Boost students’ news literacy skills as they return to school

As our young people head back to school, it’s important that they continue to develop the key skills of media literacy – resilience, empathy, creativity, communication and critical thinking. So, I’m pleased to be able to share information from our partner, First News Education, whose Creating News Reading Communities school resource has been built specifically to help teachers boost their students’ news literacy skills, enabling them to navigate today’s media landscape with confidence.

At First News, their fundamental belief is that, if the world is to become a better place, the next generation has to be better informed than the last. Since their launch in 2006, they’ve been committed to publishing unbiased, non-partisan news written especially for 7-13 year olds and their school resources further that mission by developing kids’ ability to identify fact, opinion and bias, and to tell the reliable news from the fake.

An independent evaluation by the National Literacy Trust, found pupils made significantly more reading progress than expected and a particular improvement in their inference and deduction skills when classes used First News’ resources as part of their regular curriculum. First News worked with the NLT to develop a resource pack enabling teachers to harness the benefits of news reading in their classroom community.  These activities are designed to make it easy for you to introduce news reading to your pupils and, ultimately, to encourage these students to become regular news readers.

A newspaper is a unique type of non-fiction text that exposes children to a wide range of topics, opinions, issues and types of information, on a regular schedule. Reading a newspaper takes them on a journey around the world, increasing their understanding of different places, people and ways of life. Along the way, they encounter stories from all areas of the curriculum.

Young people enjoy the element of choice involved in reading news, meaning they read it for pleasure as well as for information, and they particularly love to be informed about the world around them. The effort needed is relatively low due to the concise style of writing; even reluctant readers can access and enjoy reading news from just a few short paragraphs.

Recent world events mean that primary-aged children have begun discussing news in the playground. This, alongside the rise of social media, means the need to question and analyse the information we come across has never been more important. Primary pupils need to understand how news is put together, the difference between reliable and unreliable sources and to build up critical media literacy skills before they have unguided access to the internet.

Bringing news into the classroom supports children to consider controversial topics and understand different points of view. It also provides a chance to discuss any misunderstandings or worries they have in a structured, safe setting.

Sign up now to receive First News’ Creating News Reading Communities email taster course and harness the power of news reading in your classroom this autumn term.

Good luck with the new school year and we hope you enjoy these fantastic resources from First News!

Best wishes

Rachel Barber-Mack

Director of Media Smart

P.S. Did you know we have 11 FREE resources for educators, parents and guardians? Including lessons, films and guides on Body Image, Social Media,  Influencer Marketing, Piracy & IP, Creative Careers, TikTok and Instagram.

Here are a few of the latest ones available for you to download and share today…

How to Spot Greenwashing

For 11-17 yrs | Key stage 3, 4 & 5

Greenwashing is when companies use marketing to appear more environmentally friendly than they are. And according to the UK Government, 40% of ‘green’ claims made online could be misleading.

With our unique focus on advertising literacy, we have invaluable insights from young people on this topic and Media Smart is delighted to announce that we’ve created a simple five-point guide and short film which can be shared in the classroom, assembly or at home explaining what greenwashing is… so young people can spot it, report it and ultimately help to stop it.

TikTok: Adverts, Creators and You

For 13-17 yrs / Secondary school / Key stage 3, 4 & 5 / + SEND version

This exciting, film-based educational resource, featuring successful TikTok Creators, will empower 13-17 year-olds with the tools they need to navigate TikTok’s commercial side, ensuring they have the most positive online experience possible. It should also assist teachers, parents and carers who want to supplement their own knowledge to help young people confidently and securely use the platform.

Influencer Marketing

For 11-14 yrs / Secondary school / Key stage 3

Media Smart’s latest resource is aimed at helping teens understand the commercial link between social influencers and the brands they may be promoting. The rising number of social influencers in young people’s lives has prompted us to create a film-based PSHE teaching resource, the first of its kind to tackle this area of marketing.

How to manage your online advert experience

For 11-16 yrs / Secondary school / Key stage 3

In this new resource, we feature an animated film and classroom materials to support pupil discussions around interest-based advertising, why it exists, and how young people can best manage it. Students may be surprised to learn that this sort of advertising funds so many of the free platforms they use every day, from apps and websites to search engines.

First News reports on Piracy Education

Media Smart’s Director, Rachel Barber-Mack, wrote a special report on Film and TV Piracy Education for the UK’s national newspaper for young people.

One to show the kids in your life who might be pirating content or thinking about doing so!

Click to enlarge or download PDF

What is media literacy and why is it so important?

Media Smart provides free media literacy teaching resources for 7-11 and 11-16 year olds. These resources focus on topics like advertising, digital advertising and social media. From explaining what an advert is to designing your own advert, our lesson plans are engaging as well as educational.

We also provide resources and a short film on the effects of the media on young people’s body image. These free teaching materials are being used in school assemblies and lessons. And they’re used as activities and presentations in youth organisations.

Media Smart’s resources take the pain out of PSHE lesson planning. We have done all the research and preparation for you.

We also provide free parent and guardian guides. It’s important for adults as well as young people to be digital as well as media literate.

But why is it important for young people and adults to be media literate? And what exactly is media literacy?

Rather than tell you what we think, we thought we’d share some of our favourite quotes on the subject……

Media Literacy is the ability to identify different types of media and understand the messages they’re sending. Kids take in a huge amount of information from a wide array of sources, far beyond the traditional media (TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines) of most parents’ youth.

There are text messages, memes, viral videos, social media, video games, advertising, and more. But all media shares one thing: Someone created it. And it was created for a reason”.

Common Sense Media

“Give children and young adults resilienceinformation and power, and hence open up the internet to them as a place where they can be citizens not just users”.

Anne Longfield Children’s Commissioner for England.

“The more that the media mediate everything in society – work, education, information, civic participation, social relationships and more – the more vital it is that people are informed about and critically able to judge what’s useful or misleading, how they are regulated, when media can be trusted, and what commercial or political interests are at stake. In short, media literacy is needed not only to engage with the media but to engage with society through the media”.

Professor Sonia Livingstone

“When people talk to me about the digital divide, I think of it not so much about who has access to what technology as about who knows how to create and express themselves in the new language of the screen. If students aren’t taught the language of sound and images, shouldn’t they be considered as illiterate as if they left college without being able to read and write?”

George Lucas

“Media literacy is not just important, it’s absolutely critical. It’s going to make the difference between whether kids are a tool of the mass media or whether the mass media is a tool for kids to use.”

Linda Ellerbee

“All this stuff – about the materiality of the network, what it’s made of, and how it works – should be part of a basic media literacy, because we depend on this technology for more and more aspects of our day-to-day lives.”

Astra Taylor

“Just as we would not traditionally assume that someone is literate if they can read but not write, we should not assume that someone possesses media literacy if they can consume but not express themselves”

Henry Jenkins

“Today young people grow up in a world of commercial messaging that touches most areas of their lives and so it is more important than ever that they understand exactly what is being suggested, promised and sold to them through the adverts they see every day”. Mark Lund, Chairman of Media Smart and UK Group CEO at McCann Worldgroup

“I have never seen a tool that is as phenomenally empowering as the internet, for so little effort. I have met from people all over the country, from Bridlington to Bournemouth, saying it has helped them get back to work, helped them get their life back on track. I believe it’s worth spending the time showing people who haven’t had the money or exposure, the benefits.”

Martha Lane Fox

“Rather than just teaching children about internet safety and reducing their digital footprint, we should also encourage them to curate a positive digital footprint which will be an asset for them in their future.”

Rachel Buchanan

“Media Literacy … provides a framework to access, analyse, evaluate, create and participate with messages in a variety of forms — from print to video to the Internet. Media literacy builds an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for citizens of a democracy.”

Center for Media Literacy