Q5: Fake or Real News

9. Search Strategies


Do you know which sites are reporting the truth? Can you tell the difference between real and fake information? When a story is big news, it is often quick to spread. The spread of fake news is often through circular reporting. Fake news spins a tall tale, often seen through our own biases or filter bubbles. How do we know when it’s fact or fiction?  This Quest features several additional activities, including a Digital Breakout Challenge.

I Can Statements

  • tell the difference between real and fake news
  • fact check an article

Key Vocabulary

Circular Reporting: Circular reporting is a situation where a piece of information appears to come from multiple independent sources, but in fact is coming from only one source.

Embellish: To embellish is to tell stories that are more interesting or entertaining by adding extra details, especially ones that are not true.

Filter Bubbles: Filter bubbles, according to Dr Seargeant, "are implicated in the spread of fake news because they create conditions in which one-sided and extreme opinions can freely circulate and where information is not easily challenged."

Paparazzi: Paparazzi are photographers who follow famous people to get images for newspapers, magazines, social media, or other outlets.

Note: There is also a Digital Breakout Challenge Activity with this Quest. Check with your teacher about working as a team to solve it.

Play the interactive Quizlet Game: Direct Link


Fake news has been around a long time, with journalists or the paparazzi stretching the truth to sell their stories. Consider the true story about two very famous rival newspaper owners in the 1890's, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. These men fought for the attention of their readers by liberally embellishing stories to sell newspapers. 

Today journalism is not much different, with the television media filled with entertainment news, reality TV, and the spread of sensationalized stories on social media. Due to the speed that news can now travel, circular reporting is a new phenomenon that is causing the quick spread of fake news. 

1. Watch this video on "How False News Can Spread" and learn more about circular reporting. 

Direct link to this video

2. Circular reporting, or the spread of fake news, can often cause a filter bubble, or a place where our own biases allow fake news to continue to spread with no one questioning the source. During this Quest, you are asked to pop the filter bubble by spotting and defeating the spread of fake news.

filter bubble

3. Watch the video below. These are things you should be looking for as you read articles on the Internet to help you tell the difference between real and fake news. 


4. Let’s pop the filter bubble by questioning what we read! If possible, with a partner and do a search on stealing water from the Great Lakes. Find at least two articles on this topic. Using the criteria in the poster above read through the articles and determine how accurate and real the reporting is. Use this Word Template to share with your teacher the answers to your questions. 

Answer the following questions:

  • Who wrote the article? Are they credible or real?
  • What is the copyright date of the article? Are the facts reported matching the copyright date?
  • Are there supporting sources? Do the links actually support the story?
  • Have experts in the field been connected to the story or authored the information?

Share the names and web links to the articles you read with your teacher and be sure to include the answers to each of the four questions above.

Every day there are political news stories that are published that are deceptive and misleading. There are three fact-checking sites to explore: FactCheck.orgSnopes, and PolitiFact. Compare these sites and select one to use to check whether or not the political article you just read is accurate. These sites monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.

5. Your assignment is to visit to a popular news site such as CNN, ABC News, Huffington Post, or Fox News. Find a trending political news story. (you might want to find the same story on one or more news sites)

6. Next compare the information with one or more of these fact-checking sites:  FactCheck.org, Snopes, or PolitiFact, and see if the story is listed on the site. If not, go back and look for another story to check on. If you can work with two partners you can quickly collect and compare your results together.

7. Use a word processing program to answer the following questions. 

  • What do the fact-check sites say about your story?
  • How accurate is the reporting? 

8. If you feel your story seems to be fake and you do not find anything on the fact-checking sites, look to see if you can Ask a Question. You can ask your question by filling out a short form. You will have to give an email address. If you don't have one, ask your parent/guardian or teacher if you can use theirs to have the fact-check site email the answer.

9. Share the story's headline and its URL with your teacher along with the facts about the story. If you sent a question, include the question and the answer once you have received it. 

10. An additional resource to watch is a TedTalk "How We can Protect Truth in the Age of Misinformation". It is 15 minutes long and talks about how fake news can sway elections, tank economies and sow discord in everyday life.

  • Your teacher may choose to watch this together as a class and discuss afterward. 

Note: If you do not know what a 21t4s Digital Breakout Activity is, open the content box on the right above the Printer icon, read and watch the video for hints.

Check with your teacher about working with a partner or with others as a team.

Solve this Digital Breakout Challenge Activity by locating the five keys. Remember to look the page over first, then launch your timer and jot down the time you took to solve this.

Direct Link to the Breakout

Screenshot of the Opening image of Fake or Real: Can you tell? Breakout activity.

Once you unlock it, you might want to take a screenshot of the Award for your portfolio, or check with your teacher.

Please be sure to tell us what you think of this Breakout Activity so that we can meet your needs. Teachers and Students use this link for a very short survey about this breakout

Test your observational skills with one or more of the following:

This activity is from Common Sense Media.

The Teacher Guide and Directions for Students.

Before screening the video, ask students to take notes while they watch and to write down the five values.

  • Show the Ethical Journalism Network video "The 5 Core Values of Journalism." or
  • Optional: Hand out copies of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.

View this resource Young Voters Guide to Social Media and the News from Common Sense Media. There are resources for parents and tools for teachers on the site too.

Completing this Quest

Save all your activities in your File Space. After completing, continue using the handy tips you learned for knowing what is real or fake. You can help by not passing on fake news to your friends and family.

Extend this Quest: Use the fact-check tools FactCheck.org,  Snopes, and PolitiFact on another article for a different class, or some “Facts” shared on a social media post or posted by or about a performing artist.

   I am ready for the next Quest, Advanced Search With Google

MITECS  Michigan Integrated Technology Competencies for Students, and

ISTE Standards for Students

1. Empowered Learner
d. Understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations, demonstrate the ability to choose, use and troubleshoot current technologies, are able to transfer their knowledge to explore emerging technologies

2. Digital Citizen
a. Cultivate and manage their digital identity and reputation and are aware of the permanence of their actions in the digital world
b. Engage in positive, safe, legal and ethical behavior when using technology, including social interactions online or when using networked devices
d. Demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property

3. Knowledge Constructor
a. Plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits
b. Evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources

A Digital Breakout may also be called a Digital Escape Room.

This is a web-based, game-like activity where students use clues to unlock a series of puzzles or activities to solve a challenge (or to escape a digital room).

Students frequently work together, (conference, or chat) as they work to locate and solve clues.

For additional help  to solve a breakout view this short video (3:44).

How to Spot Fake News