The News Project: seeing critical news literacy in action

What happens when you bring together teams of children who have been learning to look at the news with a critical eye? Find out in our blog post about the grand finale of our News Project with First News Education.

Last month we were delighted that nine schools brought their teams of pupil reporters, journalists, fact checkers and editors together at London CLC for a brand new type of event, the culmination of our collaboration with First News Education.

We’ve mentioned this special project earlier in the year, and for the past month, classes in the participating schools have been hard at work learning about the news, where it comes from and how to be critical consumers and producers of news in its many forms and sources. 

The teams that took over the whole building and collaborated as well as competed were:

The Honeywell News Hounds
The Dreamers (Heathbrook Primary)
The Cathedral Challengers
The Junior Journalists (Van Gogh Primary)
The Destined Dragons (St Leonard’s Primary)
Team Basil (St Luke’s Primary)
Jurassic Tigers (St Saviour’s Primary)
Four News Banks (Woodmansterne)
The Proud Squad (Hill Mead Primary)

In the know

With no assistance from their teachers the teams started off with a challenging News Quiz ‘In the know’ with four rounds played on team iPads via Kahoot!, which, with its sound effects and tension-building countdowns and leaderboards, created a terrific atmosphere.

Incidentally, teachers at our Computing Conference last week enjoyed round one of the quiz, but were not quite so ‘on it’ as the children’s teams (sorry teachers).

Congratulations to the winners by quite a margin: the St Saviour’s Jurassic Tigers (superb results in the Science round), followed by St Leonard’s then Honeywell.

Self-driving cars and Californian wildfires

In the next challenge each team had quite a short time frame to plan and film a vox pop on news opinion rather than facts. Teams rose to the challenge and we saw some lovely results. Topics ranged from self-driving cars to California’s wildfires. Self-driving cars was a popular topic among the children where they speculated whether they are safe or not. California’s wildfire’s topic emphasised the effect us humans are having on the planet and how we need to be gentle to the world around us. 

The rest of the day involved some collaborative activity, on the themes of News Aware (how do we know what’s true and accurate) and Choosing the News. The children were mixed into new collaborative teams – all credit to them for getting on with each other and with the task in hand, in a nod to the adult workplace. The afternoon challenge saw them making editorial choices about a selection of articles which appeared in the following week’s printed copy of the First News newspaper distributed to schools across the country. Some distinction! Another skill the children learned was reading ‘in between the lines’ and spotting the difference between factual and opinionated news. The key thing the children left from the day was understanding the phrase “I think” – is an opinion and the phrase “It is” – Is a factual piece of information. Reading in between the lines is a great way of deciding if the chosen source is reliable or not.

Learning to collaborate

The First News Project day allowed children to collaborate in teams with children from neighbouring schools. The one thing they all shared in common was their year group. 

Throughout the day, children were interviewed and gave their opinions of how they felt collaborating with strangers. One child said, “suddenly when we finish the work it all goes silent but then we all start laughing because we are thinking the same thing.” In the same group, a child mentioned, “it’s fun knowing other people’s opinions and what they like.” Comments like these highlight that these kinds of activities are great icebreakers and life skills for children to develop. From an early age, they are gathering the understanding that it’s okay to feel shy because the person you don’t know might (usually do) feel the same way. 

Over lunchtime, those children who wanted to could record their thoughts about the news on camera, and we also had a roving microphone during the day (thanks Afeefa!) to capture reflections and feelings from children and teachers.

Identifying ‘fake news’

One child said, “because of everything we have learned, sometimes I think it’s fake news, sometimes I don’t and I find it really surprising because of everything we have learned, it’s quite different now actually.” The point of not knowing the difference between real and fake news is one adults struggle to differentiate between. It was nice to hear the children mention such a relevant point. 

We finished the day with a major awards ceremony, to recognise all the hard work during the day, with recognition for great collaboration skills as well as competitive results.

When asked about what they enjoyed most about the day, a lot of children mentioned the Kahoot quiz because “it’s testing you on what you already know…on News iHub it just asks you things you have just found out so you’re not too sure about it but when you know things, you just for sure, know it”.

Next steps

We’ve had some really great feedback from the schools and plan to release a podcast soon, to give you a flavour of the day, and some follow-up resources in collaboration with First News education. And as the event was such a success, with accompanying beneficial impacts in school, we’re already planning next year’s sequel. Watch this space!

Here’s what some of the teachers had to say:

Robin Morrell at Cathedral Primary: “Despite only being November, the First News project has already been a highlight of the year for my class. Everyone has enjoyed engaging with the news and discussing the articles as a group. The activities provided have been excellent and really helped the children to delve into what news is and where it comes from. Thank you again to all the staff at the CLC who have been fantastic from start to finish!”

James Ashworth at Hill Mead Primary: “The whole project was a fantastic opportunity for the children to consider how the news is made and what to be aware of when reading it. The children particularly learned about bias in the news, and to fact-check for reliability. These are important skills for the rest of their lives. Meeting children from other schools at the final event was an added bonus too.”

Olivia Ratysnki at St Saviour’s: “The whole class  thoroughly enjoyed every aspect. They loved the competitiveness that came with the ihub activities and there was a real thirst for general knowledge in the class. Children would frequently come up to me and share something they’d read in the newspaper and they’d argue over the newspapers each week. It has particularly inspired some of our lower readers who enjoy the smaller paragraphs and found the topics engaging.​ It has definitely changed the class’s reading ethos and we’ll continue to read the papers every week.”


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