‘Fake News’! Helping Students Navigate the Web

There is a lot of misinformation out there. How do you help your learners find the facts?

The idea for this lesson started when Ontario introduced the new Sex Education Curriculum in 2015. My students wanted to talk about it and everyone had a different idea about what was in this curriculum. I was shocked to find out that their information had come mostly from Facebook.

We talked about finding the source. What organization is the source for Ontario curriculum? The Ontario government.

We googled “Ontario” and “Education”. We looked at the list and the URLs that came up. Ontario government websites usually end in .gov.on.ca. We found the curriculum and students were able to read it at home (with their dictionary apps) Victory!  Many of my students were surprised that this information was public.


What other information do you want to know? We brainstormed a list. Then brainstormed what level of government or news sites would be a reliable source for that information.

We looked at URLs for municipal, provincial and federal government websites. We noticed the standard endings for those URLS. We looked at URLs for Canadian newspapers and news sites. Again, we noticed their URLs. Some students noticed that some URLs that came up on our search were “sponsored” or had “ad” next to the URL. That was a revelation.

Back to that Ontario Sex Curriculum brouhaha. Given that the original document was quite long and complicated, we decided to search on Google for a summary. Search strategies in hand, we eventually found that the Toronto Star had summarized it in simpler language. Victory again!


This whole process made me realize how hard it is to distinguish fake information from facts, especially in a second language. Giving our learners strategies to help them make this distinction helps them find and navigate information in English more efficiently. Whenever my students have a question about current events, finding information, etc., we search it together and look for the source!

How do I implement this in the classroom?

I use a lot of authentic reading material in the classroom. Whenever the information is available online, we find it together as a class. Here are the steps:

  • Brainstorming keywords to google
  • Critically looking at what comes up in the search
  • Avoiding “sponsored” links and “ads”
  • Looking at URLs for government or Canadian news sites, etc.
  • Navigating the website homepage menu

I have already prepared the reading activity and know which website I am going to use. Doing this “pre-reading” task helps learners practice these strategies as a class and hopefully they will be able to apply it on their own as they improve.

What has been your experience with teaching about sourcing information? Do you have strategies that you use, or a lesson you can share?

Diane Ramanathan has been a LINC Home Study instructor with The Centre for Education and Training since Feb 2014. She is also a part-time professor for the TESL program at Algonquin College.


2 thoughts on “‘Fake News’! Helping Students Navigate the Web”

  1. Hello Diane,
    There is fake news and there is biased information. A website to check the latter is https://mediabiasfactcheck.com
    I also tell students to watch out for absolutes that sound like factual claims such as the verb ‘to be’ in the present or past simple, end of the spectrum adverbs of frequency (always & never), determiners as in ‘all’ and ‘most‘ or number figures without statistical proof, which usually lead to empty promises.
    Inviting the school or local librarian is also a good idea. It’s my way to introduce a primary source that passes the CRAAP test: Credible, Relevant, Authoritative, Accurate, Purposeful.

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