Can I Be Swayed?

Author: Sylvia Kniest

Time: 1-2 class periods
copy articles on energy policy from the websites listed below
Materials: Articles on energy policy


Students will read and analyze various articles for bias. A jigsaw approach will be used to look at three different articles that represent three different points of view regarding energy policy and the environment.

Students will be able to:
1. Identify loaded words and examples of bias in print media.
2. Describe how media can be used to manipulate public opinion.
3. Identify examples of interest groups that use media to sway public opinion in order to impact policymaking.

National Standards For Civics and Government
I-A. What is civic life? What is politics? What is government? Why are government and politics necessary? What purposes should government serve?
V- D. What civic dispositions or traits of private and public characters are important to the preservation and improvement of American constitutional democracy?

Teacher Background
The English teacher will have discussed bias in print and broadcast media with the students.

Resource Websites
Suggestions for articles:



The teacher should introduce the lesson by reviewing the effect of media on public opinion.

1. Tell students that they will be analyzing three articles from the three web sites listed above, using the jigsaw method:
Article A: ”Report: Nuclear sites put drinking water sources at risk”
Article B: “Toward Reliable, Affordable and Secure Energy”
Article C: “The Hidden Cost of Fossil Fuels”.

2. Divide students into 6 groups of 4-5 students each (depending on the size of the class).
Two groups will read article A, two groups will read article B, and two groups will read article C.

3. Tell the students to look for signs of bias as they read the articles.

4. Each group should discuss and answer the following questions:
a. What is the thesis of each article?
b. Which point of view does each article address?
c. List or highlight the loaded words that are used in each article. Why do you feel that these words show bias?
d. List or highlight any details that you feel are biased.
e. How might the information in these articles be used by interest groups?
- Tell students that they must record their own answers as they will share them with other students.

5. Allow groups about 30 minutes to read and discuss the questions; next, have each group number off by 5’s. All of the 1’s will meet together, all of the 2’s will meet together, etc. to discuss the articles that they read and analyzed. Students should share their answers and address the following question:

Is media bias an effective way to sway public opinion and change policy?
Each group will be expected to explain and justify their answer.

Have a class discussion on the question: Is media bias an effective way to sway public opinion and change policy?

Embedded Assessment
Student participation in class discussion should show an understanding of media bias and its impact on public opinion. The homework assignment will also be evaluated.

Tell the students that they are to assume the role of a member of the interest group they were assigned to in the previous lesson to complete the following assignment:

a. Find an article that refutes the arguments that are presented in the article that addresses their viewpoint. For example, the members of the coal industry must find an article that refutes the arguments in “The Hidden Cost of Fossil Fuels”. The members of the nuclear industry must find an article that refutes the arguments in “Nuclear sites put drinking water sources at risk”, and members of the environmental group must refute arguments in the article “Toward Reliable, Affordable and Secure Energy”.

b. Students should write a summary of the article and include a discussion that addresses any biases that are present in the article. They should also discuss how the article best represents their interest group’s point of view.

Embedded Assessment

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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