Imagine the unthinkable. Turmoil and disillusion envelope the White House. Public support for the President of the United States plummets. The press rushes forward to cover the event when an unsuspected war breaks out. Against all odds, the beaten president rises from the ashes to valiantly protect America’s interest. The 4th estate writes the story into legend as public support skyrockets. However, there is a problem. The war isn’t real. White House staff members hired a Hollywood producer to create a “fake war” in order to shift public attention away from the president’s issues long enough to get him reelected. Audiences chuckled in 1997, when Barry Levinson brought the comedic film, Wag the Dog to life. However, they are no longer laughing. Today the media is filled with fake news stories that were created to cause harm. Unfortunately, America’s children are caught in the crossfire.

Children look to the authority figures in their lives for guidance. The proliferation of fake news media makes it difficult for students to separate fact from fiction.  Today’s media is filled with stunning graphics, rich sound tracks, and compelling stories. The messages are so cleverly woven that many adults, let alone children, struggle to recognize the inconsistencies.

Teachers are left with the “real” job of equipping students with the skills they need to do the following:

  • Sift through vast amounts of information
  • Validate sources
  • Form their own opinions.

The ability to do so is critical for our nation’s success and the social emotional health of our students.  Children are informational sponges. They are bombarded with more data than any other generation in the history of world. Districts need to develop long term plans to ensure students have the tools they need.

4 Effective Classroom Strategies for Addressing Fake News

 1.  Be Proactive

Work with your colleagues and administrators to create a plan for classroom implementation. A comprehensive plan does two things.

  • Establishes the idea that fake news is a real issue.
  • Creates a conduit that teachers and administrators can use to share resources.

 2.  Build a Toolkit

Develop a list of procedures for students to use to measure the validity of a story.  Post it in your room. The list should include the following:

  • Don’t jump to conclusions
  • How to validate a source
  • Empathy for others
  • How to form your own opinion
  • Techniques for how to share your thoughts

3.  Compare and Contrast

Share fake news stories with your students. Make sure the content is age appropriate and students understand the subject matter. Work with your students to identify inconsistencies. Discuss the potential impact of the story and the proper way to report it.  Do this regularly throughout the course of the year.

4.  Work with Parents

Share resources you have about fake news with parents. Make sure to include strategies for use at home to support your efforts at school.

Conclusion

Ronald Regan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction”. Let’s work together to ensure our children have the tools they need to protect it for generations to come.

Joseph Fatheree is an award winning author, educator, and filmmaker. He has received numerous educational awards, including being recognized as a Top 10 Finalist for the Global Teacher Prize, Illinois Teacher of the Year, and the NEA’s National Award for Teaching Excellence.  He currently serves as the Director of Strategic Projects for the National Network of State Teachers of the Year in Washington, D.C. and is the Instructor of Creativity and Innovation at Effingham High School in Illinois. His opinions are his own.