Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12

This lesson plan, adaptable for grades 8-12, features a game called NewsFeed Defenders. This game challenges students to manage a social media site, including spotting and reporting dubious posts, engaging with the community, ensuring posted articles are on topic, growing traffic, and more.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Identify markers of verification, transparency, accountability, and independence in news stories.
  2. Define and identify problematic news items, and other news-related types of misinformation.
  3. Explain a variety of strategies to verify images and information.
  4. Evaluate text for bias based on word choices and framing methods.
  5. Use third-party information to judge credibility of a source


  • Computers or other devices with Internet access
  • Interactive whiteboard


This lesson plan features a game called NewsFeed Defenders developed by our partner, iCivics, challenges students to protect the integrity of a fictional social media site by spotting dubious posts that try to sneak in hidden ads, viral deception, and false reporting. In addition to maintaining a high-quality site, they are charged with growing traffic while keeping the posts on topic. As they play students level up from guest user to site admin and unlock new ways to engage with the community.

Review the NewsFeed Defenders Game Guide for step by step directions on how to play the game and other details, such as the roles students play, game features, rules, etc. The Guide also includes classroom conversation starters.

Preview and play NewsFeed Defenders to plan how you will adapt it to your students’ needs. If students will be playing in small groups, review tips on Setting Cooperative Gaming Expectations.

For ideas on how to use SnapThought with this game and for specific prompts to provide students with during game play, read NewsFeed Defenders SnapThought Prompts.

Build background knowledge or reinforce topics with these BrainPOP movies: Social Media, Media Literacy, Online Safety, Information Privacy, and Digital Etiquette

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Begin the lesson with a discussion about social media to assess how much students already know about this topic. Ask the following questions to spark the discussion:
    • What role does social media have in your life? What kind of information do you gain from it?
    • What is the job of a moderator on a social media site?
    • What kind or rules might a social media site have for its users?
    • What are the risks of believing everything you read on the internet?
    • Why do some posts seem believable even if they are hoaxes?
  2. After everyone has had a chance to share their ideas, show the BrainPOP movie Social Media on the whiteboard or other display. After watching, ask students to recall some of the tips Nat gives for using social media. Invite students to share what rules they follow when using social media platforms.
  3. Now display the game NewsFeed Defenders on the whiteboard. Tell students that in this game, they will join a fictional social media site and work to protect the site’s integrity by identifying false reporting, hidden ads, and viral deception. They will also use strategies to increase site traffic and keeping posts on topic.   
  4. Have students play the game in pairs. Circulate, listening in to students’ discussions and decision-making, providing support as needed.
  5. If students have individual logins through My BrainPOP, encourage them to use the SnapThought® tool to take snapshots during gameplay. For prompt ideas, see NewsFeed Defenders SnapThought Prompts.
  6. After students have completed the game. Ask the following post-game questions:  
    • What helped you decide whether or not to report a post?
    • Which post did you find challenging to evaluate? Why?
    • How can you apply what you learned from this game to your own social media behavior?

Extension Activities:

  • Invite local journalists to class and ask them to share their experiences as reporters. Have them describe how false news and viral deception has affected their profession.
  • Ask students for examples of “bad posts” from their own social media experiences, and invite them to use the rules of the game to identify problematic elements.