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What Is Bias and How Do You Recognize It?

Lesson Plan

What Is Bias and How Do You Recognize It?


In this lesson, students examine the problems in communication caused by bias. Students will: [IS.6 - Language Function]

  • identify the use of bias in nonfiction texts.
  • recognize the difference between an objective and a biased account of an event.
  • recognize that bias appears in almost all writing.
  • distinguish between reasonable opinions and irrational prejudice.
  • recognize the ways in which point of view affects what an individual says, writes, and reads.
  • compose a biased account of an event from a particular individual’s point of view.
  • examine articles to identify author’s purpose and to identify evidence of biased thinking.
  • recognize the role of word choice in revealing bias. [IS.7 - Level 1]

Essential Questions

  • How does interaction with text provoke thinking and response? [IS.8 - All Students]


[IS.1 - Preparation ]

[IS.2 - ELP Standards]


  • Author’s Purpose: The author’s intent either to inform or teach someone about something, to entertain people, or to persuade or convince the audience to do or not do something. [IS.3 - All Students]

  • Bias: A judgment based on a personal point of view. [IS.4 - All Students]
  • Editorials: A newspaper or magazine article that gives the opinions of the editors or publishers; an expression of opinion that resembles such an article. [IS.5 - All Students]


90–135 minutes/2–3 class periods

Prerequisite Skills

Prerequisite Skills haven't been entered into the lesson plan.


Related Unit and Lesson Plans

Related Materials & Resources

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Formative Assessment

  • View
    • Provide feedback on students’ paragraphs for the character’s reaction to the scenario. [IS.12 - ELL Students] Make note of students who may need additional practice. Be certain that all students complete the reaction paragraphs. Collect them after discussion.
    • The group paragraphs describing the scenario from a particular character’s point of view and the ensuing class discussion will indicate whether most students have a clear idea of what bias is and how it manifests itself.
    • The individual analysis of a news article, identifying author’s purpose and any evidence of bias or objectivity, will be a clear indicator of student understanding. If necessary, this experience can be reinforced by looking at other student examples and then having students try again with a different article.

Suggested Instructional Supports

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    Scaffolding, Active Engagement, Modeling, Explicit Instruction
    W: Have students examine examples of bias, stereotypes, and exaggeration and identify ways these techniques can interfere with clear communication.
    H: Provide a scenario that requires the thought and attention of each student and have students create a list of the influences that may affect an individual’s actions.
    E: Allow groups to work through a scenario and point of view switch, as well as analyze an editorial for bias.
    R: Have students retell the scenario from another point of view after discussing the scene and the biases of the various characters and then discuss and analyze the scenario to prepare to analyze an article independently.
    E: Have students compare their paragraph reaction to the scenario to those written by other students for the same character and provide additional practice by having students identify sentences as objective or biased.
    T: Provide instruction through group and individual activities, as well as by sharing with the rest of the class.
    O: Prepare students to identify bias individually, based on several different types of experiences with bias, its causes, its effect, and its language.


    IS.1 - Preparation
    List the ELLs in this class and their level(s) of English Proficiency  
    IS.2 - ELP Standards
    Identify the ELP standard(s) to be addressed in this lesson  
    IS.3 - All Students
    For all learners use this site to teach differences in purpose:  
    IS.5 - All Students
    1. For all learners use this site to teach editorials:  [PDF] 

    Teaching Students Editorial Writing and Persuasive Reading

    IS.6 - Language Function
    Identify a language function objective for oral development in this lesson  
    IS.7 - Level 1

    Level 1

    Level 2

    Level 3

    Level 4

    Level 5






    Ask and answer WH questions about vocabulary in the lesson (bias, persuade, convince, author's purpose, opinion, prejudice) using illustration and simple examples with a partner

    Describe situations from modeled sentences including examples of concepts introduced in lesson in small group

    Give a brief summary of how point of view affects what a person says, writes and reads using a graphic organizer in a small group

    Paraphrase and summarize ideas from others about how word choice, point of view and bias from an article using a graphic organizer in small group

    Discuss Give examples and compose a biased account of an event from a particular individual's  point of view. Record ideas ideas in journal for future oral presentation

    IS.8 - All Students

    For all learners to have a variety of essential questions consider:  Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves

    Copyright © 2010 by the National Association for the Education of

    Young Children. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of

    1. America. [PDF] 

    Anti-Bias Education

    IS.9 - ELL Students
    How are these materials culturally relevant to ELLs? Use your response to activate student’s prior knowledge.  
    IS.10 - ELL Students
    How will ELLs identify with either of these  case scenarios? Is there something culturally relevant to them? Use your response to activate prior knowledge.  
    IS.11 - ELL Students
    Have ELLs discuss these scenarios in small groups where there is more opportunity to speak  
    IS.12 - ELL Students
    The same accommodations and scaffolding provided for instruction need to be implemented in assessment tools used with ELLs  

Instructional Procedures

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    Focus Question: What is bias and how do you recognize it?

    In this lesson, students will be looking at the role of bias in communication. The activities for this lesson will be used as part of the Performance Assessment for the unit.

    Part 1

    Say, “I’m going to give each of you a card with a character’s name and description. Some of you will have characters that don’t play an actual role in the scene, but they have definite feelings about what happens. Other students will also be assigned your character.”

    • Give a character card to each student (L-7-3-1_Character Cards.doc). Tell students to read over their character description and then listen carefully as you read aloud a scenario. Point out that the scenario itself is written from an objective viewpoint, presenting a strictly factual account with no indication of emotional involvement.
    • Display the following scenario on an interactive whiteboard/document camera or copy it on the board for students’ reference:

    Ricardo is walking Mrs. Best’s two dogs—a Great Dane named Socrates and a Chihuahua named Hercules. When Mrs. Tate’s cat leaps off a fence and darts in front of the dogs, they break away from Ricardo and chase the cat across several yards, tearing up Mr. Abram’s flower beds and knocking over Julie Ames as she walks around the corner.

    • Say, “Now think about your character. What would be his or her reaction to the scene? Imagine that you are that individual and list three possible reactions to what has happened. Write from the first-person point of view.” Give students a few minutes to write their responses, helping any who have difficulty. Then have students work in six groups, all the same characters joining together to compare their reactions. Say, “Read aloud all the reactions for your character and explain the reasons why you think your character would react in this way.” Listen to the groups’ discussions so that you are certain students understand the task.
    • Collect the individual reactions and save for the Unit Assessment.
    • Ask each group to write a paragraph from the first-person point of view, describing the events of the scenario. Remind students that the individual lists were about this character’s reaction to what happened and that this is a description of the events as though the character is witnessing them. Have each group present its paragraph to the rest of the class. Then read the scenario aloud once more and ask students to comment on the differences among the accounts. Summarize the following understandings on the board/interactive whiteboard:
    • We all bring our own beliefs to what we experience and what we read.
    • A bias is a tendency or a leaning toward a certain belief or attitude.
    • Being strongly biased can keep us from seeing things clearly.
    • A person or a decision that is labeled as unbiased is fair or impartial.

    Part 2

    Give students a copy of the Bias Meter (L-7-3-1_Bias Meter.doc) and discuss it with them. Then have students decide where on the meter each of the point-of-view pieces they just read would fall and discuss why they have that opinion. [IS.10 - ELL Students]

    • Display several statements, such as the following, on the board/interactive whiteboard and have students identify them as objective or biased.
    • Forcing us to go to the assembly program is really insulting. (B)
    • The bank was robbed of $2 million on July 19, 2010. (O)
    • The pitiful members of the defeated basketball team slinked to their bus. (B)
    • The mayor has wasted far too much money on a project everyone knows is worthless. (B)
    • The thief stole three oil paintings from the local museum. (O)
      • Ask students to consider all the factors they can think of that influence an individual’s thinking. Offer them a model, such as the following, which is objective information:

    “Donna Florence is a grandmother who lives alone. Her two children live far away. She works in a nearby shop. She spends part of her free time helping at the neighborhood daycare center because she enjoys children. Donna sees a little child who appears to be lost.”

    • Ask, “What factors would influence this individual’s actions?” (her age, her family situation, the fact that she has a job, her interest in children)
    • “What other factors may influence a person’s thinking and actions?” Give students a few minutes to work alone and then write their ideas on the board. Students should come up with a fairly large range of influences such as an individual’s particular preferences and interests, gender, age, family values, the manner in which an individual or a family earns a living, and the place where the individual lives.

    Part 3

    Have students work in groups to examine the sample editorial “Hang Up and Drive.”

    Say, “We expect to find bias in editorials because writers use that form to express an opinion about a particular topic. Read the editorial and then do the following:

    • identify the writer’s opinion
    • make a list of the ways in which the writer uses language to reveal her bias about this topic and to try to convince readers to feel the same way
    • decide where you think the editorial would fall on the bias meter.”

    Allow about 10 minutes, and then have students share their findings, writing them on the board/interactive whiteboard. Suggested answers include the following:

    • Drivers should not use their cell phones.
    • The author compares drivers on cell phones to drunk drivers.
    • She describes their behavior as “weaving back and forth, speeding up then slowing down, or suddenly stopping.”
    • Cell phones are “a dangerous distraction.”
    • Even though all drivers using cell phones do not behave in this manner, she writes as though they do, lumping them all together.
    • She says that their behavior is “very unpredictable.”

    Discuss where students would place this editorial on the bias meter.

    Say, “When we are reading news articles, we expect objective reporting. Unfortunately, that is not always what we encounter.” Share with students examples of different news coverage of the same event (for example: Choices: The Choice of Language by Dan Kurland listed in Materials) so that they can see the importance of word choice and differences between objective and biased coverage of an event.

    Ask students to find and examine a newspaper article and complete the following activity to be used as part of the Performance Assessment for the unit:

    • identify the author’s purpose
    • record whether the article is a biased or an objective account
    • underline evidence within the article to support choosing objective or biased

    If you prefer, you may wish to have all students examine the same article, such as “Teens Build Incredible Car” by Zach Jones found on the Web site Scholastic News Online at The writer’s purpose is to describe the electric car designed and built by high school students. It is an account that reveals the writer’s bias in favor of the car by using words and phrases such as “Incredible Car,” “Amazing Test Drive,” “phenomenal,” “incredible,” and “was so impressed.”


    • For students who need additional opportunities for learning, provide another scenario with different characters so that students have additional practice with this type of experience. [IS.11 - ELL Students]
    • Keep a file of articles such as “Teens Build Incredible Car” that have been annotated by students for author’s purpose and evidence of bias in word choice. Students who need additional opportunities for learning can review these and then apply what they have learned to a new article.
    • Students who are ready to go beyond the standard may look into the matter of bias in historical accounts, such as those listed in Related Resources.

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DRAFT 06/09/2011
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