Sunday, 4 February 2018

Fake News and Conspiracy Theory: Listening and Speaking Activities

Students discuss the difference between real news and fake news, and practise their speaking, and listening skills.

I wanted to address an issue that is growing on the web and among young (and not so young) people: discerning the difference between real news and fake news.

This lesson includes listening activities on conspiracy theories and fake news.

1. Conspiracy theory:

I explained and brainstormed the term "conspiracy theory". Surprisingly - and worryingly if I dare say - some students did not know what a conspiracy theory was. So it really felt like I was teaching them not just how to speak or listen to English, but also how to understand what they read or hear, and be cautious about the content of online articles and videos.

Students then listened to a 2-minute video and took notes. I only showed them the video at the end, as the video is subtitled in English and I really wanted to get them to focus on what they heard. 

I gave them the words lunar module and crater beforehand. Crater is not a difficult word as it is transparent, but students are not usually familiar with the American pronunciation of the letter 't'. For instance, they tend to find it hard to spot words like twenty, international or integration in a listening when they are spoken with an American accent.

Moon landing explained

2. Fake news:

We also did a listening activity on the first 2 minutes and a half of an NPR podcast called 'Stanford Study Finds Most Students Vulnerable to Fake News'. I got the students to anticipate the content of the listening from the title as well as the following words: real news, a test, a study, a photo, to influence, to educate, information.

You will find more activities on the worksheet i.e. a gap-fill exercise and questions on the transcript.

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