Focus Question: What is the effect of bias and exaggeration in news stories?
Have students work in pairs. Give each pair a copy of “Sixth Grade Boy Is a HERO!!!” (see L-6-2-2_Newspaper Story in the Resources folder) Do not include “The Real Story” at this time. Ask students to work in pairs to identify any parts of the story they believe are exaggerated. They should underline these parts of the story in red marker.
Distribute copies of “The Real Story.” Ask students to compare this version with the original story and verify which parts of the original story have been exaggerated.
As a class, discuss student responses and make sure that the exaggeration has been appropriately identified. (Sam’s effort makes him a “hero,” the cat is screaming like a lion, Mrs. Linwood says the cat would have stayed on the fence until next winter, the fence is “giant,” Sam scales the fence in a single leap.)
Ask, “What is different about ‘The Real Story’?” (The real story contains just facts.) Say, “When we think of the news, we think of factual information. Why would a news reporter exaggerate a story like this?” (to make the story more interesting, to add excitement to the story, to make readers want to read the story)
Say, “When we read the news, it is important to know what is fact and what is not. When writers use exaggeration, they blur the truth. The more they exaggerate, the less accurate the story becomes. As readers, we need to read closely and be able to distinguish the facts, especially in a news story.” Ask students where exaggeration might be more appropriate (fictional story or tall tale, opinion or persuasive text). Remind students that news stories should be as objective as possible.
In preparation, put the magazine article “Chocolate Is Good for You!” (see
L-6-2-2_Chocolate Is Good for You in the Resources folder) on the overhead projector/document camera/interactive whiteboard. Do not include “What This Article Doesn’t Tell You” for this part of the activity.
Read aloud the article “Chocolate Is Good for You!” Ask, “Do you really think chocolate is good for you? Why or why not?” Give students time to respond. Then ask, “If you think chocolate is good for you, what evidence in the article did you find convincing?” Remind students they should always return to the text for support.
Say, “The author of this article has made a claim that chocolate is good for you. A claim is a statement of position on an issue. The author must support the claim with reasons and evidence.” Ask students what reasons and evidence the author gives to support the claim (facts about antioxidants and effects on cholesterol, blood pressure, and the brain).
Have students share their answers with the class. Then put “What This Article Doesn’t Tell You” on the overhead projector/document camera/interactive whiteboard.
Discuss the examples of bias in “Chocolate is Good for You!” Explain that the author has chosen to provide only the facts that s/he wanted readers to read. Say, “By not telling all the facts, the author is trying to persuade you to agree with him or her instead of presenting information objectively and allowing you to make up your mind.”
Point out the following clues to bias in an article:
- presents only one side of an argument
- leaves out important information
- can cause misconceptions or misunderstanding
List these clues on a chart that students may use for reference.
Have students look through newspapers and magazines for what they think is exaggeration or bias. News articles written for students are available on the following Web sites:
http://www.timeforkids.com/news http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/scholasticnews/index.html http://www.dogonews.com/
Encourage students to look at reviews and editorials to find obvious examples of exaggeration and bias. Remind students that often it is what an author does not say that reveals clues to bias.
Ask students to choose one article that they feel has an example of bias or exaggeration. Have them identify the example and explain why it was used. Allow students to share what they have found with a partner and discuss their thoughts. Encourage students to revise their ideas at this time if necessary.
- Students who are ready to go beyond the standard may write their own exaggerated newspaper stories from events that are not really newsworthy. Some possible topics include the following:
- A bees’ nest is found on the playground.
- A student helps a younger child cross a busy street.
- A neighbor finds a missing dog in his backyard.
- Students who need additional opportunities for learning may create a list of words they might use to exaggerate stories, such as the following:
- words that make something seem bigger than it really is
- words that make something seem more exciting than it really is
- words that make something seem more dangerous than it really is
- words that make something seem smaller than it really is