Teach your students foundational news and media literacy skills with these free lesson plans.

Photo of three students outdoors, looking at a laptop and talking

News and Media Literacy begins with the foundational skills and strategies that students need to think critically about the news stories, images, and videos they see online. In our connected world, we encounter new information all the time, and there is no greater power than the ability to filter, discern, and wield that information. Thinking critically means knowing where news stories come from, what purpose they serve, and how credible they are. 

To help students build a strong foundation of news and media literacy, use these free, ready-to-teach lessons from our K-12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum. With each lesson, you'll help your students put the news in context, identify bias and misinformation, and apply the critical news and media literacy skills they'll need to become responsible consumers and creators of media.

Note: All of these lessons are free, but in order to get access, you'll need to register on our site or sign in.

Elementary News and Media Literacy Lessons

Let's Give Credit
With so much information at their fingertips, help students learn what it means to "give credit" when using content they find online. Taking on the role of a detective, students will learn why it's important to give credit and the right ways to do it when they use words, images, or ideas that belong to others.

Is Seeing Believing?
The web is full of photos, and even videos, that are digitally altered. And it's often hard to tell the difference between what's real and what's fake. Help your students ask critical questions about why someone might alter a photo or video in the first place.

A Creator's Rights and Responsibilities
It's common for kids to use images they find online for school projects or just for fun. But kids don't often understand which images are OK to use and which ones aren't. Help your students learn about the rights and responsibilities they have when it comes to the images they create and use.

Reading News Online
Kids find and read news in lots of different ways. But studies show they're not very good at interpreting what they see. How can we help them get better? Teaching your students about the structure of online news articles is an important place to start.

You Won't Believe This!
The internet is full of catchy headlines and outrageous images, all to make us curious and get our attention. But kids don't usually realize: What you click on isn't always what you get. Show your students the best ways to avoid clickbait online.

Middle School News and Media Literacy Lessons

Finding Credible News
The web is full of questionable stuff, from rumors and inaccurate information to outright lies and so-called fake news. So how do we help students weed out the bad and find what's credible? Help students dig into why and how false information ends up online in the first place, and then practice evaluating the credibility of what they're finding online.

The Four Factors of Fair Use
Kids can be voracious consumers -- and creators -- of media, and it's easier than ever for them to find and share digital content online. But do middle schoolers know about concepts like fair use, copyright, and public domain? Give students a framework they can use to better understand how fair use works in the real world.

This Just In!
With mobile phone alerts, social media updates, and 24/7 news cycles, it's hard to escape the daily flood of breaking news. But do kids really understand what they're seeing when stories first break? Help students analyze breaking news with a critical eye for false or incomplete information, and discuss the downsides of our "always-on" news media culture.

High School News and Media Literacy Lessons

Hoaxes and Fakes
We know not to believe everything we hear, but what about what we see? Advancements in computer-generated graphics, facial recognition, and video production have led to a world of viral videos that are often difficult to identify as fake. Help your students learn to read what they see on the web "laterally" by showing them how to get off the page, check credibility, and find corroboration.

Challenging Confirmation Bias
Our brains are great at using past experiences to make quick decisions on the fly, but these shortcuts can also lead to bias. "Confirmation bias" is our brain's tendency to seek out information that confirms things we already think we know. Help your students learn to recognize this when they encounter news online, as a way to examine competing opinions and ideas and to avoid drawing questionable conclusions.

Clicks for Cash
Well-crafted headlines benefit everyone. They help readers digest information and publishers sell news stories. But what if the headline is misleading? What if it's crafted just to get clicks, or even to spread disinformation? "Clickbait" headlines may benefit advertisers and publishers, but they don't benefit readers. Help students recognize and analyze clickbait when they see it.

Filter Bubble Trouble
When we get news from our social media feeds, it often tells us only part of the story. Our friends -- and the website's algorithms -- tend to feed us perspectives we already agree with. Show students ways to escape the filter bubble and make sure their ideas about the world are being challenged.

Image courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.

Daniel Vargas Campos

Daniel Vargas Campos is an Education Content Specialist at Common Sense Education. He develops research-backed educational resources that support young people to thrive in a digitally interconnected world. He has over 4 years of experience as a content creator in the education technology space. Prior to joining Common Sense Education, Daniel was a graduate instructor and researcher at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education where he studied the impact of educational technologies in the lives of students from non-dominant backgrounds. He holds an MA in Social and Cultural Studies from UC Berkeley and a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Tufts University.