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A Civic Online Reasoning Module for High School

Students are confused about how to evaluate online information. We all are. The Civic Online Reasoning (COR) curriculum provides free lessons and assessments that help you prepare students for civic life in the digital age by teaching students to skillfully evaluate online information about issues that affect them, their communities, and the world.

Based on their observations of professional fact checkers at the nation’s leading news outlets, the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) identified the strategies experts use to sort fact from fiction on the Internet and developed a curriculum to improve student reasoning about websites, viral videos, social media posts, and more. Research studies have shown that students in COR classrooms improved significantly in their ability to evaluate online sources.

High School Sequence

The Internet makes it possible for anyone to publish online, making a wide variety of sources readily available. This can be a strength of the Internet, as it democratizes the creation and sharing of information and enables new forms of civic participation, but it also allows misinformation to proliferate online. In order to use the Internet for effective civic participation, we must build skills to effectively evaluate digital sources, evidence, and claims. Otherwise, we risk being duped.

This module opens with a formative assessment to measure your students’ baseline skills for evaluating online content. Next, teachers use three lessons that introduce lateral reading—a strategy used by fact checkers that entails leaving an unfamiliar website and opening new tabs to search for what trusted sources say about the site. Next is a lesson introducing click restraint—the skill of resisting the urge to immediately click on a top result of a search engine results page and instead pausing to make an intentional decision about where to click first. The final lesson focuses on how to verify claims made on social media.

Learning the skills of lateral reading, click restraint, and verifying social media claims can improve our judgments about digital content, allowing us to make better informed decisions and thus take more effective action in our communities.

Short intro for students:

When we want to learn about issues that affect ourselves and our community, like elections, the environment, health, and equality, where do we often turn? The internet. But it can be hard to tell what's true and what's false online. In this unit, you will learn strategies to improve how you judge information online. Knowing what to trust and what to ignore will help you find better information so that you can make informed decisions about issues that matter to you and those around you. This will help you to create positive change in your community and the world.

For high school teachers, here's one option for an instructional sequence: 

  1. Assess students’ baseline with 3 tasks.
    a. Website Reliability Assessment - Carbon Dioxide
    b. Webpage Comparison Assessment
    c. Evaluating Videos Assessment
  2. Teach lateral reading lessons.
    a. DAY 1 Intro to Lateral Reading Lesson - level 2
    b. DAY 2 Lateral Reading Resources & Practice Lesson
    c. DAY 3 Lateral vs. Vertical Reading Lesson - level 2
  3. Teach click restraint lesson.
    DAY 4 Click Restraint Lesson - level 1 or 2
  4. Teach verifying claims on social media lesson.
    DAY 5 Verifying Claims on Social Media Lesson
  5. Assess students’ progress with 3 parallel tasks.
    a. Website Reliability Assessment - Climate Change
    b. Webpage Comparison Assessment - Animal Testing
    c. Evaluating Videos Assessment - Child Soldiers
  6. (Optional) Provide additional lateral reading practice.
    Lateral Reading About Renewable Energy Lesson
  7. (Optional) Provide additional click restraint practice.
    a. Practicing Click Restraint Lesson
  8. (Optional) Teach evaluating evidence lessons.
    a. Evaluating Evidence Lesson
    b. Evaluating Evaluating Videos Lesson
    c. Evaluating Photos Lesson
    d. Evaluating Data Lesson
    e. Evaluating Evidence About Climate Change Lesson
  9. (Optional) Provide additional practice with verifying claims on social media.
    Porvenir Massacre Lesson
  10. (Optional) Incorporate additional opportunities for students to practice lateral reading with this template.

High School Instructional Module