Warm-up activities to start your class
Another day, another class, another beginning
Our second ANNIE Connect online gathering was about how to start your class, especially when the subject matter concerns media literacy, journalism, and/or fact-checking.
As the saying goes, ‘what starts well ends well’. These warm-up activities are important because they help learners identify their cognitive or knowledge gaps right away at the beginning of your lesson.
Good class exercises are the ones designed to pique learners’ interest and make them understand why they must pay attention to what you are about to teach.
Importance of verification
The steps are simple. Show the image above and ask learners which shaft is longer. Those learners who have seen this optical illusion before would most likely say that the two lines have the same length immediately.
Meanwhile, those who are not familiar with the Muller-Lyer Illusion might say the bottom one is longer (after all, it is called an optical illusion because the bottom one looks longer).
In this activity, both answers are wrong. If you measure the length in the image, you discover that the bottom arrow shaft is, in fact, shorter.
The core message of this activity is also simple. Just because you have seen something similar, don’t assume you know the answer. It is important to verify (fact-check) everything before making a judgment.
There’s an app for that
How do we measure the length of something that is projected on a screen? The above activity is also a good way to introduce some tools learners can use. There are many iOS and Android apps, including the ones preinstalled by phone manufacturers, that can be used to find out the distance between two points using the phone camera.
Another optical illusion below is also a good way to introduce verification tools.
Show the above image and ask if learners can 1) recognise the person and 2) spot anything wrong with the photo.
In my experience, many students say different things off the top of their heads without consulting anything. It rarely occurs to them that they can quickly use the internet to search for more information — for instance, take a photo of the screen with their phone and flip the image upside down to investigate.
The same image looks like the one below when it’s oriented normally.
This activity illustrates the limitations of our eyes and gut feeling. Moreover, unlike the Muller-Lyer illusion, even those learners who have seen the image and know what is wrong with it often fail to explain why this optical illusion occurs.
Simple tools like the Google Lens app or various reverse image search services can work really well for this type of quick investigation because the search results will lead to those websites that explain what is going on in our brains when we see this optical illusion.
Do not reward speed
One thing I would like to note when it comes to activities in media literacy class is that we should not reward speed in these exercises.
Yes, many of us, including myself, have done that in the past, but now I believe it’s a wrong approach.
Tools like Kahoot! make it easy to gamify class activities and engage learners quickly. But the quizshow-style, competition-based learning that rewards speed, on top of accuracy, could send a wrong message because it tends to venerate knowledge cramming and encourage snap actions.
The core objective of news and information education is for learners to develop critical thinking skills with digital dexterity to use appropriate tools and techniques. Even if it’s a short ice-breaker, the underlying message in our activities should be that learners must spend some time to check everything.
At ANNIE, we use the mnemonic PRISM (Pause, Reflect, Investigate, Share, Monitor) to remind learners how to deal with news content. We design all activities based on this philosophy.
More examples in our Toolkit
We also discussed some of the activities we put in our Toolkit. This one below, for instance, was created five years ago when we were asked to develop teaching materials for primary school students (aged between 10 and 12).
We titled it, “What have you shared lately? Is it news?” in the Toolkit.
The objectives of this exercise are that students would:
Begin to think about why we all have a strong desire to share information;
Become aware of the difference between news and other types of information, such as unfounded rumours;
Recognise the “public” aspect of information sharing;
Understand the responsibility and risks of sharing questionable content, including potentially harmful gossip.
There were three more activities we went through in the workshop. They all target university students and adult learners, including professional journalists.
I don’t have a space to talk about them in this newsletter, but you can watch the entire workshop online through the Zoom link here. We also plan to put those activities in the Toolkit in the near future.
Next ANNIE Connect meeting
We have received many requests to record the meeting this time. Some of you said it’s because you’re still having a summer break; some of you said because the time doesn’t work in your timezone.
I am wondering if we should change the time for the next study group gathering on September 15 from 14:30 - 15:30 to 10:30 - 11:30 (GMT+8) because it seems Friday morning (in Asia) is more convenient for some educators in our network. Our friend in North America can also join if we make this change.
Please let me know what works best for you in the poll below: