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How can we learn to read critically?

chip bruce ( (ready to use)

Subject Areas
Education, Educational Technology, Information Science, Language Arts

Grade Levels
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, Undergraduate

Unit Keywords
credibility, critical reading

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Background and Resources

Paseo Boricua Curriculum Unit II: Latino Youth Evaluate Internet Resources

Bigelow, William (1989, October). Discovering Columbus: Rereading the past. Language Arts, 66 (6), 635-643.

Bruce, Bertram C. (2000). Credibility of the web: Why we need dialectical reading. Journal of Philosophy of Education (special issue), 34 (1), 97-109.


Anti-Hoax Sites

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Activities and Open-ended problems
Often in school, or through various media, we learn shorthand statements that capture some aspects of the truth, but fall short in other ways. In most cases, if we understood why these statements fell short, we would have a much deeper understanding of the knowledge domain in question and would likely find the topic itself more interesting.

For example, we learn that "in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue" and that he discovered America. But what did he really discover and in what sense did he discover it?

Other examples presented as true and commonly assumed to be true:

  • You should drink at least eight glasses of water every day.
  • Columbus discovered America in 1492.
  • You should choose your food from the four food groups.
  • There are five senses: taste, smell, touch, sight, and hearing.
  • "i" before "e" except after "c".
  • There are seven continents.
  • pi = 3.14
  • People in France speak French.
  • There are nine planets in our solar system.
  • Milk is the best treatment for an ulcer.
  • Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity.
  • Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin.
  • Gutenberg invented movable type printing.
  • A pint is a pound, the world round.

  1. Choose a commonplace statement from the list above or come up with a similar substitute.

  2. Use the web to see what you can learn about why the statement may be limited or false in some interesting way. Ideally, if you already know a lot about the domain, keep searching until you come up with something you didn't already know. The idea is to find evidence that alters or expands your view on a particular topic. What does the web say about it? Does it contradict the statement? Does that change your beliefs? How do you know which is true? the original statement? the web page? something else?

  3. What does this tell you about credibility of the web? About credibility of other sources? About knowledge? About how we acquire knowledge?

Go to the reporting unit. Spin it off and share what you found.

Users' Comments on this Unit
  • what I read is excellent, it motivates people to ask questions and not be satisfied with "half truths"! Please, contact me. I have to get kids interested in reading, in our culture, Latin, youngsters just are not interested in reading, we donīt have many libraries and the previous generations were nonreaders. I will share my experiences and any help I can give. Thanks!    -   by

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