Truth Detectives…five activities to teach Ss about media bias

Dear Teacher pals,

No doubt you’ve found many teaching moments in the past week.

Here are five activities I’ve used in my own classroom to teach BIAS and SLANT in the media and turn your students into TRUTH DETECTIVES. 

magnifying-glass

  1. What just happened? — The truth about “eye-witness” views.  Ahead of time, arrange with two upper grades students or a student + a teacher or administrator to come into your classroom –one chasing the other — in the middle of a supposed altercation. (Make it real but not too frightening.) After they exit, have your Ss write down every detail of what happened. Describe the people. Was there a problem? Is someone in trouble? Why? Important: Have the two “runners” return to your classroom —so Ss see that this was only an experiment— and join the discussion of different perspectives, eye witnesses. What influences them?  How reliable are they?headline
  2. The Power of Words — Read several news headlines or a short news article. 

    a. Have Ss point out and/or circle nounsverbs and adjectives that strike them as biased.

    b. Replace the biased nouns, verbs and adjectives with synonyms of those words. Compare. How has the tone or slant of the article changed?

  3.  2 Lies and a Truth — A reversal of the game, Two Truths and a Lie

    Overview: 2-3 volunteers think of 2 lies & 1 truth about themselves to share with the class. The class votes for the statement they think is the truth.

    a. Once votes are tallied, reveal results and compare with the correct answer.

    b. Have Ss discuss why they voted the way they did. What swayed them? Physical appearance?  Culture? Speech? Age?

    *Suggested variations (Avoids possible hurtful comments about fellow students.)–Instead of Ss volunteers:

    *Teacher collects 3 photos of kids in the news (Not celebrities). T writes 2 lies & a truth about each. Share with the class. Proceed with steps a & b above.

    *Does your school have a Theater class? Use Theater kids as your volunteers.

  4. What Are They Selling? Watch ads on TV or examine print media for kids. What product are they selling? What message is the photo, background, music or sound effects selling? What do they want the consumer to believe? Who is the spokesperson? Why do you think he/she was selected? Do you believe him/her? Why or why not? chewing gum Example: Chewing gum commercial– Message is cool kids chew this gum. You will be cool too if you buy it. The kids in the commercial are cute, hip, and friendly. etc…(Oh and PS–They are ACTORS.)
  5. Two Sides to Every Story:  See my blog post about how to format a debate here. Instead of two debate teams arguing opposite sides of the topic, the same team must first argue one side, and then the other. Audience discusses how the team’s tone, vocabulary, facts and approach had to change to argue the two different sides.

STUDENT RESPONSES /follow-up:

  1. Have Ss watch a nightly news program. (*Here’s a list of the major outlets and which direction they lean.) List words, photos, graphics, sound effects, or music that set the tone or strike you as biased.
  2. Create a fake biased video or news article covering a fictitious event or statement. The goal is to make it as convincing as possible. Show the class.
  3. Have students write about a school rule or family rule they have issues with. Now have them write about it from the parent or administrator’s point of view.
  4. Writing prompt or Think/Pair/Share: Why should news reports remain impartial? 

More sources: 

PBS Kids has a unit on MEDIA LITERACY. Here’s the link to their Don’t Buy It. Teacher’s Guide.   

Also from PBS/KVIE: A Media Literacy workshop for Teachers 

quote-walter-cronkite-in-seeking-truth-you-have-to-get-76354

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)