Civics Education Resource Site

Media Literacy Toolkit

Media literacy is the ability to ACCESS, ANALYZE, EVALUATE, CREATE, and ACT using all forms of communication. In its simplest terms, media literacy builds upon the foundation of traditional literacy and offers new forms of reading and writing. Media literacy empowers people to be critical thinkers and makers, effective communicators and active citizens.

National Association of Media Literacy Education
Media is an important part of the ecosystem that influences (both positively and negatively) whether and how young people participate in civic life. News in print, podcasts, on television, in social media, and cultural work shared online inform youth about the world and shape their understanding of how they can contribute to it — or whether they try.

Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

The Republic is (Still) at Risk - and Civics is Part of the Solution highlights the importance of news media literacy education as a complementary stream to the proven practices of civic education embedded in the Illinois middle and high school course requirements. The proven practices of current and controversial issue discussions, simulations of democratic processes, and service learning are contingent on a student’s ability to consume and produce information to address essential questions facing our constitutional republic.

This toolkit provides classrooms with tools to help students wisely consume and produce information.

Help students be wise consumers of information

  • The American Press Institute has activities and lesson plans for all ages.
  • The Center for Media Literacy designed, developed, implemented, and evaluated resources for educators and communities that comprise the CML MediaLit Kit™. CML’s framework for media literacy is evidenced-based, backed by a peer-reviewed longitudinal study by UCLA.
  • The Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University offers a Digital Resource Center that teachers can sign up for to curate resources for classroom use.
  • The Civic Education Research Group hosts a series of videos to promote youth media literacy.
  • Crash Course - Navigating Digital Information is a ten episode series that covers fact-checking, lateral reading, deciding who to trust, using Wikipedia, interpreting data and infographics, click restraint, social media, and evaluating evidence, photos, and videos.
  • Cyberwise promises to leave “no grown up behind” by sharing resources to teach kids to use tech safely and wisely.
  • Edutopia vetted a five-minute film festival with nine videos on news literacy.
  • Facing History and Ourselves partnered with the News Literacy Project to create a timely unit on media literacy called “Facing Ferguson” that is appropriate for high school students.
  • Factitious is a game that tests students’ news sense. They updated the game to include COVID-19 information.
  • iCivics created curriculum units for both middle and high school students around news literacy as well as an online game called NewsFeed Defenders.
  • LAMP, or Learning about Multimedia Project, curated materials that shine a light to “challenge stereotypes, fake news, and more.”
  • The National Association of Media Literacy Education assembled a parents guide with useful talking points. The organization also launched the “Stop Media Monsters” campaign to promote basic literacy in the public.
  • Newseum ED has wonderful infographics as well as lesson plans.
  • The News Literacy Project (NLP) works with educators and journalists to give students the skills they need to discern fact from fiction and to know what to trust. 
    • Checkology is NLP's browser-based platform, designed for students in grades 6-12, that helps prepare the next generation to easily identify misinformation.
    • NLP’s resource library includes lesson plans, classroom activities, posters and infographics, quizzes, and more for educators teaching news literacy.
    • Informable is NLP’s free mobile app through which users practice four distinct news literacy skills in a game-like format: distinguishing news reports from opinion pieces; advertisements from other types of information; false claims from credible evidence; and fact-based statements from opinion-based statements.
    • NLP provides a Tips & Tools page to test and sharpen news literacy skills with short activities, engaging quizzes, and shareable graphics.
  • PBS NewsHour EXTRA’s new website, Journalism in Action, teaches students about the history of journalism in a fun way with primary sources and interactive activities.
  • The Pulitzer Center provides programming to engage students, foster curiosity, and encourage critical thinking with lesson plans, in-person and Skype journalist visits, workshops, and professional development.
  • Spot the Troll from Clemson University is an online quiz to help the public learn to spot the markers of inauthenticity in social media accounts.
  • The Stanford History Education Group’s portal for Civic Online Reasoning provides free lessons and assessments that teaches students to evaluate online information affecting them, their communities, and the world.
  • Time for Kids' Explains podcast has a recurring segment called “Fact or Fishy?” that encourages kids to think about what’s credible in the news.

Help students be wise producers of information

  • Adobe Education Exchange: Access online courses and curricula to deepen your media-making skills and tap into your creativity, from learning about digital publishing to poster-making, Photoshop to storytelling, all using Adobe tools (free as well as paid).
  • Civic Education Research Group shares videos of students engaging in investigation and research as well as media to engage their voice and take actions to benefit their communities.
  • Common Sense Education: Educators can find free lessons for teaching students (K-12) Digital Citizenship and building young peoples' capacities as thoughtful media creators. The site also shares their picks of the best tech-creation tools out there.
  • The Digital Civics Toolkit is a collection of resources for educators to support youth to explore, recognize, and take seriously the civic potential of digital life.
  • Facing History and Ourselves' Journalism in a Digital Age helps students to explore the changing landscape of journalism in the digital age and to consider their roles as creators and consumers of news using the documentary film Reporter.
  • KQED shares a range of resources for helping middle and high school students create media, including KQED Learn, online courses, and a Media Literacy Educator certification.
  • PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs hosts a series of lesson plans that cover the basics of local community journalism, storytelling, scripting and video editing.
  • The Youth Media-Making Toolkit from CIRCLE promotes youth voice, voting, and democratic participation through media creation. Lessons guide teens to plan, make, and share diverse media about voting and civic engagement: short videos, photos, internet memes, animated GIFs, and persuasive images for social media.
  • The YouthLearn Media Literacy Toolbox includes activities, handouts, and curricular resources to support media literacy education and youth media creation in a variety of settings as well as examples of youth-created media.

Media literacy resources related to the pandemic

Stay up to date with the latest resources to support media literacy in the classroom

The Sift from the News Literacy Project is a weekly newsletter that explores current examples of misinformation, addresses media and press freedom topics, and discusses social media trends and issues. This timely content is used as starting points for discussion prompts, activities, and other teachable moments in news literacy, both in and out of the classroom.

Is that a fact? Is a daily podcast from the News Literacy Project that informs listeners about news literacy issues affecting their lives through informative conversations with experts working to combat misinformation.

Educators can join the National Association of Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) and receive a monthly newsletter of resources and professional learning opportunities from educational partners.

Join KQED Learn. KQED Learn is a free platform for middle and high school students to tackle big issues and build their media literacy and critical thinking skills in a supportive environment. You will receive email updates on new resources, youth media engagement opportunities, and professional development.

Learn more about the importance of media literacy

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learing and Engagement (CIRCLE) offers resources that delve into Youth in Media for Democracy to explore the relationship between media literacy and youth civic engagement.

Life after Youth Media examines the impact of Chicago’s youth media sector on the ability to consume and produce information that impact civic dispositions and engagement.

The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) provides explainers demonstrating how media literacy empowers people to be critical thinkers and makers, effective communicators, and active citizens.

Navigating Youth Media Landscapes: Challenges and Opportunities for Youth Media curates quantitative and qualitative work from respected organizations to learn more about current 6-12th grade media practices and identify opportunities for public media to reach this young audience.

Preparing Children and Youth for Civic Life in the Era of Truth Decay, Insights from the American Teacher Panel is a report from the Rand Corporation makes the case that schools must empower students with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to combat “truth decay” and be informed, effective participants in civic life.

The Republic is (Still) at Risk - and Civics is Part of the Solution provides an overview of the proven practices civic education as well as complementary practices including news media literacy.