Evaluating the Authenticity of Websites

The Objective

This month, students in grades 3-5 evaluated the authenticity of three different websites. We know students must learn to evaluate websites as they often believe anything and everything that they read online. Students forget that anyone may create a website, so it our job to question whether or not the author is creditable. Also, students must be reminded that some websites may have creditable authors, but the information may now be outdated. Or, the website’s purpose may be to entertain or persuade, rather than to inform. If we are going to teach students how to use search engines and conduct research, then we must show them how to evaluate the search results.

The Lesson

Each class had roughly 15-20 minutes to explore the websites on their own. Fourth and fifth grade students had received the same lesson the year prior, only they were presented with a different website.

I introduced the following (fake) websites by stating that I would appreciate some student opinions before I started a project.

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

Assistive Technology: Read and Write for Google Chrome Extension

Since not all students are able to read at grade level, I reminded students to use the Read and Write for Google extension to help them read text aloud and define words. We used the highlight collector to highlight important information to support our opinions and then collected the highlights into a Google Doc. I find this extension to be extremely helpful with any and all reading activities.

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 students seemed confused while learning that this octopus lived in a tree. But, they still did not question the websites authenticity. 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

After I revealed the objective of this lesson, students laughed and pretended like they knew the websites were “fake” the whole time. But, in reality they absolutely did not. 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.

Evaluating Websites PDF: If you choose to print hardcopy

Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 9.41.48 PMConclusion

Not only was this lesson extremely important; 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.

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