Gossip and fake news

little-boy-3332111_1280.jpgThis is a quick post to share an activity I did with a couple of classes last week. It is useful if you have some of the following objectives:

Your learners

  • can re-tell a simple or familiar story using their own words.
  • can paraphrase simply when they don’t know the correct word or phrase.
  • can re-tell the main points of an extended story in their own words.
  • can compare and contrast two versions of the same story.

I had my own secret agenda too: Through this activity, I wanted to demonstrate how gossip (and or fake news) is created.

Choose a simple story or a text which contains a reasonable amount of facts (numbers, times, names, etc.) and which takes at least one minute to read (the length will vary depending on the level of your students). You can tell your own story but you should have it written down for later reference. I chose a text from a random coursebook which a particular group was not familiar with.

Divide the class into groups of 3. Give each student in the group a number (1, 2 or 3). Ask all 2s and 3s to leave the classroom. Make sure they are not eavesdropping behind the door. 🙂 Read the text to 1s. Ask them to listen carefully.

Call all the 2s back to the room. Ask 1s to re-tell the story they’ve just heard. When everybody finishes, call 3s back to the room and ask them to join their teams. Now, 3s are listening to 2s, taking notes. Make sure that 1s aren’t helping in any way at this point. When everybody is done, ask the groups to look at their notes and discuss them briefly. Finally, read the original story again and ask the groups to compare their notes with what they hear.

In the end, I got the groups to express how accurate their story was in comparison to mine. (Not so) surprisingly, most of them said that their story was only 50-70 % accurate (even less!). We discussed the whys and then I asked who they think was ‘to blame’ for the fact that some of the information had got lost along the way or been altered – wittingly or unwittingly. I was pleased to see that they did not blame one another; instead, they willingly and proudly took the blame for any loss and/or distortion of information. Eventually, I asked why they thought we had done the activity. With more advanced classes, we touched upon media awareness. With younger kids, we just mentioned that this is how gossip and rumors come into existence and that we should be careful when we present information which we have obtained from external sources.

I’d like to add that the activity can be adjusted to your group’s needs in that you can choose a text with vocabulary and grammar you feel need to be revised, but this was not my primary goal.





About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for almost 25 years and I still love my job. You can find out more about my passion here on my blog.
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