Lesson: Fact Checking Part 2
Editing is still more than putting commas in the right places and following AP style. An important editing job is fact-checking. We’ll use the same tips we used on the first fact-checking lesson and apply them to an article that has already been published. Did those editors find everything?
- Students will practice various approaches to fact-checking published work, including using an accuracy checklist.
- Students will identify an article’s contents that may not have been well fact-checked.
- Students will use resources available – web, directories, etc. – to check appropriate facts.
Common Core Standards
|Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.|
|Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.|
|Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.|
Computers with internet access or hard copies of student or commercial newspapers
Handout: Fact Checking List (as used in Fact-checking Lesson 1)
Handout: Fact-checking Report, one per group
Colored markers if available
Lesson set up
If computers with internet access are not available, preselect stories with errors so they include names and numbers and address issues, some of the most common mistakes. Percentages are good to use for numbers. If finding an appropriate story seems too complicated, see suggestion for pre-selection under differentiation section.
1. Provide a bridge – 20 minutes
Discuss how a story isn’t really done until it’s fact-checked and remind students of the techniques they used previously to check for mistakes in a sample fictitious story (Fact-checking part 1). This time they will be checking a story that was already published. Point out that MAYBE the editors found all the mistakes and they will find nothing. Maybe not. Discuss what directories, reliable websites, maps, etc. they could use to check. Then have students read “Journalist’s Resource — Math basics for Journalists: Working with averages and percentages.” Discuss what they learned about the importance of math for journalists.
2. Distribute fact-checking guide sheets and Fact-checking Report sheets – 25 minutes
Hand out the guide sheets, reminding students how they should be used. Also remind them they are editors and they can’t do the reporter’s list of checks – BUT they can hope the reporter did them. Have students find a story online or in copies of newspapers provided (hard copies may be easier to allow for use of markers) or pre-select some stories for them to use (see Differentiation below). Suggest students mark different possible errors with corresponding colored markers (names in question = yellow, addresses = blue, etc.). Divide students in groups of 3 – 4. Have them work together and highlight or note what facts they think should be checked. When they find an item they think should be checked, they need to decide the best source to use to find out if it is correct. Work through the whole article, listing their results on the Fact-checking Report sheet.
3. Assessment and feedback – time could vary – 5 minutes
Discuss as a group if students found any mistakes and what resources they used to check. Remind them that NOT finding mistakes is still valuable because that helps a publication retain its credibility.
Student responses to the selected story on each group’s Fact-checking Report sheet would give an indication of understanding and number of errors they found. Exit slips could ask what kinds of facts they think someone might need to check carefully in their current stories.
For work outside class, have students reflect on what they think their staff should do to improve fact-checking or ensure it is part of the editing process. Discuss their conclusions in class the next time the class meets. Add ideas and steps to staff manual procedures.
A pre-selected story would allow you to find one with a few mistakes and eliminate the time for students to find stories. (Look in a current issue of a commercial paper to find its section with corrections. Then go back and find the original article.)