Use Your Words! (Word Choice as a Technique of Persuasion in News Media)

Lesson Instructions

Whole group (15 minutes)

  1. Hook: Teacher distributes equal numbers of post-its to each student and says, “We’re going to play word detectives. Look at these words and organize them in a way that makes sense.” Teacher allows time for students to hypothesize grouping strategies, circulating room, asking guiding questions to prompt inquiry, praising students for working cooperatively or using learned teamwork strategies.
  2. Access prior knowledge: Teacher asks, “What do you know about these words?” (adjective, noun, synonym). Teacher writes student definitions for each on the board, then says, “Synonyms are words that mean the same… But do they really mean the same? Stink Smell Perfume; Hovel House Home; Mutt Dog Pooch?”

Partner (10 minutes)

  1. Think-pair-share formative assessment: Students talk to an elbow partner. Teachers says (pointing to the whiteboard), “Look at these synonym groups and see if you can find a better way to organize them.” Students work with partners at their desk to hypothesize rules for regrouping. If students struggle, provide a visual aid  by drawing a 3 column T-chart. Call on volunteers to come up to the whiteboard to label the columns (positive, neutral, negative) and reorganize the post-its.

Whole group (15 minutes)

  1. Access prior knowledge: Teacher says, “So synonyms can have positive, negative or neutral meaning. But why bother with all these choices when a single word, like dog, would work?” (approximate answer: word choice can help us express our point of view or feelings, which means to show our bias). Students answer with raised hands. To reinforce point, teacher says,  ”Imagine you’ve been asked to talk to a teacher about an argument you overheard at recess. Would the teacher be more likely to believe your story if you used negative, positive, or neutral word choices? What if you were a news reporter? What word choices would be more trustworthy?” At this point, students should understand why bias (a negative or positive point of view) might be used in news reporting.
  2. Jigsaw reading assignment: Teacher distributes student handout, Bias in News Sources (see Media Smarts). Students sit in circle on floor to read single sections then share their understanding with the group.

Individual (20 – 50 minutes)

  1. Summative assessment: Teacher distributes student quiz with cloze and open questions. Students work independently.

Small group (30 minutes)

  1. Extension – student-created project: Students form groups of two or three and choose between creating a memory game with card stock or using Scratch coding on an iPad.

Content Objectives

Define media literacy, noun, adjective, synonym, bias. Whole-group brainstorming process. Think-pair-share process. Partner and small-group collaboration.

Performance Objectives

Demonstrate content knowledge through brainstorming, small-group discussion, and problem solving. Demonstrate application, connect learning to prior knowledge. Work collaboratively in groups. Analyze and evaluate words to sort by shades of meaning. Synthesize learning to formulate biased sentences and create student-made game (digital or card).

Key Concepts/Vocabulary

Understand the concept of bias (a negative or positive opinion about something or someone). Identify a point of view based on word choice. Understand the reasons why bias might occur in news. Recognize the different ways in which bias can occur in news reporting

Essential Questions

Why is word choice important? What is bias? Why might it be used in news reporting? What forms of bias might occur in news reporting?

Modifications/Accommodations for Students Who Need a Challenge

Differentiation for Gifted students – Content: Above grade-level standards, leveled vocabulary. Process: Mixed grouping, student-led, cooperative and problem-based learning, multiple intelligence accommodations (kinesthetic, audio-visual), schema connections, scaffold through guided inquiry and hypothesis testing, student choice, varied pacing. Product: Student-led brainstorming and discussion, worksheet with cloze/open responses, student-created project (digital or card synonym memory game)

Formative Assessment(s)

Teacher observation of shared student responses to guided inquiry, collaborative strategies, problem solving, and overall levels of engagement.

Summative Assessment(s)

Student quiz with cloze and open questions. Students work independently.Extension assessment – Completion of a student-created project: Students form groups of two or three and choose between creating a memory game with card stock or using Scratch coding on an iPad.

Student Self-Assessment

Student-led inquiry, dialogue, hypothesizing, and problem solving.


  • 24 post-its with -ve, +ve, neutral synonyms, Promethean board, white board and markers, thesaurus, iPads, blank cards,, student handout (Bias in News Sources), student worksheet quiz.

URL for External Curriculum

Lesson Duration

90 minutes


1st trimester: Media Literacy Part 1: Techniques of persuasion used in magazines.2nd trimester: Media Literacy Part 2: Techniques of persuasion used in news media.3rd trimester: Media Literacy Part 3: Techniques of persuasion used in advertising.


  • Language Arts
  • Writing


  • Common Core ELA
  • Common Core ELA
  • Language
  • Reading: Informational Text

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Other/Alternative Standard(s)

  • NMSS: Career Readiness (critical thinking)
  • Gifted Strands

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