PitchIt! Student essay contest
PitchIt! Student essay contests happening in Colorado, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania
Student voices are catalysts for positive change in schools and communities. You can empower them to be well-informed and civically engaged when you participate in the News Literacy Project’s PitchIt! contest.
This is an authentic way to get middle and high school students to learn about and express their thoughts about current events from a news literacy perspective. In addition to exploring an issue important to them, they can help combat misinformation or work to protect freedom of the press.
Created by NLP news literacy ambassador Monica Valdes in 2020 for Miami-area teachers, the contest has expanded to all of Florida, Colorado, New York and Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.
To have your students participate in PitchIt! and get the most out of it, use NLP’s free resources and curriculum guides. You choose the top essays from your class to submit for judging and prizes.
The submission deadline is April 17, 2023!
For contest rules and details, follow the links below:
- Florida: Click here for details.
- Allegheny County, Pennsylvania: Click here for details.
- Colorado: Click here for details.
- New York: Click here for details.
Not in one of these regions? NLP encourages you to contact your local news literacy ambassador or our staff (firstname.lastname@example.org) and adapt our contest rules to create a contest for your learning community.
Curious to what participating teachers had to say?
“PitchIt! utilizes news literacy curriculum to broaden the understanding of how media influences all of us every day. Students then analyze and learn for themselves the power of using information with and without bias. I highly recommend facilitating part or all of the curriculum in classrooms across the board in Social Studies, English, Science, and more. It shows students that language, facts, and biases impact us comprehensively.”
— Renee A. Cantave, iWrite magnet educator, Arthur and Polly Mays Conservatory of the Arts, Miami, Florida
“PitchIt! was a great experience for my students. Not only did it raise awareness among them regarding the importance of good writing and of an important current issue in our community, the culminating event gave contest winners a chance to verbally express their positions, while receiving important feedback.”
— Rolando Alvarez, Coral Way K-8 Center, Miami, Florida
Tired of feeling like you’re working in a vacuum? Sign up for NewsLitNation and our private NewsLitNation Facebook Group to connect and share with other educators across the country passionate about news and media literacy. As a member of NewsLitNation® you’ll receive special perks and the NewsLitNation Insider, our monthly newsletter that keeps you up to date about all things news literacy!
Evaluate credibility using the RumorGuard 5 Factors
Don’t get caught off guard. Recognize misinformation and stop it in its tracks by using RumorGuard’s 5 Factors for evaluating credibility of news and other information. This classroom poster displays the 5 Factors alongside “Knows” and “Dos” for evaluating credibility.
The 5 Factors
- Authenticity. Is it authentic?
The digital age has made creating, sharing and accessing information easier than ever before, but it’s also made it easier to manipulate and fabricate everything from social media posts to photos, videos and screenshots. The ability to determine whether something you see online is genuine, or has been doctored or fabricated, is a fundamental fact-checking skill.
- Source. Has it been posted or confirmed by a credible source?
Not all sources of information are created equal, but it can be easy to glaze over the significant differences while scrolling through feeds online. Standards-based news organizations have guidelines to ensure accuracy, fairness, transparency and accountability. While these sources aren’t perfect, they’re far more credible and reliable than sources that have no such standards. Viral rumors that confirm one’s perspectives and beliefs or that repeatedly appear in social media feeds can feel true, but if no credible source of information has confirmed a given claim it’s best to stay skeptical.
- Evidence. Is there evidence that proves the claim?
Misinformation lacks sound evidence by its very nature — but it often tricks people into either overlooking that fact or into accepting faulty evidence. Many false claims are sheer assertions and lack any pretense of evidence, while others present digital fakes and out-of-context elements for support. Evaluating the strength of evidence for a claim is a key fact-checking skill.
- Context. Is the context accurate?
Tricks of context are one of the most common tactics used to spread misinformation online. Authentic content — such as quotes, photos, videos, data and even news reports — is generally easy to remove from its original context and place into a new, false context. For example, an aerial photo of a sports championship parade from 2016 can easily be copied and reposted alongside a claim that it depicts a political protest that took place yesterday. In this false context, the photo may easily be perceived as genuine by unsuspecting people online. Luckily, there are easy-to-use tools that can verify the original context of most digital content.
- Reasoning. Is it based on solid reasoning?
Misinformation is often designed to exploit our cognitive biases and vulnerability to logical fallacies. These blind spots in our rational thinking can make baseless conclusions feel plausible or even undeniable — particularly when they reinforce one’s beliefs, attitudes and values. Conspiracy theorists, pseudoscience wellness influencers and propagandists commonly rely on flawed reasoning to hold their assertions together. Learning to logic-check claims is an important element in verifying information.
Know and do
Eight tips to Google like a pro
The internet is inconceivably large. In fact, it’s essentially endless! Sometimes it’s easy to find the information you need, but often trying to find something specific can be overwhelming and feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. So we partnered with disinformation research expert Cindy Otis — also the author of True or False: A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News — to bring you eight tips that can help you improve your search results and zero in on what you’re looking for more quickly.
These advanced searching skills can also help you work your way back to the original source of specific claims, quotes, photos and videos — a critical step in fact-checking things you’re unsure about online.
This infographic features hyperlinked example searches that demonstrate exactly how your results will look when you apply these eight tips:
- Use quotation marks to search for webpages containing that exact phrase.
- Limit your results to news from standards-based sources.
- Use basic Boolean operators like “AND” and “OR” to combine search terms.
- Use parentheses to group operators and do even more sophisticated searches.
- Narrow the time frame of your results to a specific date range.
- Search for results from one specific website.
- Search for even more specific results from a subdomain or subdirectory of a website.
- Use – (the minus sign) to exclude specific terms from results.
Remember: Effective searching is as much about eliminating the results you don’t need as it is finding the ones you do. Applying these eight tips can help you clear away the clutter of results you don’t need — which makes homing in on the results you do need much easier.
Implementing these small tweaks to your online searches can make a big difference. Keep this infographic handy — on your phone or at your desk — and you’ll be Googling like a pro in no time.