Start by reviewing relevant vocabulary and making sure
all students have the background knowledge and language
to understand the issues. Once all students can retell the
gist of the message, ask them to consider how they would
determine whether they could believe everything they read
on the Internet. Using the alligator tale as an example, you
might guide your class to include tasks that require them to
use a variety of skills to:
• Understand more detailed content about the alligator
• Communicate among themselves and with others
• Think creatively about types of useful resources that
might shed light on the issue
• Assess the veracity of the information they will encounter
• Produce a well-supported conclusion as a group
The Center for Media Literacy has a great free kit to
help students assess the truthfulness of information. The
kit includes lessons based on five core concepts of media
literacy. Present these five key questions based on the core
concepts and model how they might be answered:
• Who created this message?
• What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?
• How might different people understand the message
differently than I do?
• What values, lifestyles, and points of view are represented
in or omitted from this message?
• Why is this message being sent?
These questions (and their simpler versions provided in
the kit) give learners a structure for their inquiry but are
open ended, so students must call on their critical thinking
skills to answer them well and to determine the veracity of
The kit also includes essential questions for teachers that
will help you avoid personal or cultural bias and to value
the perspectives of all students:
• Am I trying to tell the students what the message is?
Or am I giving them the skills to determine what they
think the message(s) might be?
• Have I let students know that I am open to accepting
their interpretation, as long as it is well substantiated,
or have I conveyed the message that my interpretation
is the only correct view?
• At the end of the lesson, are students likely to be more
analytical? Or more cynical?
The Student Process
Have students split up the work of solving the alligator issue.
They might brainstorm inquiry topics such as alligator habitat, sewer composition, and other alligator stories. Then they
should follow a problem-solving process:
1. Students compile everything they know about the topic
and then figure out what else they need to know to help
examine all sides of their topic and how they would go
about getting that knowledge. Students consult library
resources, conduct interviews with experts, and use
Net Trekker d.i., a school-focused Web browser, to find
resources. Because the websites in Net Trekker d.i. are
ranked by readability level and the program includes
translations, images, and other scaffolds, the ELLs in
the class could choose readings that are accessible to
them. The students use Google Docs to record, share,
and edit their answers.
2. Next, students categorize information by finding relationships among the pieces, evaluate data sources using the essential questions, decide which aspects of the
data are the most important, synthesize their answers
about the material, and decide what the implications
are. For this stage they can use the software Rationale,
which allows them to create clear visual and text-based
representations of the argument they are developing.
3. Finally, students integrate data from all groups, come
to a decision, and evaluate the decision-making process. By following a semi-structured process, all students should be able to defend their decisions about
whether there are alligators in the New York City sewers. The ELLs can participate by using technologies
that provide differentiated resources and multimodal
presentation of data.