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Examining Perspectives in the News

To introduce this lesson, the instructor will draw a line on the board with marks from 1 to 10. 1 is “completely fiction,” 10 is “completely non-fiction,” and in-between might be marked, “based on a true story.” The class will be asked where on the number line a standard newspaper might fall. At the end of the lesson the number line will be re-visited, and the same question asked (perhaps recorded in a different color marker), to see if anyone has changed their minds.

In this lesson, students fill out a mock-newspaper worksheet, either individually or in pairs. They ad-lib words to create two implication-heavy headlines in order to examine how the wording, or perspective, of the headline implies certain details about the story. They are encouraged to follow the implications of their headlines and fill out the story they think that one of their headlines might tell.

The second task is to re-examine the headline they wrote about, and to think of a new wording for the headline that has the same facts but says them in a different way, that might tell a different story. The students can write the modified headline on the back side of the worksheet, and either write out what they think the story for that headline might be, or just think about ways that story might be different (who were the “good guys,” or the “bad guys”? What if those roles were switched?).

After people or groups have finished their stories, the class re-convenes to share. Everyone (who wants to) shares the headline they wrote about, and the opposing headline with the same facts. The “opposite” headlines will be collected and written at the front of the room. The students then vote on which opposing headline they think presents the same facts but in the most different or creative way. The one with the most votes will be the starting point for the discussion. What makes it different? How would the story be told differently from this different headline?

How are the new stories different? How are they similar?

Can different headlines imply different stories?

Can the headlines say something, or imply something, without actually saying it?

Is truth the same as non-fiction?

At the end, they will be asked, again, “how true is the news?”

This lesson plan was contributed by Kris Skotheim.