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Developing guidelines for the use of
sponsored content in your student media


by John Bowen


Developing guidelines for the possible use of sponsored content (or native ads) in your student media

Description –– second in the sponsored news sequence
Because of the rapid spread of sponsored content or native advertising, it is possible your students will have to decide whether to use them in their student media. Faced with that decision, what arguments would students raise and what decisions would they make – and why?


  • Students will review their plusses and minuses discussion about use of native ads and sponsored content, focusing on the strongest arguments.
  • Students will develop ethical guidelines about the use of native ads and sponsored content in your student media.
  • Students will evaluate their work, the goal being to reach agreement on guidelines for each for inclusion in their staff manual.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1.D Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives; synthesize comments, claims, and evidence made on all sides of an issue; resolve contradictions when possible; and determine what additional information or research is required to deepen the investigation or complete the task.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.


50 minutes

Materials / resources

Blackboard or whiteboard

Teacher laptop and digital projector

Internet access

Model SPRC ethical guidelines for sponsored content/native ads

Ethical guidelines template

Lesson step-by-step

Step 1 — Warm-up (5 minutes)

The teacher will summarize the discussions on native ads and sponsored content and introduce the concept of students in small groups developing ethical guidelines for the use of native ads and sponsored content in their student media.

Step 2 — Small group work (25 minutes)

The teacher will ask students to form small groups of three or four depending on class enrollment. Half the groups will focus on ethical guidelines for native ads and half on ethical guidelines for sponsored content.

The teacher will distribute links to the ethical guideline models from the SPRC and the ethical guidelines template for student use as required.

Students will create drafts of ethical guidelines to be shared with other teams so they can select items for final statements for their staff manual.

Step 3 — Whole group instruction (20 minutes)

Student groups will share their work with other teams who did the same assignment. At the end of the discussion period student teams will synthesize their work into one final native ads ethical guideline and one final sponsored content ethical guideline for inclusion in student media staff manuals.


Since this basically planning work in teams, no individual grades need be given at this point. The teacher might choose to evaluate student work by assigning an opinion statement due the next class. This statement would share with student media audiences why student journalists felt this statement was needed and the issues it addresses.


Student groups might add one more step in the approval process by digitally sharing final drafts with those handling the other topic for comment and later resolution.

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