Fake News

“No single solution or actor can deal with the complex and interrelated challenges to electoral integrity arising from manipulated data, hate speech, and fake news. These phenomena are not new; they have been part of electoral cycles since the advent of democracy.”

Kofi Annan (1938 – 2018), former Secretary General of the United Nations
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LESSON OVERVIEW

This free ESL lesson plan on fake news has been designed for adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

The growing discontent with the mainstream media led to the creation of thousands of alternative media sources. Some of these didn’t follow journalistic standards or ethics and published stories whether they were true or not, usually to pursue some kind of political agenda. While some labelled these stories as “fake news”, others began to label real news that they disagreed with as “fake” as well. The result is that we now live in a society where all news is fake news and therefore reality has ceased to exist! In this ESL lesson plan on fake news, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as what fake news is, why people write fake news and what solutions there are for this problem.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for International Fact Checking Day, which takes place in April. For more lesson plans on international days and important holidays, see the calendar of world days to plan your classes for these special occasions.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.

PRE-CLASS ACTIVITIES

Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

BBC Bitesize | A brief history of fake news

The article looks at fake news from a historical perspective to show that this tactic has been used for thousands of years, starting in the Roman Empire. For each example from history, there is a comparison with how fake news is used in the modern day in the media and on social media. Finally, there is a section about the future of false news and how videos are being manipulated with ‘deepfake’ technology to create realistic fake videos. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was said? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class for the conversation activities, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below and answer the listening questions in Section 3 of the lesson plan at home. There are intermediate listening questions and advanced listening questions so teachers can decide which would be more appropriate for their students. Check the answers in the class.

The video for this class is called “How to Choose Your News” by TED Ed which takes a look at the expansion of media sources and how you can make sure the news you watch or read is true.

IN-CLASS ACTIVITIES

The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means and if they agree with it. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including the definition of fake news, any news the student has seen that they suspect is fake and the purpose of fake news.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with fake news such as confirmation bias, post-truth politics and factcheck. This vocabulary has been chosen to boost the students’ knowledge of less common vocabulary that could be useful for preparing for English exams like IELTS or TOEFL. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the listening questions. Before checking the answers, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about fake news. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as why people believe fake news, the effect of fake news on society and how the spread of fake news can be prevented.

HOMEWORK

After the class, students will write about their opinion of fake news. This could be a short paragraph or a longer piece of writing depending on what level the student is at. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise and improve their grammar with the feedback from their teacher. For students who intend to take an international English exam such as IELTS or TOEFL, there is an alternative essay question to practise their essay-writing skills.

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