a complete guide to teaching critical thinking and fake news to studentsRead More
The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions has released an excellent poster for your classroom identifying 'How to spot Fake News"
It can be downloaded here
Recently we posted an insightful article about teaching Fake News in your classroom and I can highly recommend reading it here.
Discussions about fake news has led to a new focus on media literacy more broadly, and the role of libraries and other education institutions in providing this.
When Oxford Dictionaries announced post-truth was Word of the Year 2016, we as librarians realise action is needed to educate and advocate for critical thinking – a crucial skill when navigating the information society.
IFLA has made this infographic with eight simple steps (based on FactCheck.org’s 2016 article How to Spot Fake News) to discover the verifiability of a given news-piece in front of you. Download, print, translate, and share – at home, at your library, in your local community, and on social media networks. The more we crowdsource our wisdom, the wiser the world becomes.
Regardless of their cultural background, every student in your class is likely to be familiar with fables. They are often one of our first introductions to the joys of storytelling. Of course, their merit lies not only in their huge entertainment value, but the fact that they are designed to teach us moral lessons.
In Western culture, the influence of fables, particularly those of that wily old Greek Aesop, permeate our everyday speech. Everything from Don’t count your chickens before they hatch to Out of the frying pan and into the fire can be traced to the wisdom of fables.
Given they are generally relatively short, very entertaining, and students are likely to have some familiarity with them already, fables make excellent resources for improving literacy skills. Read on to get more 5 interesting ideas on how to incorporate them into your lessons.
1. As Sly as a Fox
Though fables can reveal to us much about human nature, it is interesting to note that the central characters are most often animals. This is true even in more modern versions of fables, such as George Orwell’s Animal Farm. This anthropomorphism can provide a great in for some very fun writing activities.
Have younger children match personality traits to animals. This simple animal adjectives task consists of providing a list of adjectives and a list of animals. Students must match each adjective with the most suitable animal based on the fables they have been working on. You can further categorize adjectives in lists relating to size, shape, color, feeling, tone etc. This will open up learning opportunities for punctuation work too.
Older students can undertake a similar activity, but incorporate their understanding of poetry techniques to write similes or metaphors based on the animals in the fables they have read. To broaden out their characters, students could also be asked to develop bios for each animal.
2. And the Moral of the Story is...
As mentioned, these pithy little tales convey morals to readers. Indeed, back in the days of togas and scrolls, the Greeks would use fables to teach their society how to live the virtuous life. Encourage close reading skills in your students by having them identify the moral of a variety of fables.
As many of these stories date back over 2,500 years old, copyright is unlikely to be an issue! You can find tons of free versions of Aesop’s fables online. Print a selection off, organize your class into groups, give them copies of the tales, and set them the task of reading and identifying the moral of each one.
This activity is easily differentiated by the language level of each version. There are numerous versions of Aesop’s fables available for download online. Choose the version that best suits your class, group, or individual’s needs.
For younger students, or students of lower ability, you may wish to provide the group with a list of morals from which they have to choose to match up with the appropriate fable.
3. Getting Your Ducks in a Row
Sequencing is very important in storytelling; in fact, it’s very important in all writing genres. Having a firm grasp of the importance of good sequencing helps students organize their writing at the planning stage.
There are many possible variations of sequencing activities you can set your students. Very young students can be given a series of jumbled up pictures of scenes from a fable you have already read to them. They are tasked with putting the pictures in chronological order and sticking them onto a strip of paper. They can then use these as prompts to tell each other the story in their own words.
This activity can easily be modified to challenge stronger students. For example, you may provide a set of corresponding captions that must be matched to the pictures before organizing chronologically. You can further differentiate by introducing non-conventional story structures such as In Media Res where a story starts in the middle. Students will likely have some awareness of this from its frequent use in the movies. Have them play with the sequence of events and try different starting points for effect. This can reap great creative rewards in their writing later.
This HUGE BUNDLE offers a mix of hands-on, printable, and digital media resources. By the time you have finished this pack, your students won’t just be able to READ and COMPREHEND fables, but will also be WRITING their own unique fables with structure and purpose. That’s it's one our most popular products –Keeping kids excited and engaged for weeks as you work through...
✔ What Is a Fable and Its Purpose?
✔ Who Is Aesop, The Father of Fables?
✔ 12 Famous Interactive Fables by Aesop (Professionally Narrated)
✔ Scripted Fable Theater - Turn These Fables into a Drama Class
✔ Deconstructing Fables for Meaning
✔ Planning and Assessment Rubrics for Writing Fables
✔ Fable Writing Workshop
✔ Character Traits Worksheets and Activities for All of Aesop's Creatures
✔ Digital and Paper Based Resources for Publishing Fables
✔ Fable Glossary and Curriculum Links.
4. Divide and Comprehend!
Just as scientists can understand the inner workings of a frog by dissecting it, students can understand the inner workings of a story through the same process. Hopefully though, the magic of storytelling survives the process, unlike the poor frog!
Use a fable your students are very familiar with to teach the essential parts of a story: character, setting, problem,climax, and resolution. Discuss the characters in the story and have them identify the setting. Discuss the links between types of character and suitable settings. Broaden this idea out to other writing genres such as science fiction, westerns, and horror. What patterns can your students uncover about the relationships between characters and settings?
Now it’s time to get scientific! In groups, have students draw a graph with time along the horizontal axis and action along the vertical axis. Have students plot the various parts of the story (introduction of the characters and setting, problem, climax, resolution) as points along the axis. The points should move from left to right as they occur chronologically in the story. The higher the point is, the more dramatic the action. This is a great way for students to see the physical shape of a narrative arc.
A simple version of this activity may involve students simply plotting the points and labeling them introduction, problem etc. However, more advanced students can also write captions that describe the action at the different stages.
You may also wish to take the opportunity to make some cross curricular technology links here and have students construct their graphs digitally with a suitable software program.
5. Dragged Kicking and Screaming into the 21st Century
Though many of traditional fables date back to around 500 BC, they have survived due to the timeless nature of their messages and the generality of the characters and settings. Now your students have a good understanding of how they work, have them rewrite the fables for the modern day.
This will require them to get specific. Characters will become human and locations will be defined. This is a great way to reveal to students that the same theme can be given a number of different treatments; stories that seem markedly distinct can share an underlying moral.
This activity can be differentiated by outcome, whereby more able students will produce more complex stories. While the less advanced students may stick tightly to the original, more advanced students may completely reinterpret the story with only the central moral remaining intact.
A Word in Summary and an Extra Idea or Two
The activities above can be used as one-off lessons or as a series of lessons exploring different aspects of fables: character, moral, sequence, and story structure.
There is also a lot of scope here for continuing work based on the initial fables. Time spent getting to grips with a story can be utilized in other genres and for other learning objectives too.
Perhaps you want to teach the writing of playscripts? You can teach the criteria for the genre and then set your students the task of adapting a fable to the playscript format.
To develop public-speaking skills, have the students engage in an oral retelling of a fable or make a dramatic presentation of the story. There are innumerable opportunities, but don’t be in too much of a rush, for if The Tortoise and the Hare have taught us one thing, slow and steady wins the race...
This tool assists students to create engaging fables based upon the model we have been using for generations. It is best printed in a larger format so as your students can visually represent their ideas alongside written ones and is completely free and available here.
Great videos to teach students how to write fables
Whatever Donald Trump’s legacy as president of the United States becomes he will forever be known as the protagonist for bringing two key terms to the modern vocabulary. “Fake News” and “Alternative Truths”
Whilst Trump’s delivery and intent of these terms are contentious there is no debate he called out the elephant in the room when talking about news and journalism in the context of modern technology.
Facebook, Twitter, blogging and an endless army of social media tools have provided a platform for anyone with a WiFi connection and a device the opportunity to voice their opinion and consider themselves a journalist, social crusader, paid opinion or blatant liar...
The propagation of questionable “news” content has skyrocketed out of control at pace with the growth of the internet. Content creation today is virtually free without any need for fact-checking or validation. Today’s news cycle is now driven by the need to be first as opposed to providing insight, truth and depth behind a story.
Our students are growing up in a world dominated by fake news on the platforms they look too most frequently for truth and reassurance.
21st-century media is out of control, living off the reputation of two centuries of professional journalism operating within an environment in which printing, publishing and televising news was an expensive and competitive game in which “fake news” and “alternative truths” could sink an organisation and end a career in instantly.
Mark Zuckerberg Facebook creator and founder has the loudest voice on earth, with 3.15 billion active users log into Facebook at least once per month. He has the loudest voice in history, and it’s not even close. No individual or organization has actively controlled what half the earth’s population can see, say or share. And all without any regulation.
Facebook is valued at over $500 Billion, with Zuckerberg’s wealth entirely generated by selling our data. The flow of this data is controlled by algorithms. Secret algorithms that are completely hidden by Facebook. This denial of transparency underpinned by our governments who clearly value the profitability of big business over free speech, privacy and protection of our rights.
We must understand that Facebook is drinking water from a fire hydrant here and get a lot more wrong than right. Mark Zuckerberg is still wiping the egg from his face after he was forced to admit they completely bungled the flow of information and content from Russian hackers that may potentially have put Trump in office.
For Zuckerberg, a man with an endless cash flow, and the largest soapbox in history and surely has an eye on the White House at some point will be forever dogged as being asleep at the switch in a critical moment of global history.
As educators, we must value this understanding of fake news, and a greater understanding of algorithmic design and suppression and release of data as an essential skill for our students. And we are already starting from a long way back.
As teachers and education systems what are we doing to move fake news from the top of our news feed back to the “News of the world?”
What skills and knowledge do our teachers and students need to outsmart a journalist who got their degree from Walmart.
Sugata Mitra, globally renowned educational researcher believes today’s students need only three essential skills beyond a basic elementary education that are based on sorting facts from fiction, enquiring and acting.
Skip ahead to 9:54 to hear Sugata Mitra discussing his three essential skills for modern students
- Reading Comprehension
- Information Search and Retrieval Skills
- Teach students to both question and believe things they read and see.
Mitra identifies these skills as essential for students in arming them with the skills to oppose doctrine and think and act for themselves.
Teaching “Fake News” in the classroom is surely an essential skill for any student with access to social media and uses the internet to seek out information about the world around us.
We need to teach them the key elements of fake news
- Rumor Mill
- Paid Opinions
- Click bait
- Fake News
What are they? What is entertainment? What is news? How can I report or respond to this?
The internet is not driven by free speech or good will, but by search engine optimization and keyword stuffing. Internet success is more about being page one on Google or first with a news story rather than being correct or the best at what you do.
We have an obligation to our students to share this knowledge with them from a very young age.
We need to explore and discuss what living in a world in which we cannot trust the media and news, in general, might be like. It’s quite frightening. Facebook is currently creating regime of doubt and mistrust in news and media as we speak but assures us “they have got this”
Of course, we will never know as there is no transparency or government regulation around the content they run on Facebook. Ironically the government could shut down NBC tomorrow for major breaches of ‘Fake News” but they can do nothing to control Facebook.
We must teach our students the difference between a fact and opinion. Twenty years ago it used to be what someone thinks as opposed to what was published in a nonfiction book such as an encyclopedia. Today a student probably considers what Siri tells them to be a fact, and maybe what their teacher tells them to be an opinion. The lines have become very blurred but we cannot avoid dealing with this issue.
How do students seek a second opinion, be it on the internet or otherwise and what weight can I place on different news sources? These are all issues we just took for granted in a post-internet world.
Technology is not going anywhere, and nor is our dependence upon it for news. Ignoring this issue will not make it go away. Become a teacher who understands and accepts that we are the products of organizations such as Google, Facebook and Amazon and if we see content or behavior in these spaces that simply does not pass the sniff test that we can either call it out or step off the train until we are comfortable it is taking us to a better place.
Fake news has and always still exist but we just need to start teaching our students that in the real world they do not have to accept it.
Every aspect of life has its own vocabulary. Jargon, lingo and terminology which is essential to function in that field of expertise and appear credible to those around you.
As an English teacher, tutor or even a student there are some essential terms required to run and participate in an effective English class.
Knowing these literary terms and their meanings will greatly enhance your students learning opportunities and enhance your own professional understanding of your craft.
Hopefully, you already know most of these but here is the definitive list of what you need to know in order to 'walk the walk, and talk the talk' as a quality English teacher
Accented: a word, syllable, or musical note or chord) stressed or emphasized.
Allegory: A story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.
Alliteration: The occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words. ‘the alliteration of ‘sweet birds sang’’
Analysis: Detailed examination of the elements or structure of something.
Assonance: Resemblance of sound between syllables of nearby words, arising particularly from the rhyming of two or more stressed vowels, but not consonants (e.g. sonnet, porridge), but also from the use of identical consonants with different vowels (e.g. killed, cold, culled) ‘the use of assonance throughout the poem creates the sound of despair’
Ballad: A poem or song narrating a story in short stanzas. Traditional ballads are typically of unknown authorship, having been passed on orally from one generation to the next.
Biography: An account of someone's life written by someone else.
Character: A person in a novel, play, or film. - The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.
Chiasmus: A rhetorical or literary figure in which words, grammatical constructions, or concepts are repeated in reverse order.
Chronological: following the order in which they occurred.
Cliche: A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.‘that old cliché ‘a woman's place is in the home’’
Comparison: A consideration or estimate of the similarities or dissimilarities between two things or people.
‘they drew a comparison between Gandhi's teaching and that of other teachers’
Contrast: The state of being strikingly different from something else in juxtaposition or close association.
‘the day began cold and blustery, in contrast to almost two weeks of uninterrupted sunshine’
Description: A spoken or written account of a person, object, or event.
Dialogue: A conversation between two or more people as a feature of a book, play, or film.
Drama: A play for theatre, radio, or television.
Epic: A long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the past history of a nation.
Fact: A thing that is known or proved to be true.
Fantasy: A genre of imaginative fiction involving magic and adventure, especially in a setting other than the real world.
Fiction: Literature in the form of prose, especially novels, that describes imaginary events and people.
A figure of speech: A word or phrase used in a non-literal sense for rhetorical or vivid effect.
Fairy Tale: A children's story about magical and imaginary beings and lands; a fairy story.
Folk Tale: A story originating in popular culture, typically passed on by word of mouth.
Form: The structure of a word, phrase, sentence, or discourse.
Generalization: A general statement or concept obtained by inference from specific cases.
Genre: A style or category of art, music, or literature.
Hyperbole: Exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.
Idiom: A group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g. over the moon, see the light).
Imagery: Visually descriptive or figurative language, especially in a literary work.
Inference: A conclusion reached on the basis of evidence and reasoning.
Irony: The expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.
Kenning: A compound expression in Old English and Old Norse poetry with metaphorical meaning, e.g. oar-steed = ship.
Metaphor: A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.
Metonymy: A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.
Moral: A lesson that can be derived from a story or experience.
Motive: A reason for doing something.
Narrative Poetry: Poetry that tells a story.
Narrator: A person who narrates something, especially a character who recounts the events of a novel or narrative poem.
Non-fiction: Prose writing that is informative or factual rather than fictional.
Novel: A fictitious prose narrative of book length, typically representing character and action with some degree of realism.
Ode: A lyric poem, typically one in the form of an address to a particular subject, written in varied or irregular meter.
Onomatopoeia: the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named (e.g. cuckoo, sizzle ).
Oxymoron: A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction (e.g. faith unfaithful kept him falsely true).
Personification: The attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something non-human, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form.
Plot: The main events of a play, novel, film, or similar work, devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence.
Poetry: Literary work in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm; poems collectively or as a genre of literature.
Point of view: (in fictional writing) the narrator's position in relation to a story being told.
Predictions: A thing predicted; a forecast.
Rhyme: A short poem in which the sound of the word or syllable at the end of each line corresponds with that at the end of another.
Rhythm: The measured flow of words and phrases in verse or prose as determined by the relation of long and short or stressed and unstressed syllables.
Science Fiction: Fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets.
Sequence: A particular order in which related things follow each other.
Setting: The place or type of surroundings where something is positioned or where an event takes place.
Simile: A figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid (e.g. as brave as a lion).
Solution: A means of solving a problem or dealing with a difficult situation.
Stanza: A group of lines forming the basic recurring metrical unit in a poem; a verse.
Theme: An idea that recurs in or pervades a work of art or literature.
Voice: The distinctive tone or style of a literary work or author.
Getting younger students to record their ideas in a logical and engaging manner can be tough.
If you have reluctant writers in your classroom, you will appreciate how difficult it can be to get work from them demonstrating a clear understanding of what you have been teaching them.
Finding alternatives to written work is not always easy to come across especially if there are deeper issues than the student simply being a reluctant writer such as a diagnosed learning condition.
To counteract this issue I find Adobe Spark Video to be an incredibly easy to use on all devices. It is a powerful tool which as the name suggests relies mainly on visuals and images to share knowledge as opposed to writing down line after line of text.
The other great thing about Adobe Spark Video is the polish it adds to presentations that make them far more engaging than your traditional PowerPoint or Keynote presentation.
Simply giving students Adobe Spark Video and directions around a specific topic can sometimes leave them confused and seeking further clarification.
To remedy this I have created a free template which you can download here that will ensure your students stay on task and have a clear direction about what they are supposed to be doing. Best of all the template can be adapted to any age group or topic area
Argumentative writing may sound like a new concept or approach, but it is not. This term basically means to argue one’s opinion while understanding that there is an opposing side.
Brought to the forefront with the adoption of the new ELA Common Core Standards, middle and high school students alike need practice in developing argumentative writing. This allows them to increase their comfort level in choosing a side on a controversial issue and developing their opinion using persuasive language and techniques. From there, writers should be able to think about the arguments or counterclaims that the opposing side would make in response. Not only should the author seek to provide these counterclaims, but to add support that dismisses the opposition’s argument.
The argumentative graphic organizer is a strategic teaching tool that better equips students to develop this type of writing. This graphic organizer is designed to anticipate the needs of the readers, as well as have the author utilize a variety of detail types to develop their opinion with more than just fluffy, eloquent language.