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Are social networking sites useful for understanding news?


This lesson uses the nonprofit website and its social media pro/con research set to help students explore the benefits and limitations of social media. Specifically, students will explore the question: “Are social networking sites good for our society?” Then students will apply the same pro/con research and argumentation principles to a more specific question: “Are social networking sites useful for understanding news?”


  • Students will review the pros and cons of social media.
  • Students will conduct and evaluate research to support their perspectives on social media.
  • Students will use their research and personal experience to articulate an argument about whether social media is good for society, and whether social networking sites are useful for understanding news.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.1.D 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.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.


120-180 minutes



Computers with Internet access

Handout: Social media pro/con response sheet

Rubric: Social media pro/con presentation

Lesson step-by-step

1. Preparation and anticipation guide — 10 minutes

Before students enter the classroom, write the following question on a board or SmartBoard:

“Are social networking sites good for our society?” Below the question, create a T-chart with Yes/No in each column.

Allow students a few minutes to think silently about their perspective on this question, and then ask students to go up and write their name under the Yes or No column in the t-chart that represents their view.

2. Conducting research — 30-40 minutes

Explain that students are going to read about both sides of the issue and discover whether there is additional information out there that might change or affect their answers to this question. Students can work individually or, depending on Internet and computer access, they may partner with a student who gave the same answer to the initial guiding question.

Using the following link:, ask students to read the research presented on each side of the issue. They should fill out the social media networking response sheet as they review the research.

3. Personal response — 10 minutes

After students have finished reviewing the research, ask them to free-write for 10 minutes to the following prompt:

“How has your original response to our guiding question changed? Remember, our guiding question was: “Are social networking sites good for our society?” Explain how your original position was supported or refuted by the evidence you read. What did you learn that you didn’t know or understand before? What really convinced you?

4. Class discussion — 10 minutes

Once everyone is finished, bring the class back together, and have students record their names under a Yes/No column in a new t-chart. Notice how many students change their positions, and discuss as a class why this happened. Ask students to share their experience and articulate why they changed their mind.

5. Application — 30-60 minutes

Explain to the class that they are going to recreate this pro/con approach to a more specific question (write the following on the board): “Based on your answer to the first pro/con question, are social networking sites useful for understanding news?”

Write a pro/con T-chart underneath this question, and as a class, discuss what evidence from the initial pro/con might apply to this question. Have students come to the board and write the evidence number that applies underneath the proper pro/con column (for example, a student might write “pro #9 and #10” or “con #1”). Spend some time with this part of the exercise, going through each pro and con to determine whether that evidence can be applied to how we understand this new question.

Finally, make a list of additional evidence or research that needs to be explored before making a final pro/con list regarding this question. Phrase this list in a series of additional questions that need to be answered, such as:

  • How often do social media sites post inaccurate information?
  • How often do young adults use social media for news?
  • Which social media sites have the most news content?
  • How do professional news media use social media to distribute their content?
  • What kind of information spreads fastest or slowest on social media?

Break students into groups of 3-4 and assign one of these five questions (or additional/alternative questions generated by the students during the above discussion). Task each group with researching this question with the goal of adding an additional pro or con entry written in the same format as the website’s entries.

6. Presenting findings — 30 minutes)

Instruct each group to present the findings of their question in a 4-6 minute presentation. The group should use the pro/con presentation rubric to guide their presentation, and they should be sure to answer whether, based on the information they found, they are presenting a pro or a con.

7. Class vote and follow-up — 5 minutes

After each group has presented, ask the class to vote yes or no based on the pro/con list developed and the evidence presented by the groups. If the class votes “no,” engage in a discussion about what could be done to make social media a better tool for understanding news.


For more advanced students, consider staging a formal debate on both questions. Assign students to each side, and form an independent jury that will vote on the issue based on the oral arguments.

For students who need more structure or guidance, assign specific pieces of evidence for them to read (instead of having them read through the entire pro/con list on the issue). Then, ask them to evaluate only that piece of evidence and instruct them to see if they can verify the information presented through other sources.