Teaching Students to SIFT through News and Information

2019 AASL National Conference Session: Fighting Fake News with Visual Literacy

This is Colleen Lee, reporting live from AASL2019, Louisville, KY, on the Friday, November 15, Session “Fighting Fake News with Visual Literacy,” presented by Lois D. Wine, April M. Dawkins, Ph.D. I was very fortunate to find a seat in the packed room for this session. Many people were crowded on the floor and standing along the back wall.

What Is Fake News?

Today, I learned that the term fake news has many different meanings to many different people. It could mean: propaganda, disinformation, misinformation, conspiracy theory, or click bait. In today’s politically charged climate, fake news ultimately has come to mean, anything that does not confirm our own biases. When teaching our students about misinformation or disinformation, we need to use terminology other than fake news.

Terminology to Use Other Than Fake News

Below is a list of terms to use other than fake news:

Misinformation: sharing without knowing it is inaccurate.

Disinformation: the deliberate creation and/or sharing of false information to mislead.

Fabricated Content: stories, images, and websites that are fake (altered images, videos, graphs)

Impostor Content: material involving the impersonation of genuine sources by using the branding of an established news agency

Misleading Content: information presented in a misleading way

Fake News Isn’t New

You can find examples of propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation throughout history. Only the method and speed of distribution is new.

Today, social media has become an instant news source for many people. Students need to be taught that most of what is seen on social media and elsewhere on the Internet can be altered.

For example, check out the news story I created using Break Your Own News. This is a great way to show kids how easy it is to create a fake news story.

Elementary School Application

While many of the sites and lessons shared were geared toward middle and high school students, many of these lessons could be tailored for upper elementary students. First, teach students the proper terminology.

One librarian mentioned using the book Fairy Spell: How Two Girls Convinced the World That Fairies Are Real by Marc Tyler Nobleman. Another great book to use with upper elementary students is Aliens Are Coming! The True Account of the 1938 War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast by Meghan McCarthy.

Teach students to critically look at the illustrations in picture books to practice properly sifting through information.

Speaking of SIFT

Instead of teaching CRAAP (you remember that one…) try teaching SIFT. Students can SIFT through their news feed in four simple steps:

  1. Stop and think.
  2. Investigate the source.
  3. Find better coverage.
  4. Trace claims, quotes, and media.

Top Three Takeaways from Today’s Session

  1. Start using proper terminology about misleading or inaccurate news stories.
  2. Spreading false facts is not new; only the way it’s shared and created has changed.
  3. It’s not too early to teach these lessons to upper elementary students.

The presenters provided many different sites and examples of how to teach these skills to your students. The link to their wonderful session is available on Google Docs.


Author: Colleen R. Lee

Colleen R. Lee is a former middle school English teacher and Elementary Teacher. She is currently the Elementary Librarian at Greenfield Elementary School in Chesterfield County, VA. Follow her on Twitter @MrsLeesLibrary.

Categories: AASL National Conference, Blog Topics, Community, Professional Development

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