Lesson “Be a Science Fact-Checker”
First published 2018. To view the latest Heads Up content, click here.
Science literacy is an important skill for everyone. That’s especially true for teens, who are inundated with stories on social media about important topics such as their health. Many of the articles found on Facebook or Twitter make claims that are not backed up by scientific evidence. By sharing the student article “Be a Science Fact-Checker” and teaching the lesson and worksheet, you can help students build skills that let them separate good science from misinformation.
Click below for printables and links to all the lesson materials for “Be a Science Fact-Checker”
See below to review the lesson plan.
Science Literacy, English/Language Arts, Health/Life Skills
RST.6-8.1 / RST.9-10.1
W.6-8.1 / W.9-10.1
|MS-LS1.D / HS-LS1.D
Today, there are many different types of sites that publish what appear to be news stories about science and health. Explain why it is important to research these sites before reading the articles. What questions might you ask about the sites?
(Answers may include that sites may have a bias, such as to sell health products, or may publish articles that make claims that are not backed by scientific evidence. You might ask who created the site and what their affiliation is, what the original source is for the stories they publish, etc.)
Misleading news articles often spread over the internet faster than factual articles from mainstream sources. Why do you think this is true?
(Answers may include that misleading articles often have exaggerated headlines or make surprising claims. These articles catch readers’ attention and may cause them to be shared more often.)
“Fake news” is a term that has been used recently to describe many different types of news. According to most media experts, “fake news” is something that intentionally contains false or inaccurate information. What are some reasons a science article might be labeled “fake news”? Cite evidence from the text to support your answer.
(Answers may vary but may include an article that describes research from a known biased source without revealing the bias, or an article that makes claims that are not supported by the study, etc.)
- Grades 6–8: Explain why it is important to read an article completely before you make a judgment about what it says.
- Grades 9–10: Explain why it is important for journalists to find out more about the scientists who have conducted research before they write an article about the results of a study.
- Grades 11–12: Experts warn social media users: “Think before you share.” Use information from the article to explain why this is important. What steps should readers take before they click “Share”?
- Say What? ‘Scientific Method’
- Writing prompt: What is replication? How does it help prevent misleading or inaccurate science stories from being published? Use text evidence from “Say What? ‘Scientific Method’” and “Be a Science Fact-Checker” to support your answers.
The worksheet includes a news story about a study on drugs and addiction. Students will read and analyze the story using the critical-reading tips they learned in the student article. They then will answer questions to explain ways in which the story may be misleading, and they’ll cite evidence to support their arguments.
- Answers will vary but may include the following points as supporting evidence: The headline exaggerates the findings of the study; the research was published as a one-paragraph letter to the editor and was not a peer-reviewed article.
- Answers will vary but may include the following points: a) The study did not include sufficient evidence to support the claim that opioids are not addictive. b) The study did not include patients who were given opioid prescriptions to use at home. These patients may be more likely to develop addiction than those using the drugs in the hospital. c) The study assumed that patients with no record of addiction treatment in their medical reports did not develop the disease. Patients could have developed addiction but it was never reported in their records.