Real news

These lesson plans aim to help secondary school students (11 to 18-year-olds) examine critically information they receive online through websites, social media, pictures and data and to develop skills and methods to help determine what is real.

You may like to consider the following when delivering these lessons:

  • The BBC defines 'fake news' as: false information distributed deliberately, usually for political or commercial purposes
  • There can be many things online that don’t satisfy this definition. They may be jokes, mistakes, rumour, satire, spin, fun or mischief
  • It’s for this reason the BBC aims to help students determine what is real news rather than anything else

The use of the acronym REAL is helpful in checking any stories:

  • Real - does it all seem real? Does some of it seem fake?
  • Evidence - what do you have to prove it, what are your sources?
  • Ask around and add up everything you’ve found out
  • Look around to see if anyone else is covering the story

Students can also use open questions the 5Ws and How to help see if it’s true:

  • who a
  • why a
  • what a
  • when a
  • where a
  • how a

Teachers are encouraged to discuss each stage of the lessons after the students have tried the exercises to see if they can apply the REAL test.

This checklist may help by allowing you to:

  • check the source (URL, spelling, date, time, author etc) and does any other reputable outlet have the story
  • check the image
  • check your biases

Then before you believe it or share it:

  • check your own instincts – does it seem likely to be true, is it accurate and helpful, is it fair to share?
Knowing who to trust
Recognising fake news
Checking the story
How to be impartial and seperate fact from opinions
Numbers and the tricks they play
BBC Bitesize - What is fake news?
Lesson 1: Real versus fake news
Lesson 2: Sources and who to trust
Lesson 3: Social media, images and data
BBC iReporter: What would a journalist do? (Guidance for young people)
Teachers guide to the BBC iReporter interactive game
Play the interactive game - Make the headlines with BBC iReporter
Beyond Fake News

Further information:

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) says the minimum age for using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram is 13. Under 13s on Snapchat get redirected to Snapkidz.

Sharing information online that may cause reputational damage or be untrue could mean the person is in breach of libel laws and could face prosecution.