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News Literacy Lessons to Help Students Understand Election Media

Use these free lesson plans to help students apply media literacy skills in a real-world context.

Daniel Vargas Campos | June 20, 2022

Politics and elections come with a confusing media landscape. But elections, and the media's coverage of them, also offer valuable opportunities for students to learn and practice media literacy skills. Whether it's a presidential election, a midterm election cycle, or a smaller state or local race, students can use these authentic opportunities to engage with election-cycle news. 

Use these lessons and activities to help students practice seeking nuanced context for the stories they're seeing in the news and on social media. These free, ready-to-teach lessons will help students apply critical news and media literacy skills on the platforms they use every day.

News Literacy and Elections: Free Lesson Plans for Grades 8-12:

Lesson: Is Breaking News Broken on Social Media?

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The internet and social media give us tools to find out what's happening almost instantly -- sometimes even in real time. But how much can we trust the breaking news we see online? Use this lesson plan to help your students consider the unique challenges social media presents to finding credible, accurate information. View the lesson plan.

Lesson: Are Targeted Political Ads Deceiving Voters?

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During an election season, we might take political ads for granted. From roadside billboards and yard signs to wall-to-wall TV and radio commercials, we might be able to tune them out. But can we simply ignore the targeted political ads that show up in our social media feeds? Use this lesson plan to help your students think critically about the impact of targeted advertising on social media -- both during an election season and in general. View the lesson plan.

Lesson: Are Deepfake Videos a Threat to Democracy?

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From Snapchat filters to TikTok productions, teens engage with countless images and videos that have been edited or digitally altered. But are your students aware of -- or have they thought deeply about -- disinformation online, including the phenomenon of deepfake videos? Use this lesson plan to have your students consider questions like: Why are faked images and videos so popular? How might AI or deepfake technology subvert or threaten a democratic election? And perhaps more universally: How does the existence of this new technology change the way we see the world? View the lesson plan.

Lesson: Help Students Think Critically About "October Surprises" and Their Impact on Elections

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While most students aren't yet of voting age, it's still important for them to recognize and analyze news events leading up to elections. One key election-season phenomenon is the "October surprise," a bombshell news and media event that dominates discussion and debate in the last fast-paced weeks -- or days -- before November elections. Teach students how to recognize and analyze this curious election-season phenomenon. View the lesson plan.

Top photo credit: Richard Burger, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.