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Fact checking in the digital age


In this lesson, students will learn about the importance of fact checking in the journalism profession. This lesson explores the practice of fact checking and requires students to identify and accept information with a critical eye for accuracy. Students will learn to use online resources to verify information. This is the third lesson in a week-long unit on news literacy. A great segue into this lesson is to show the movie “Shattered Glass” first and discuss the breach of trust that happens when news media get things wrong. If you’d like to show the movie, add two-three extra class periods to this unit to show the film and discuss.


  • Students will evaluate claims of fact to determine authenticity.
  • Students will analyze false statements to determine what information is necessary to make them accurate.
  • Students will use online research tools to aid in the fact checking process. 

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.9-10.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.


50 minutes




(Reader alert: one of the typos is “shits (a chord)” instead of “hits.”)


Computer access: 1:1 ratio preferred

Class set: Checking the Facts 

Lesson step-by-step

1. Building background — 20 minutes

Explain to students that in the world of journalism, nothing is more important than being accurate. Our reputation depends on us verifying information and getting things right. Ask: What happens when you read something that is incorrect? What do you think about the person who wrote it? How does this change your perception of them or the news organization? Do you rely on people whom you know are not accurate?  Ask students to think of things they may have seen or heard in the news media that were wrong. For example, they may have heard facts during the presidential campaign about either side that weren’t actually accurate. Maybe they saw photos online through Twitter or Facebook of Hurricane Sandy that were actually from Hollywood movies.

Ask students what aspects of a story are especially important for journalists to get right. Make a list on the board: facts, numbers, names, spellings, addresses, locations, numbers (figures). This requires a lot of fact checking.

Using a smart board (or other projection device), use the links below to show students the following examples of false reports and typos. Discuss each site and ask: Why do you think these errors/mistakes happened? Is a typo (an error in spelling, for example) as bad as an error in fact? What do you think the newspaper/journalist should do to correct these errors? How would you feel if you made this kind of error in fact or judgment and published it for the world to see?

1. Fake photos of Hurricane Sandy

2. Famous typos of 2012

3. A historical blunder of presidential proportions: Dewey beats Truman 

2. Exercise — 30 minutes

For this exercise, each student will need access to his/her own computer. Distribute the attached fact checking worksheet, and instruct students to use online resources to find the correct answers. Students may NOT use Wikipedia. Once they have checked their facts, they must locate 5 websites they could use to reliably check general claims or specific facts. This exercise will take the rest of the period.

The teacher should pace the room, observing students as they research and correcting the sheet to check for understanding. Ask often: How do you know this fact on this site is accurate? What makes you think it is reliable?

3. Journal entry

I Spy Entry: By the end of the week, students should have completed their first “I Spy Media” journal entry, in which they discuss something they read, watched, or heard about in the media that relates to what we’re discussing in class. This is an open-ended journal response.