Educator-created preset course: News literacy pre-unit (by Scott Zwierzchowski)

Scott Zwierzchowski teaches civics to students in grades 11 and 12 at Lincoln Park High School in Chicago. In September 2020, he and his colleagues implemented a short news literacy unit to prepare students to evaluate sources and sort fact from fiction throughout the year. Learn more about the news literacy pre-unit and how to assign it to a Checkology course below.

News literacy pre-unit: Course highlights and learning objectives

Please note: For this particular course, the course highlights and learning objectives contain links to outside resources created by Scott Zwierzchowski.

Essential question:

“What does it look like to be an educated information consumer?”


  • Students will be able to achieve mastery in the following unit content topics and skills.

Unit content topics

  • Defining news
  • Media bias
  • Language in news
  • Commentary vs. news

Unit skills

  • Identify news source information
  • Analyze news sources for purpose and content
  • Evaluate news sources for bias and logical fallacies

Unit plan:

  • Day 1: What is News? What factors determine the newsworthiness of a story? In Scott’s lesson, students learned about Checkology’s “Big Four” factors in the lesson “What is News”: the extent to which something is timely, interesting, important and unique.
  • Day 2: Understanding Bias. Students completed the Checkology lesson. Then, they examined three news stories in groups and analyzed the types and forms of bias that they may have detected in the stories.
  • Days 3 and 4: The Power of Language with Checkology’s “Arguments and Evidence” lesson. On day 3, students completed “Arguments and Evidence” asynchronously. Then, together in class on day 4, students debriefed on the lesson and further practiced together remotely using the “Spot the Logical Fallacy” exercise from Checkology.
  • Day 5: Fact-checking in the digital age. Students supplemented Scott’s fact-checking lesson with the Checkology fact-checking mission “Verifying social media content” with David Clinch from Storyful.
    • From Scott: “We went through Hurricane Sandy photos [in this slide deck] and discussed “How might people who are trying to get information about the hurricane have been influenced by the images?” Discussing how altered images and unconfirmed sources affect one’s perception of the world helped us ground some of our initial ideas on verifying online content. Discussing the Truman photo and its impact helped us further discuss why verifying information in all forms of news media is important (which we’ll definitely be talking about in class this week post-election). In the past, we’ve used this fact-checking in the digital age handout, but we found that many students have used this site before in their computer science classes – so, we stuck to the Checkology lesson, which they reported being easy to accomplish and helped them better understand the motions to go through to actually fact-check something they see online. I think the Checkology lesson also provided them with a more realistic example of what they would see every day, versus examples concocted for classroom purposes.
  • Days 6 and 7:  End-of-unit project: Students created a process to help them determine the credibility of a news source. This process is meant to be used throughout the year when studying other topics and referencing news sources. View the assignment and a template here. You can also use Checkology’s Quick Check widget in the Check Center to help guide students through the process of determining the credibility of a claim or a source. 
News literacy pre-unit: Course sequence 


Assigning the "News literacy pre-unit" course

Instructions for how to assign a preset course differ slightly depending on if you are assigning it to a brand-new class or whether you are assigning it to an existing class on your Checkology account.

Don't have a Checkology educator account yet? Just visit to register for a free educator account and use our getting started guide to help you create your first class and add students.

New class? Existing class?

Follow these three steps to assign the "News literacy pre-unit" preset to a new Checkology class.

  1. Click the "+ Assign course" button.

    You can find the "+ Assign course" button in two places:

    • Under the student registration prompt
    • On your Dashboard class tile

    assigncourse2.png          Assign_course.png


  2. Select "Change course" and scroll to the "Presets by subject or skillset" section.

    Change_course.png        Screen_Shot_2020-11-18_at_10.39.08.png


  3. Click "Assign" next to the "News literacy pre-unit" course.


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