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Analyzing how ‘facts’ are used by politicians
during the election cycle


Analyzing how “facts” are used by politicians during the election cycle


Sometimes politicians misconstrue facts during debates and political ads. This lesson examines the “truthiness” of the ads running currently. Students will analyze one from the Democratic and one from the Republican party. Students could look at a TV ad, online ad or print ad.


  • Students will analyze the facts in political ads.
  • Students will report their findings.
  • Students will discuss what they find.
  • Students will examine the factual nature of the information found in the ad.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5 Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).


60 minutes

Materials / resources

Handout: Charting what you find — political ads and election coverage

Computer/internet access

Lesson step-by-step

Step 1 — introduction (5 minutes)

Teacher should survey students on how they get their breaking news on (is it through traditional news venues, online only, social media only, they don’t access, etc.). Tally what you find. Compare this to the following breakdown from the Knight Foundation’s study Free Speech on Campus: almost half of college-age students would access traditional news media to learn of national and international news. Approximately 25 percent use social media while 20 percent would access online-only news sources. How often are these places flooded with advertisements? How are you impacted by these advertisements? How do you know what is true and not-so-true?

Step 2 — Research (10 minutes)

Option 1: Separate students into pairs. Ask them to look at both the major party presidential websites. Have the students comb through the websites and fill out the chart included in this lesson. You may want to show the ads more than once.

Option 2: Project presidential campaign ads. Ask students to fill out the chart included in this lesson. You may want to show the ads more than once.

Step 3:— Research (15 minutes)

Ask students to verify the facts found in the ads. Remind them to log in where they verified the information.

Step 4 — Research part 2 (10 minutes)

Ask students to again verify the information, however this time, use to verify.

Step 5 — Feedback (10 minutes)

Students should compare what they learned about the information in the political advertisement. Which appeared to have the most information? Seeing the progression of the research, were the original contents correct? Was the the information first verified really true?

Also, ask students to examine how news media and citizens should deal with the inclusion of partial facts by candidates.

Step 6 — Large group discussion (5 minutes)

What surprised you the most? What was the best source for verification? How as a journalist should you use this exercise in your own reporting?

Step 7 — Assessment (5 minutes)

Have students fill out the reflection form. If time permits, have students share what they learned.


In assigning roles, you may want to give struggling readers the social media assignment.


You also could see previous breakdowns of “truth-o-meter” from Politifact.



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