My tree octopus fake news fail

Here’s one of my favourite things to write about – things that didn’t work! This is a request for ideas from Teacher James and others.

James mentioned using the Pacific North-west Tree Octopus site as a good resource for talking about fake news. There are a lot of lesson plans online for using this site – James himself has a good one (click here). Anyhow, I love the site itself and can certainly see how it would benefit learners to explore it and think critically about its content. Alas, I got it wrong…

I loosely followed Tomlinson’s text-driven approach (which I seem to do a bit too often these days but hey ho!). I’m sure I got a lot of these ideas from an existing plan – maybe something by Jamie Keddie but I’m not entirely sure… Anyway, things started off like this…

…then this…

And onto this…

Which led on to students browsing the site to see if their predictions were correct. This part of the lesson went well – the students were engaged and found the whole thing pretty funny. The big reveal (as if they didn’t know) came along:

That did lead to some discussion, with students pointing out some of the design features of the site which clearly showed it wasn’t legitimate. So far, so good. However, things seem to go downhill when we got to the ‘meat’ of the lesson. I tried to guide students to recognize some of the content and layout features of the site which showed it was fake.

Here’s a webquest I used (in case you want to edit it). It basically consists of this…

This delving deeper with my B1+ students fell on its head a bit. In hindsight, perhaps I could have guided them better and did more microteaching to help them get to grips with the site. There were quite a few moments where the penny dropped for students – like when they recognized the fake languages or some of the humour in the names of the conservation organization names. However, I feel like the interest I had when I planned the lesson just wasn’t there for the learners! Not at this stage anyway, and that was the real meaty bit where I wanted them to think critically. Ah well.

I clawed things back with some language tasks like this…

This provided ideas for content in the development activities. These were things like…

Or along a similar line to the second point…

These final tasks went okay, but the students did seem a bit ‘tree-octopussed out’ by then. I think that the lesson would benefit from more reflection stages, but there’s something else missing I think. It could be obvious, but I can’t put my finger on it.

James, if you get time I’d love to hear your thoughts. You seem like a teacher in the know when it comes to addressing fake news – how can I refine the resources/stages to promote more critical reflection?

All feedback and criticism welcome, cheers!

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