Getting Students to Evaluate the Authenticity of Websites: Grades 3-12

There are millions of websites and our students are looking for instant gratification when it comes to finding answers. But, students are often using websites that are either not credible, erroneous or not current. So, how do we teach students how to find accurate and solid information in a world where anyone can post anything?

The Lesson

I like to start by playing a little trick on students. The two websites that I often use while teaching students how to evaluate websites are All About Explorers (created by teachers) and the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus.  Both of these websites are not only safe to use with students but also very entertaining!

This week, I started my  lesson by asking students to review one of the assigned website and to share interesting facts with their classmates. It always amazes me when these 4th and 5th grade students shared their learning while stating obvious impossible facts such as “Wow. I never knew an octopus could steal dollar bills!” Or,”I had no idea that they had email back in the 1400s!”

These type of statements tell me two things:

  1. Students continue to believe what they read online is TRUE. We need to make sure they understand that anyone can make a website. It is up to the AUDIENCE to evaluate the website for authenticity before we use it for a reference.
  2. Students need to think for themselves.  We need to urge students debate questionable information. I believe every student knew that electronics were not around in the 1400s and that an octopus cannot climb trees. Yet, not one student in the 4th grade classroom debated the statement. And, only half of the 5th grade students were challenging the ideas. We need students to become independent thinkers.

After explaining the objective of my lesson (and getting quite a chuckle out of the students’ reactions), I introduced the 5 W’s for evaluating the authenticity of websites using this Google Drawing. (Click to make your own copy.)

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Then, we used these two hyperdocs to continue learning how to evaluate websites.

All About Explorers HyperDoc

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Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus

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We need to teach students not only to be independent thinkers, but also to evaluate the millions of online sources at their fingertips. There are so many websites out there that look like they are credible, but are either filled with erroneous or dated information.

How do your students evaluate the authenticity of online sources? Do you use any “fake” websites such as All About Explorers or the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus?

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