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Teacher-Created Lesson Plan

Media Literacy: Flex Your Fact-Checking Muscles - Read Laterally

We (Gail Desler & Kathleen Watt) created this lesson on “lateral reading” because we could not find any lessons on the topic via numerous Google searches - yet “lateral reading” is referenced in many resources for teaching about media literacy.
Gail D.
Technology Integration Specialist
EGUSD Technology Services
Elk Grove, United States
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Lesson Created by Gail Desler and Kathleen Watt

By completing this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Explain the difference between vertical and lateral reading
  • Shorten the time they need to determine a site’s credibility
  • Think critically and objectively about information found on the Internet
English Language Arts
Social Studies
Grades 7 – 12
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

While students may have already seen the Pacific Northwest Octopus hoax site, they probably have not yet compared it to credible sites - or considered that, while hoax sites are created to be completely false, today many sites are only partially true or false.

Student Instructions

Visit (or revisit) the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus website. Then visit Bearing Arms: The Amazing World of the Octopus. How do you know when online information is true or false?

Turn to a partner and share your reaction to the above websites. Why were you skeptical or trusting of one or the other - or both?

2 Direct Instruction

Share the Nathan for You, Petting Zoo video.

Remind students that we all need media literacy skills and an awareness of "confirmation bias."

Share Part 2 of the Petting Zoo Hero. Invite discussion.

Student Instructions

Open the Flex Your Fact-Checking Muscles hyperdoc and review the medial literacy vocabulary list. 

Now that you understand why it is important to step out of your “filter bubble,” increase your media literacy skills, and confront fake news, it’s time to flex your fact-checking muscles by reading laterally. Lateral reading is an essential digital skill - just as important as vertical reading (starting at the top and reading down) or close reading.

3 Guided Practice

Display or have students open the hyperdoc and, using the NASA Frog Photobomb (from the chart), demonstrate the ART of fact checking by lateral reading.

Student Instructions

Check out the ART of fact-checking steps (Author, Reliability, Target) used for evaluating the NASA Frog Photobomb.

4 Independent Parctice

Students can work independently or in teams.

Student Instructions

Head to the chart and start practicing the ART of fact checking by flexing your "lateral reading" skills.

5 Extension - An Invitation to Publish

If your students take us up on our invitation to publish their lateral reading skills and tips, please contact us at [email protected] or [email protected]. We would love to showcase their work on our Digital Citizenship website.

Student Instructions

Students-teaching-students is a powerful teaching model. We have included a Common Sense video in the Explore section of a teacher talking to other teachers about fact-checking and lateral reading. We would love to replace this video with a student-created video, slideshow and/or infographic to show what lateral reading looks like from the perspective and experience of a student fact-checker. Go for it!