Oct 31 2006

Multi-Level Lesson Plan

Middle school students surf the Internet and learn how to separate fact from fiction in cyberspace.

THE INTERNET IS OVERFLOWING WITH falsehoods, hoaxes, misleading propaganda and outright lies. It’s easy for adults, let alone young students, to be misled. At Mountain Ridge Middle School in Colorado Springs, Colo., students learn how to conduct research on the Internet and to critically evaluate the accuracy of online information.

Lesson description: This lesson incorporates computer applications, research, critical thinking, creative writing and an understanding of ethics. Students are taken on a journey to discover how the Internet and e-mails might contain any number of lies and hoaxes by using the following WebQuest:

The final project requires them to create a creature and an accompanying story. Throughout most of this guided lesson, students’ ethics and critical thinking skills are challenged. In addition to learning various computer tools and applications, they also learn to be savvier when gathering information. We want them to discern that what might appear to be real might be false — and to ask intelligent questions.

Subject area: This lesson plan is geared for fifth-to 12th-grade students. It can easily be customized to reach a wide range of learners. Instead of using the more advanced articles provided online, teachers can provide age-appropriate reading material to emphasize the difference between true and false information. The culminating project could be used for young-to-adult writers. The more advanced the writer, the more complicated the story could be.

Standards: This lesson ties into several of the International Society for Technology in Education’s National Educational Technology Standards for Students. It also meets a number of Colorado and national reading standards.

Resources: Students need Internet-connected computers equipped with Microsoft Word. Digital cameras and Adobe Photoshop and other image-editing programs are optional.

The following Web sites contain my lesson plan, examples of student hoaxes, copyright-friendly photos and other information to encourage your students to become critical thinkers:

• A WebQuest will guide the lesson:
• Bogus or not?
• Group discussion:
• Examples of students’ hoaxes:
• Switch Zoo:
• GeekPhilosopher:
• Pics4Learning:
• My manipulations using Pics4Learning, GeekPhilosopher and Photoshop:
• Manipulations created using Switch Zoo:


Students are graded based on their accurate completion of the KLW (what you know, what you learn and what you want to learn) document and the hoax-or-not document. Teachers should know that the only true scenario on the hoax-or-not document is the woman who accidentally swallowed a fork.

When evaluating this document, teachers should pay attention to the sites used by the students. If teachers don’t recognize the source, they may want to question the students about it. There is a rubric provided on the WebQuest for the final project under the Evaluation link.


My WebQuest can easily be customized. If teachers are unable to access the Switch Zoo site, they can have the students take digital photos and use image-manipulating programs or find Photoshop manipulations online to write their final story. Students are welcome to use images from my Web site: http://www.kidsnetsoft.com/html/switch.html. (If they use Switch Zoo photos, please credit Switch Zoo.) Pics4Learning and GeekPhilosopher also provide copyright-friendly images.

Chris Clementi is a computer teacher at Mountain Ridge Middle School in Colorado Springs, Colo. She is currently working on her master’s degree in technology in education.