What is news literacy and how do you teach it?

London CLC’s Peter Lillington explores this hot topic and recommends some new resources to help you teach it in the classroom.

In September we wrote about and podcasted about the place of digital literacy in computing and the wider curriculum, and highlighted our participation in a newly formed News Literacy Network with national partners such as the Guardian Foundation, the Economist Education Foundation, the PSHE Association, First News, The Day and other providers. In this post, we will highlight some useful resources from partners in this group.

But just a moment, what is this ‘news literacy’ – are we in danger of multiplying literacies? How is it distinct from other parts of the curriculum? And is it, or should it be part of the curriculum?

Making sense of the world

News literacy is all about children, young people (and indeed adults) making sense of the world around them now, understanding events that have just taken place or that are unfolding now.

These may be very local or personal, or they may be national and international. We’d like to say there is a moral and ethical aspect of news literacy too – it’s about establishing what’s true and valuing it as a crucial way to empower ourselves as citizens and active and positive participants in society, right now, and in the future, young and old alike.

Making sense of news

So it’s also about understanding how we can check and validate news, and separate facts from supposition or opinion, so we know we’ve got to the truth, or as close as we can. It is also knowing that some providers of news have people and processes to make this happen, so may be far more likely to be reliable than other informal sources such as an individual person.

It encompasses children learning to read and make sense of news (as consumers, through whatever channel), but also learning to write and communicate news. At its best this will be in a way that is clear in meaning, well-written in terms of language, style and audience, appropriate to the medium being used, but which also presents facts as opposed to opinions or rumours, and is fair.

A number of providers are producing resources to help with News Literacy.

From the partnership between the National Literacy Trust, the Guardian Foundation, and the PSHE Association, and funded by Google, NewsWise is a free, cross-curricular news literacy project for 9 to 11-year-olds across the UK. It helps teachers empower their Key Stage 2 pupils to navigate the news.

Resources to definitely check out include a unit of work with lesson plans, and learning journey, the Newswise Values Poster (‘News should be truthful, fair, balanced, interesting: these values are designed to enable pupils to judge the trustworthiness of information as well as to produce powerful stories themselves’), the Newswise Navigator and Notes for Parents.

The National Literacy Trust on behalf of the News Literacy network group has compiled a primary and secondary flowchart with links for supporting the teaching critical literacy and fake news – we are delighted to feature as a provider of workshops. You can access further classroom resources from First News, Childnet, The Guardian Education Centre, MediaSmart, The Day and BBC Newsround on this page from the Primary Resources link.

Workshops and talks

At our Computing Conference on 5 December attendees will be able to participate in a short workshop from Nicolette Smallshaw, head of education at First News, the children’s newspaper. And make a note in your diary for our online safety conference on 16 January when we will be considering news literacy and online safety implications.

Finally, returning to the broader area of digital criticality, we are delighted and excited to announce that London CLC team will be in the BETT Arena on Friday 25 January 13:30 -14:00 giving a talk on Developing critical learners in the digital classroom.

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