CTRL-F

Up-to-date, expert-backed news literacy program builds needed skills

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Expert evaluation by Common Sense

Grades

6–12

Subjects & Skills

Communication & Collaboration, Critical Thinking, English Language Arts, Social Studies

Pros: Lessons are packed with compelling, real-world content. The course structure is great and easily implemented.

Cons: Lacks some built in differentiation. More sophisticated students might look for more of a challenge.

Bottom Line: These trusted lessons, a great fit for middle school, empower students to approach media more intentionally, but teachers might need to adapt.

CTRL-F is designed to be used from start to finish for complete learning impact, and with each lesson’s mix of pre- and post-assessments, reflection, small and large group discussion, and direct instruction, there’s enough variety to engage most students. The use of real-world examples and media throughout help make things relevant and practical for students. Everything is packaged very well and easy for teachers to follow, so it's best to dig into the program, starting with the Supporting Documents section which provides an overview of the resources and how to use the Google/Microsoft forms which are important to student learning. Lessons are anchored by a PDF that lays out the plan and a slide deck that sequences resources. There's also a range of activities students will engage in and a culminating activity at the end of all the lessons.Older students may find the culminating activity, focused on creating a handbook for verifying info, a little rudimentary. Teachers might instead design their own project, like an analysis/excavation of their favorite TikTok or Instagram influencer's content.

In Supporting Documents there's also recommendations for remote and hybrid learning. This might work well for more advanced students, who could benefit from doing things asynchronously then having more in-depth discussion in class. The list of asynchronous activities, along with the Additional Activities and Example Bank sections, could also serve as a grab-and-go set of extensions if you have an existing curriculum.

CTRL-F is a seven-hour, four-part news and media literacy program designed by CIVIX, a Canadian organization dedicated to strengthening democracy through civic education. Through the program, students will gain a step-by-step method for investigating claims on the internet.

Developed for 7-12 graders, each of the four lessons inform and build on each other and contain introductory reflection activities to pique interest, expert-led videos, and direct instruction slide decks to reinforce new concepts followed by practice examples. There's also pre- and post-assessments with answer keys and a culminating activity where students design a handbook that compiles the skills they've learned. Program materials can be accessed via Google or Microsoft's suites or via PDF.

Beyond the program, there's also a growing set of extension activities, including an Example Bank with quick, current events-focused media that students use as test beds for their critical thinking and fact-checking/verification skills. For teachers, there are also live workshops covering the program.

Disclosure: Common Sense Education has a curriculum that addresses topics similar to those addressed in CTRL-F. However, Common Sense's reviews strive to be independent and unbiased. Reviewers and editorial staff have independent oversight over the content of the reviews and their ratings.

The content-rich lessons of CTRL-F demonstrate to students gaps they have in their digital literacy and help them make reading laterally -- the act of researching a claim by expanding the search outside of one source -- a part of their daily habits. CRTL-F's strengths lie in its use of relevant and varied real-world examples of media -- from articles of different types to social posts to videos. It's also usefully focused on a focused skillset for digging into claims. Students will gain expert-backed fact-checking methods and practice them in authentic ways that build lifelong habits. This is a news and media literacy course that's pushing beyond stale approaches grounded in a a pre- or early-internet frame of mind. CTRL-F incorporates more modern notions of how the web works, how various actors manipulate media, and how fact-checking and thinking must evolve to deal with how all the contexts students encounter information online.

In general, though, more support will be needed for reluctant and ELL students as well as older, more media-savvy students. Thankfully, with all the content available through Google or Microsoft suites, teachers can easily edit both the activities and the assessments so that more students’ needs are met.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating
Engagement

The lessons demystify media messages students might take for granted. Incorporates tons of media and current examples. Multimodal activities balance independent and group work.

Pedagogy

The well-structured lessons have a clear progression from opening activities to intro videos to practice opportunities. Students dig into real media and gain practical, tested tools to analyze media.

Support

The lessons are easy to follow and teachers have all they need to get going. However, there's not a ton of baked-in support for ELLs or students of varying abilities. Teachers will need to modify activities for students, including advanced students.

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