Photo by Samantha Celera
In 6th grade, Houghton Mifflin’s Theme Two begins with the comprehension strategy of “Fact and Opinion.” A quick pre-assessment shows that my class has a solid grasp on the difference between fact and opinion, so how can I up-level my instruction?
I realized that my students had an assumption that facts are “good” and opinions are “bad.” So my differentiated lesson became centered on challenging this belief. I decided to incorporate the idea of “bias” into our reading.
“Using only facts, can an author tell a lie?”
Ask students to brainstorm all the great things about Pepsi (my district uses Thinking Maps, so we used a Tree Map with “positive” and “negative” branches). Make certain to limit this to facts, eliminating anything like “tastes great.” Then brainstorm all the negative facts about Pepsi.
Ask students what they think of ads that only use positive facts about Pepsi? Is it a lie to tell children that Pepsi will give them energy and is filled with sweet sugar yet leave out the fact that it contains over 100 calories, weakens bones, and can lead to diabetes?
On the other hand, is it a lie to only tell children that Pepsi is a health risk but not let them in on the fact that many people like the sweet taste?
Taking It To The Text
Now read the text. In our selection, “Amelia Earhart: First Lady of Flight,” Amelia is portrayed in a pretty positive light. But I challenged my class to also look for negative facts about her. Quickly, students uncovered facts revealing that Amelia wasn’t a perfect pilot.
After building a graphic organizer, ask students to judge whether the author showed a balanced (or “unbiased”) view or was she positively or negatively biased?
Using negative and positive facts, students can answer higher level judgement questions. I could use the following questions to assess students’ understanding of the selection:
- “Judge whether the author wrote in a biased way about Amelia.”
- “Judge whether Amelia’s crash was a tragedy or a result of her own actions.”
- Provide students with another text about Amelia and ask them to judge the author’s credibility by comparing the facts in both selections.
If you have the time, consider extending this activity:
- Develop a biased version of the selection using only negative or positive facts.
- Incorporate a propaganda study, teaching the various methods of .
- Investigate how advertising presents biased points of view of products.
- Create an unbiased version of a popular advertisement (consider dubbing new audio over a popular commercial in computer lab).
- If it’s election time, and your students are old enough, ask them to look for unbiased sources of information for the upcoming election.