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30-60 minutes
  • Current Events
  • Journalism
  • 7-12

  1. Ask students what types of information they go looking for online and how they can tell the difference between different types of content. For example, how do they know if something is a news story or an ad? What do they look for?
  2. Give students a chance to test their ability to differentiate the types of content. Distribute copies of the Sample Search Results: World’s Greatest Sluggers worksheet. Ask students: Can they identify which search result will lead them to a news story? Which will lead them to a page that’s selling something? Which result would they likely click on first, and why?
  3. To help break down the different types of content that pop up in every internet search for information, watch the explainer video and review the corresponding Explore the Information Universe poster. Make sure students understand how being able to recognize different types of content will enable them to find the right content for the task at hand, whether that’s researching a paper or shopping for new shoes.
  4. Look back at the sample search results and have students label them with the content types from the poster. Go over their answers, referring back to the graphic to ensure understanding of each content type.
  5. Now it’s time to test their content categorizing skills on real-world examples. Have students search through the examples on the News or Noise? media map and complete the accompanying worksheet either individually or in small groups.
  6. Have students share and discuss their answers; then use the Discussion Questions below to continue the conversation.

  • Sample Search Results and Explore the Information Universe worksheets (in lesson plan download), one per student or small group
  • Internet access to view “Explore the Information Universe” video (above)
  • Explore the Information Universe poster (download), one per student or small group
  • Access to the News or Noise? media map (below) or printed sets of the selected examples

  • Which type of content was hardest to identify? Easiest? Why?
  • How would your answer change if you were looking for information on a social media platform such as Snapchat or Instagram? On TV or the radio?
  • Can a piece of content ever serve multiple purposes? For example, can something be informative and entertaining? Entertaining and selling something? Why is it still important to identify the multiple purposes?
  • Can you think of any other clues to add to the “look for” bullet points for each in

Native Advertising

Ask students if they’ve ever seen the terms “native advertising,” “advertorial” or “sponsored content.” Explain that these are labels for ads that look like other kinds of content, especially news. Tell students that the First Amendment protects publishing all kinds of materials, but the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) put deceptive advertising rules in place that require advertising content to be clearly labeled. Have student gather and analyze a collection of examples of these “undercover ads.” After close study, they can write a reflection that answers two questions: 1) How can individuals recognize ads that are intended to blend in with other content? 2) What rules would they put in place to govern how this content is labeled and/or displayed?

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