A Modest Fake News Story


In our political climate, fake news stories and “alternative facts” are taking over the internet. Students should be taught to be savvy in detecting fake news, but also competent at creating their own critiques.

This lesson plan will empower students to engage critically with media by using humor and satire.

Day One: Meme creation

I love the George Washington memes! They can be a great tool to talk about America’s first president in a modern context.

What makes these funny? A lot of the GW memes are funny because they are things we say today that he would never have said. References to Waffle House, Wonderwall, McDonald’s are all after his time.

This resource guide will provide examples of George Washington memes and then offer pictures that students can relate to in order to create their own memes.


Day Two: Satire

Start by reading the classic text, Jonathan Swift’s A Modest ProposalThen, students can start analyzing the text by going through and underlining the argumentative phrases and circling the most ridiculous claims. Share these ideas out and have a discussion of what makes this piece compelling and at points, funny.

Randy Newman and his song Short People propose a ridiculous hate for short people. It’s a clearly satirical. What are students’ thoughts?

Explore this site, Boestones, which claims to make diamonds out of homeless people. This website brought attention to the humanity of the homeless by creating a website that seems entirely plausible. It’s based on the idea that rich people would commoditze homeless people’s bodies enough to turn them into diamonds that could be purchased.

What social issues today could you come up with a ridiculous proposal to fix? Take 3 minutes to have students write a list of as many pressing social issues as they can. Then discuss with a partner ideas to make humorous proposals.

Day Three: Speaking of Presidents…

Let’s bring together the satirical writing and the meme making. Start give each student a number 1-45 (for each of the U.S. presidents). Have them read blurb on the number president that corresponds to the number they were given in this article by The Onion. Students should read to answer: Why is it funny? What is true and what is false? Have a couple students share examples.

We will have a stronger sense of detecting what is real news and what is fake news with our knowledge of satire.

Let’s write our own fake news stories. Start by using the brainstormed list of social issues. Follow argumentative essay form and use hook sentences to frame your argument.

Now for the icing on top.

What makes a good clickbait title? What picture would you use to accompany your story?


Day Four: What’s the truth?

Start by warming up with a game of telephone. If there’s a better way to see how lies spread, I don’t know it.

With all this writing, let’s breakdown the difference between satire and fake news. Create a venn diagram to compare the two forms. Have students discuss how freedom of speech and trust in the media might be come into play with policies surrounding fake news.

Day 5: Let the articles go viral

Discuss responsible social media use. Now that we’ve created these powerful pieces, how would you spread your message? How can you create real social change with your satire?

To Explore Further

With students who want to go more in depth, it would be great to explore Urintown: The Musical. Northwestern University has one more weekend of the musical left in its run. Especially with current political discussion surrounding bathrooms and transgender use, Urinetownseems particularly timely. I found this great study guide that could drive further conversation.


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