Lesson Plan: How to Spot Fake News

By Cari Jackson 12.31.2016 blog

The problem of fake news came to a dizzying head in 2016 when a man fired a shot in a family pizzeria as he “self-investigated” a false report of a child abuse ring led by top democrats. A BuzzFeed report confirmed that fake news stories, such as the one that claimed Hillary Clinton sold arms to ISIS, were actually viewed more times than articles from established and legitimate news sources. Did fake news have an impact on the election? How do we address the problem from here? This lesson plan features a Channel One News report on the problem. Then, students analyze the problem and consider steps media outlets and individuals need to take to prevent the viral spread of propaganda.

Opening Activity

Warm up: Ask students:

  • How do you get your news?
  • If you get it from social media, can you name the news sources where the information you read comes from?
  • What have you heard about fake news? Why are people concerned about it?

Words in the News: Review this word prior to viewing the video.

propaganda (noun): Information that is often exaggerated or false and spread for the purpose of benefiting or promoting a specific individual or cause.

Heard on the Air: “If we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.”

Watch Video: “Fake News on Facebook”


  • Why did people, particularly the teens in Macedonia, create fake news sites? [to make money]
  • How are Facebook and Google addressing the problem? [blocking sites from making money off of advertising]
  • Do you agree with President Obama’s assertion that “we have problems” if we cannot tell the difference between real news and propaganda? Why or why not?

Take a Survey

Have students scan their social media newsfeeds to spot suspect articles. Then, have them use this checklist from the News Literacy Project, Ten Questions for Fake News Detection, to determine whether they’ve spotted an illegitimate news source.

Then, work with the whole class to create a list of sites that they evaluated. List the sites, and create columns for read, “liked,” or shared. Perform a class-wide survey to see how many times people read, “liked” or shared an article from each site.

Based on the results of the survey, ask students:

  • Were you surprised to learn that any of the sites were actually fake news sites?
  • If you shared any articles from the site, what was the result? Did people like, comment or share the article from your social media page? Did you see this activity on other people’s social media pages? What types of behaviors did you notice?
  • What impact do you think fake news has had on you, or on people in your life?
  • What impact do you think fake news sites had on the election?
  • Now that you know these sites are fake, what actions might you take to lessen the harm of misinformation?


What impact do you think fake news had on the 2016 Presidential Election? What steps should the government, media outlets and individuals take to address the problem? Write an essay exploring the issue. Support your answer with evidence from the video, the class survey and your own experience.

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  1. haylee baldridge

    well for some people think its not

  2. jesse

    i think it is easy to spot fake news just check the info

    • Kylee

      Its not that easy for some people

      • courtney fitzpatrick

        thank you its not that easy

  3. Bill

    If you watch the video in this article you will notice that every case noted as fake news had a positive spin on Trump, and a negative spin on Clinton and Obama. This, in my opinion, is the problem with the media today and proves its bias against republicans and conservatism. Media bias, in this case, is as misleading as the fake news it is reporting on. This is a classic example of why “we” do not trust the mainstream media, and which makes me not trust anything written in this article.

    • Jodi

      Well, if the shoe fits….

      • gabriel

        if the shoe fits what

    • Sarah

      I, too, am disappointed that this report on ‘fake news’ is bent toward democratic propaganda. I find it extremely hypocritical that a report on ‘fake news’ is so anti-republican. The main concern I have is it’s complete bias against the republican point of view. I often view Channel One news with my students, and I would like to see more unbiased, factual, political news.

    • Chris

      Let me get this straight…. this discussion of fake news is “bent towards democratic propaganda”? Should we not point out what is real and what isn’t? The video even mentions that 17 out of 20 fake news stories favored Donald Trump. Why not use examples that are pervasive and are the ones that people will actually see?

      That being said, could they have shown an anti-Trump example? Sure. When I teach media literacy in my English classroom, I always provide examples from both sides of the political spectrum. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that those stories are not real.

      The media has many issues but the existence of some left wing conspiracy is not one of them. And before anyone accuses me of being a Hillary loving liberal, know that I am a registered non-partisan. I vote for the candidate I agree with the most, regardless of party affiliation.

      Remember, if you disagree with a story, that does not make it biased.

    • Adrija

      If there is one news channel I always trust, it is Channel1. I watch every day and as far as I know…
      it’s never been wrong.

  4. Alyssa

    My son told me he learned about this in school. I am so happy that he was exposed to fake news and how it can be used to persuade one’s opinion. I hope that he is better educated because of this lesson. Thank you Channel One News.

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