Journalists, educators and citizens at this NewsTrust Salon review a news story together. Each story is rated based on its facts, fairness, sources and overall quality. Teacher: Kaizar Campwala. Photo by David Fox
Learning how to recognize quality news and information empowers students throughout their lives: they become more knowledgeable news consumers and can make more informed decisions as citizens.
Our basic lesson plan will get your students started, but it will take more practice to build up their news literacy skills.
Here are some ideas on how you can use NewsTrust for longer classroom activities, or extend our programs in different settings. Our lesson plan can be adapted for a variety of subjects. It can also be expanded from a one-day activity to a multi-day unit supporting the study of language arts, computer skills, public speaking, journalism and civics. Some suggested activities utilize the NewsTrust review form. Others use readily available resources, like print newspapers, the Internet, and community members.
Feel free to adapt these ideas as needed. If you have any questions, comments or would like to share your own experience about using NewsTrust in your classroom, email us at .
For more information, check our other teacher guides, our consumer guides and educational resources.
NewsTrust organizes regular News Hunts for good journalism on important public issues, in partnership with leading news providers and journalism schools. Our partners so far include leading media organizations like the Washington Post, PBS's NewsHour, Scientific American, Huffington Post and the Council on Foreign Relations – as well as educational organizations like Stanford University, Northeastern, University of Nevada and University of Santa Clara.
A News Hunt is a bit like a scavenger hunt for quality news and information. For each weeklong News Hunt, we invite our partner communities to join forces with us, and review hundreds of stories in weeklong searches for good journalism on topics like the U.S. Economy, the Environment, the Middle East, and Education. Participants typically include news professionals, content experts, concerned citizens, educators and students, all using the NewsTrust review tools for this common quest. At the end of each weeklong News Hunt, we collectively recommend the best news coverage on that topic, based on ratings from NewsTrust reviewers and our partner communities.
Our News Hunts have helped hundreds of thousands of people become more discriminating news consumers in the last few years – empowering them to make more informed decisions as citizens. By focusing on factual evidence and constructive dialog, we hope NewsTrust can bring Americans closer together – and broaden their perspective about journalism and democracy.
You can read more about our News Hunts on this overview page, and read about our latest partnerships on the NewsTrust Blog. For an example of a promising new form of News Hunt, be sure to check the results of our News Hunt for Bad Journalism with the University of Santa Clara. If you are interested in partnering with NewsTrust for a News Hunt with your students, .
- Discuss the meaning of “the fourth estate” as a class. What role does the press play in watching local, state and federal government? As a class, look for stories which feature local and state government topics and issues. Rate these stories using the NewsTrust review form. How is government reporting in your area? Are the reporters assisting readers by presenting unbiased, informative and relevant issues? Or, are missing facts, lack of primary sources, and poor writing keeping citizens from knowing information which could be important to their lives?
- Identify key stakeholders in any government-related news or opinion piece. Split the class into pairs, one student acting as the stakeholder (representing the government) and one acting as the reporter. Both students prepare their sides, then the reporter “interviews” the government representative. Is the reporter able to get facts? Is the government representative being transparent? After the interviews are completed, come back to a class discussion: who got the facts? Who got denials? How well did the reporter do his or her job?
- If you were a local or state political reporter, what would you want to know from your politicians? What would you ask them? What would be important to report on in your community? If you worked on a local newspapers’ staff, what would be your editorial priorities: news, interviews, opinion, investigations, political cartoons?
- Write a letter to a local politician about a topic you care about, perhaps related to a story you recently read. Compose it with a partner, being sure to bring the issue to the politician's attention in a respectful yet compelling way, and source the news source and story you refer to. Students read their letters to the class. If students want to mail their letters, teacher can assist in doing so (if appropriate).
- As a class, pick out the main topic or issue of the story. Plug the topic into a search engine. What results do you get? Are they stories, advertisements or both? Are they from established news sources or unverifiable websites? How many items are found? What links are on the first page, and can you tell why they rank so high?
- Find another story on this same topic from a respected news outlet online. Review it using the NewsTrust form. Is it more accurate than the story provided? Is it more timely? Less informative? More biased?
- Highlight words or terms unfamiliar to you. Use an online dictionary to define them.
- Using the Web, search for two quality news stories on the topic discussed in class. Print them out and bring them to class. Review these stories with a partner using the NewsTrust review form. Out of these three stories, which one scored highest? Did your partner pick any of the same stories? The teacher can take a poll in class. Out of all stories brought in, which one scored the highest? Which was most chosen and widely read?
- Define the following: audience, editor, editorial, ethics, impartiality, infotainment, investigative journalism, literacy, news vs. opinion, photojournalism, propaganda, reporter, sensationalism, source, stakeholder, tabloid.
- Highlight words from the news and opinion stories whose meanings are not clear to you. Define them with a partner in class or on your own for homework.
- Write a poem based on the topic written about in the story. Incorporate three facts from the story into your poem.
- As a class, list all stakeholders mentioned in the story. Students choose one to write a first-person, point-of-view piece based on that stakeholder.
- Pick a sentence or paragraph from the story which works. Why does it work? Is it well written? Is it insightful? Is it interesting?
- Pick a sentence or paragraph from the story which is not working well. Rewrite it with a partner, aiming to make it more clear, interesting, insightful and informative.
- Define key journalism concepts like bias, Bill of Rights, copyright, First Amendment, freedom of the press, infotainment, interview, journalistic ethics, news vs. opinion, objectivity, propaganda, sensationalism, source, tabloid, yellow journalism.
- Interview someone who is knowledgeable about a topic or an event which interests you. Devise your questions ahead of time and practice them. Ask the 5 Ws (who, what, where, when and why) and how. Ask if you can record them to make sure all information is relayed accurately and tell them what the interview is for. After you record them, transcribe the interview. Write it up for class, with an introduction, conclusion and transitional sentences to place the interview into proper context. If you have access to video equipment, find someone to interview within your school community with a partner. Write up the questions together and decide who will interview the subject and who will film. Present your video to the class.
- Keep a current events notebook throughout the semester on a topic of the students’ choosing or on a teacher-assigned topic. Each week, students find either a print or online news story; they keep a copy of the story in their notebooks. Each week, students use the NewsTrust review form to read, review and rate the story. Class discussions each week center around students sharing with a partner and/or with the entire class, if time allows. Students explain what their stories are about and how the story ranks. Which stories scored highest? Why? As the school year goes on, are students better able to pick quality journalism? Are they able to tell which information is reliable and which is biased, unfair and sensational?
- Student newspaper or yearbook activities: Critique your own stories using the NewsTrust review tools. Are your stories well sourced and informative? Fair and responsible? If not, how can you make your own stories better?
- Student newspaper or yearbook activities: Work with a partner by reading each other’s news stories. Review your partner’s stories using the NT review form. What is your partner doing well? How can he or she improve?
- After reading the story, paraphrase it on your own. After completing it, read it to your partner. Whose paraphrasing is better? Why? Based on the two, write one together, incorporating the best elements of each. After practice reading it aloud, the pairs present it to the class.
- Pick two opposing sides from the story. Each student in a pair prepares a speech representing the point of view of one of the opposing sides. When done, each student reads their speech to their partner, taking note of solid points and arguments that they didn’t initially include. Students rewrite their speeches to more completely address all opposing viewpoints expressed.
- Highlight quotations from all stakeholders. Keep in mind that what is included in a story is often edited for space restrictions. Are these quotations persuasive or informative? If yes, explain why. If not, expound on them, imagining what the stakeholders would say to make their points if space were unlimited.
- Take a key quotation or main topic from the story. Write a persuasive speech presenting your point of view on the issue, keeping in mind to include facts and proper sources, and to express yourself in a compelling and clear manner.
- As a class, define all sides of the main issue in a story. Decide how many sides there are, and divide the class evenly to represent all sides (whether two, three, four, etc.). Each team works together to prepare a speech expressing their side. Use facts from the story to support what they say. If resources allow, use the Internet to find additional facts and sources.
For more information about teaching news literacy and principles of journalism, check our extensive listing of educational resources.