently this book was just what I was looking for.

Continue reading

Ideas From The Guardian: Family

I like to challenge my students. I like to choose activities and stimuli that will prove to be thought provoking and different. I have no desire to make them, or me, feel uncomfortable, but I do feel that I need to be pushing them mentally in order for them to come up with an interesting response to the materials I provide.

So in the spirit of 52, I took a look in the January 28th Family supplement of the Guardian newspaper to see what I could find…

Thinking Critically

Critical thinking is a subject that I find particularly interesting. In a recent ELTchat, someone asked if it was our responsibility to encourage this kind of thinking as language teachers. My response was to say that it is our duty as educators to help develop engaged and committed learners. If our students are not able to engage with the materials in our classrooms, then why are those materials even there? I find it impossible to accept that there are students who will not be interested in anything. Continue reading