What to do with your kid: COVID-19 – Day 18 – Fake News!

It’s me, Deanna, the teacher with 20+ years experience who, like you, is practicing social distancing at home with my child. I have decided to use my training and experience to develop a daily list of activities for you to do at home with your kids.

Note: I have been doing more to support teachers in my board as they are supporting their own students. This means I have less time to work on these posts. But feel free to look at previous ones for inspiration. I am also going to start slipping in some suggestions for teachers as I know these blog posts are being shared by teachers.

Reminder: The neighbourhood walk is today, April 1, and the theme is jokes. Write out your favourite pun or joke and hang it in your window. A tip from a teacher, make your letters big and a solid colour. Avoid using lighter colours like yellow.  Or challenge your kids to make a visual pun. Like these ones

Despite it being April Fool’s Day, today’s list is not about pranks. The last thing you need right now is an escalating prank war between your children and the hurt feelings and mess that will come with it. Instead, I want to focus on hoaxes and fake news. In this day and age, the ability to tell the two apart are really important. So important, that for my last few years in the classroom, I spent a lot of time teaching kids how to apply critical thinking skills to what they see on the Internet. Especially on a day like today when fake news stories proliferate on the web.

For younger children, one of the best entry points is Hoaxes. I always started with this page on the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. Read it over and discuss it with them. I would then move on to the Great Spaghetti Harvest. Then let them spend some time at these sites:

Once they’ve done that, ask them if they see any similarities in the hoaxes. What makes a hoax a hoax?  Then have them create their own hoax.

For older kids, especially the ones with social media accounts, spend some time discussing fake news with them. Especially its negative effects. Then have them look at these guides for spotting Fake News:

You can have them use a tool like Google Slides to make their own infographic to help people sport fake news.

And once you’ve done all that, there is the Bad News game. It is a simulation that has the user pretend to be a social media influencer. They try to increase their influence by pushing fake news. The game shows you the techniques that purveyors of fake news use to increase their reach. The researchers behind the game theorize that by playing the game, users will develop an immunity to the techniques used in fake news. I have used this successfully with 11 to 14 year olds and they have gone on to play it after they left my class. 

Deanna Toxopeus is a teacher with 20+ years of experience teaching students from Grade 1 to Grade 8. She is currently an Itinerant Teacher of Assistive Technology with the OCDSB. The opinions she expresses in this blog are wholly her own.