Evaluating the Authenticity of Websites

Attention Grabber

It is so important that students learn to think critically about information found online. I decided to grab students’ attention by introducing the following (fake) websites and requesting student feedback.

  • Third Graders: Dog Island Preface: My dog has been acting up. Should I send her on a vacation to Dog Island?
  • Fourth Graders: The Northwest Tree Octopus Preface: I found this amazing creature online and realized it was endangered. Should we start a school fundraiser?
  • Fifth Graders: All About Explorers Preface: We will be learning about different explorers this year.  Would this website be a good resource for me to recommend to for student research?

The results were far from shocking.

Grade 3: Third graders decided I should NOT send my dog to Dog Island as it did not seem like a nice place. However, they did not question the website’s authenticity.

Grade 4: Fourth graders voted to save the Northwest Tree Octopus.  Only a couple of students seemed confused while learning that this octopus lived in a tree. But, they still did not question the authenticity of the website. Only one student raised their hand to share that they thought “something is wrong with the website.”

Grade 5: Roughly a quarter of the fifth graders picked up on the false information. I politely asked those students to hold their thoughts until after I asked the class to vote if we should use this website as a resource. The majority of the students still voted YES!

Action Taken

Predictably, after I revealed the objective of this lesson the students laughed and pretended like they knew the websites were “fake” the entire time. We then talked about how we can evaluate websites for authenticity and brainstormed many different ideas.

Students then used this Google Sheets checklist to go back and evaluate the authenticity of the website using the 5 W’s:

  • Who wrote the information?
  • Where did the author get their information?
  • What is the purpose of this website?
  • When was the site last updated?
  • Why is this site useful for your research?

Evaluating Website Google Sheet Template: Click USE TEMPLATE to modify.

Here is a template you may use with your students.

Not only was this lesson extremely important; but it was also extremely fun! Many students laughed as they exited the classroom stating, “You got us again, Mrs. Boucher! Not next year!” Hopefully, they are correct.

Lesson Slideshow

An amazing reader sent me a fabulous Google Slides lesson they created using this blog post. Check it out here! (Somehow, I cannot find the name of the teacher that created and sent me this Slideshow, so if it was you, please send me an email so I can give you credit!)

How do you teach students to evaluate website authenticity? Have any great resources you’d like to share?

Passionate about all things edtech.


4 Responses

  1. This is a great tool, thank you for so much sharing! I’m sending this to all my teacher friends but I have a question: I wonder how a student could count 8 checkmarks if the only checkmarks counted are those from the last section where there are only 7 boxes? Am I missing a row?

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