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Social media 101


This lesson introduces students to the basics of how social media is used by journalists, including a definition for social media, its purposes in journalism and tool selection. Students will also conduct an investigation of social media outlets for multiple publications to find effective and ineffective examples of social media usage.


  • Students will define and analyze the general uses of social media and explore its impact on society.
  • Students will explain how to select and use an appropriate social media tool for a specific purpose.
  • Students will locate and evaluate examples of effective social media posts according to established criteria.
  • Students will discuss and defend their evaluations of social media posts in a small group and whole-class setting, offering their own insights and ideas about them and working with others.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
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.9-10.1c Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1d Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.6 Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.


Three 60-70-minute classes OR one 60-70 minute class, eliminating days 2 and 3


Rubric: Collaboration rubric

Slideshow: Digital publicity slideshow

Handout: Digital publicity slideshow notes

Rubric: Social media post rubric

Handout: Social media webquest

Rubric: Social media webquest

Quiz: Intro to entrepreneurship

Key: Intro to entrepreneurship quiz 

Electronic devices with Internet access

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1

1. Large group discussion to introduce topic — 10 minutes

Engage students in a discussion about their prior experiences with social media, including the following questions:

  1. Which outlets do they actually use? Are there outlets that are for “adults” and outlets for “students?”
  2. How do they use such outlets? For example, when they are on YouTube, do they just watch videos or do they comment on or create them as well? Do they use Facebook to play games, talk with friends, find out information about the world, print coupons? Do they use Pinterest to get new ideas and follow up on them? Do they read others’ tweets to get information about the news of the day, or just to find out what their best friend is doing?
  3. How much time do they spend on social media each day?
  4. Which devices do they use to access social media — phones, tablets, computers? Something else?
  5. How has social media changed communication? Can they remember communicating WITHOUT social media?
  6. Do they listen to podcasts? Read blogs? Watch vlogs? Watch TED talks? Is their social media use strictly for “social” purposes or for deepening knowledge as well?
  7. How often do they read the newspaper? Watch a news broadcast? Go to a news website to read what is happening? Link to a news website from a social media post?

Other questions might be sparked by these questions, which is good. Continue discussing the issues with students, allowing them to raise new questions and opinions as a way to consider how social media is changing, and has changed, society. This discussion could be conducted in several different ways:

  1. Question/Answer — Simply ask the questions and prompt students to answer them, in traditional discussion style.
  2. Survey — Create an Internet or paper-based survey and prompt students to answer the questions; this could also be done in advance of class. If the survey is done over the Internet, the teacher could display charts of the results and ask students to analyze their own results, drawing conclusions about whether or not they are an accurate representation of their own community.
  3. Experiential Survey — For a more active class, there are several ways to conduct a survey experientially. The teacher could read questions and ask students to move to different areas of the room for different answers. Alternatively, the teacher could set up several stations around the room with manipulatives to aid in students’ answering each question. For example, for the question, “Which social media outlets do you use?,” the teacher might set up glass jars, each labeled with the name of a social media outlet, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube and Vine. There should be an additional jar filled with marbles. Students would place a marble in each jar that represented their social media usage. This could also be accomplished with small candies, stickers on poster paper or tally marks on poster paper.

Regardless of method, continue the discussion until it is clear that students are thinking analytically about social media and how it impacts their daily life.

2. Guided note-taking — 10-15 minutes

Guide students through a period of note-taking based on the digital publicity slideshow. This presentation provides a definition for digital publicity and social media, including how it is used by consumers and how it can be used by journalists or businesses, as well as guidelines for selecting the right social media tool for various tasks. There are numerous examples within the slideshow, but the teacher should feel free to add more examples based on own observations and experiences and to solicit examples from students as well.

3. Rubric distribution and discussion — 5 minutes

Distribute the rubric for a social media post and discuss it with students, making sure that students understand the reasons why each aspect of the rubric is important.

4. Large group discussion — 15 minutes

Display the examples of effective and ineffective social media usage at the end of the slideshow and prompt students to consider what makes each use effective or ineffective, citing evidence from the rubric as a way to support their reasoning. This discussion can bleed over into the next day if time runs out. The teacher could also choose to assign some of the posts for homework, to be discussed the next day.

Day 2

1. Wrap up from previous class if needed — 5-15 minutes

Finish the discussion from day #1, if necessary.

2. Discussion on webquest materials — 35-45 minutes

Distribute the webquest for social media and instruct students to use the available electronic devices to search the Internet and find effective and ineffective examples of social media usage. Students should take screenshots of each example, classify it according to which social media purpose it serves, and rate it according to the rubric. The teacher may ask students to use any presentation software they deem suitable and accessible for the task (Word, PowerPoint, Google Docs, iPad app, etc.). Students should find as many examples as they can within the time limit and may work alone or in groups.

Day 3

1. Intro to Entrepreneurship Quiz — 20 minutes

Distribute the intro to entrepreneurship quiz to evaluate students’ developing understanding of entrepreneurship principles.

2. Task wrap up — 30-35 minutes

Give students 30-35 minutes to finish the task, then bring them back together and ask for volunteers to show examples of effective and ineffective social media posts. Alternatively, students could share examples in small groups and the teacher could walk around and formatively assess their learning.