Examining Perspectives in the News

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Area: History and Social Studies, Other Areas
Grade Level: High School & Beyond, Middle School
Topics: Truth
Estimated Time Necessary: 60 - 90 Minutes

Lesson Plan

Objectives:
Following implications
To follow the implications of a news headline.
Shifting perspectives
To re-imagine a news headline with the same set of facts and see what new interpretations might arise from this.
Discerning truth from fiction
To sharpen skills needed to discern truth from fiction in the news.

To introduce this lesson, the instructor will draw a line on the board with marks from 1 to 10. 1 is “completely fiction,” 10 is “completely non-fiction,” and in-between might be marked, “based on a true story.” The class will be asked where on the number line a standard newspaper story might fall. At the end of the lesson, the number line will be re-visited, and the same question asked (perhaps recorded in a different color marker) to see if anyone has changed their minds.

Task 1:  Following Implications

In this lesson, students fill out a mock-newspaper worksheet, either individually or in pairs. They ad-lib words to create two implication-heavy headlines in order to examine how the wording or perspective of the headline implies certain details about the story. They are encouraged to follow the implications of their headlines and fill out the story they think that one of their headlines might tell.

Task 2:  Same Facts, Different Story

The second task is to re-examine the headline and story they wrote, and to think of a new headline that involves the same facts, but describes them in a different way and so might tell a different story. The students can write the modified headline on the back side of the worksheet, and either write out what they think the story for that headline might be, or just think of ways that story might be different. (Who were the “good guys,” or the “bad guys”? What if those roles were switched?)

Group Discussion

After students have finished their stories, the class reconvenes to share. Everyone (who wants to) shares the headline they wrote about, and the opposing headline with the same facts. The “opposite” headlines will be collected and posted at the front of the room. The students then vote on which opposing headline they think presents the same facts but in the most different or creative way. The one with the most votes will be the starting point for the discussion.

  • What makes it different? How would the story be told differently from this different headline?
  • How are the new stories different? How are they similar?

At the end, they will be asked, again: How true is the news? How do you know? What are the questions to ask when evaluating a news story?

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Discussion Questions

  • Can different headlines imply different stories?
  • Can the headlines say something, or imply something, without actually saying it?
  • Is truth the same as non-fiction?
This lesson plan was created for PLATO by: Kris Skotheim.

This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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