Media Literacy

Grade Level: 
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Keywords: 
Current Events
Group Discussions
Media
Help students identify credible sources, evaluate the role of media, recognize bias, and use critical-thinking related to current events and controversial topics.

Media Literacy 

What "stories" dominate the news cycle and why? Are they fact-based or "fake news"? Sifting through all of the portals of information can be difficult for even the most adept media consumer. In order to help your students sift through and analyze information sources, Learning to Give offers this Media Literacy guide. 

To ensure a constructive and robust discussion, use Learning to Give's resource guide to Difficult Conversations.

Getting Started: The Roles of Media

As you examine online resources, ask yourself and your students the following question: 

What is the role of the media source being analyzed? Gatekeeper, agenda-setter, advocate, watchdog?

These role-focused question suggestions can both guide your discussion and help your students realize that they can be media influencers.  This "Role of Media" background resource from iCivics can also help. (Note: materials are free but teachers must register)

  1. Why does the media pick certain stories and not others? 
  2. Do different types of media cover issues differently?  How? 
  3. Is it important for the media to cover “both sides” of a story?  Should/does the media ever advocate for a position? 
  4. What are examples of issues and stories to which the media has brought attention that were then acted upon by advocates of social change? 
  5. How can the media help make a difference and affect change? 
  6. How can students influence media coverage? 
  7. What is the role of social media? How can you constructively and effectively use social media? Which types of social media are the most effective with younger audiences?

Multi-Media iBook & Public Service Announcement is a Learning to Give lesson to help students create multi-media iBooks with PSAs (public service announcements) that explore and raise awareness about issues of interest to them

The News Literacy Project helps people be smart, active consumers of news and information and engaged participants in a democracy. See their survey results about people's ability to separate fact from fiction in media.

Is Your Source Credible?

Review these questions and resources with your students:

  1. Do you recognize the source and is there an author byline?
  2. Is the content backed up by research? Does the research come from a reputable source?
  3. Is it reportage or opinion? Inflammatory language is probably opinion; if written in the first person, it is seldom reportage.
  4. If the heading entices you to open, is it merely "click bait"?
  5. Is it a primary or secondary source? A primary sources are generally more credible. For help with identifying primary and secondary sources and a chart illustrating the uses of each, Indiana University provides a nice overview resource.  

Help with Source Evaluation

  • This guide from Civic Influencers provides information about recognizing credibility and bias. It includes clear examples and information about the bias of different media organizations. The printable poster How to Spot False Content can help all readers use critical thinking.
  • Young people overwhelmingly turn to online information.  Given that reality,  The Stanford History Education Group has recently developed assessments to help students evaluate online content including Wiki, Twitter, You Tube, Facebook and comment section of a news article. (Note: Materials are free but teachers must register)
  • iCivics offers a lesson explaining journalistic standards and a component that challenges students to evaluate reliable reporting. There is also a curriculum unit on news literacy which covers bias, misinformation, satire and more. (Note: materials are free, but teachers must register)