Extending the Learning
Dear teachers, librarians, (and because we are currently hunkered down due to the Covid-19 virus), dear parents too,
I am a children’s writer, but I always keep an educator’s eye out for what my stories might evoke through the questions they raise or the activities they might inspire.
Initially when I put together this “book”, I had the idea that young readers would immediately grasp the tongue-in-cheek parody of a non-fiction, information text. But an American study done in 2016 of over 7,800 students, discovered that “middle schoolers could not tell the difference between paid advertisements and actual articles, that most high schoolers accepted photographs and captions at face value without questioning their origins, and that most college students did not recognize the bias in facts presented by activists groups online.” (from Information Literacy and Libraries in the Age of Fake News, Libraries Unlimited Press, 2018, pg. 116)
With that in mind, it would perhaps be a worthwhile project to assign students the task of disproving some of the “facts” that I have claimed. For example, is there a city of Shotenputen? Did it ever hold an Olympics in 1997? And so on.
Owning the deception
Certainly within this topic of fake news and critical thinking, there is no reason not to build some creative writing into the exploration. For example, students could construct a complete biography of a historical fictitious person from birth to death. They might approach it seriously or comedically, like I’ve done with this website. For another example, students might create an advertisement for a non-existent product that claims to do miraculous things.
Because of the on-going social distancing being asked of all of us, I am becoming familiar with Zoom teaching (like many of you). Ordinarily, I would be in schools and libraries giving author presentations, writing workshops and storytelling sessions. If you are interested in having me lead age-appropriate activities around this subject (within the realm of creative writing), please reach out to me through the Contact page, from wherever you are in this small world of ours. This subject is a new exploration for me too, and I’m curious to know how children and teens will approach it.
Dan Bar-el (in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)