Choosing Reliable Sources

This lesson, part of the Digital Literacy series, addresses the importance of locating and verifying reliable sources when working with online information. This lesson is aimed at a young audience and operates on the assumption that many students in the class are not yet reading and writing independently.
Grade Level


Students will be able to:

  • Evaluate the reliability of online sources
  • Honor their personal reactions to information presented online
  • Question information that does not feel right to them
Essential Questions
  • What is a reliable source?
  • How can we decide if an online source is fair or unfair?



source [sawrs] (noun) someone or something that provides information

bias [bahy-uh s] (noun) judging something or someone unfairly

reliable [ri-lahy-uh-buh l] (adjective) something or someone you can trust; containing true information

evaluate [ih-val-yoo-eyt] (verb) to think about how true and correct information is

online [on-lahyn] (adjective) found on the internet

reasoning [ree-zuh-ning] (noun) the act of thinking through


Series Overview

As technology advances and the social landscape shifts, it is crucial for students to become digitally literate citizens. In this series, elementary students will learn the ins and outs of media literacy, from choosing reliable sources and understanding online searches to navigating online security and participating in digital communities. More lessons in this series are listed under "Related Resources."


Lesson Overview

This lesson addresses the importance of locating and verifying reliable sources when working with online information. Students will compare and contrast two different sources on the same subject and think about what makes one more reliable than another. They will list some questions they can ask themselves to figure out what makes a source reliable.

Students will also zero in on the significance of evaluating sources for fairness and bias. They will act out reactions to sources presented online and try thinking about what their own reactions mean. Students will begin thinking about the concept of questioning or talking back to sources that seem unreliable, biased or unfair to them.

This lesson is aimed at a young audience and operates on the assumption that many students in the class are not yet reading and writing independently.



Compare and Contrast

1. Explain to your students that, while people use online sources to find information about different topics, only some of the information they find online is reliable. Much of it might not be.

To help students understand the idea of reliability, ask them to think about the following scenarios, one at a time.

  • Who would be a good person to ask if your bike was broken and you needed help fixing it? Why? What makes this person a reliable source for fixing a bike?
  • If you had a really bad stomachache and your parents weren’t sure what medicine might help you, where might they look for information or who might they ask? Why? What makes this person or source reliable for helping you feel better?
  • Where would you go or whom would you ask if you wanted to learn more about buildings in your neighborhood? What kinds of information might different people be able to give you? What makes some sources reliable for learning about buildings?

2. Tell students that you are going to have them look at two different webpages about fixing kids’ bikes. Project or hand out screenshots of the following two pages:

Ask students to think about the following questions:

  • What do you see or notice first on each webpage?
  • What is the same about the pages?
  • What is different about the pages?
  • How would you decide which page to use if you wanted to fix a bike?

3. Have students work in partnerships or small groups to complete the Choosing Reliable Sources Venn diagram worksheet comparing and contrasting the sources they have reviewed. Where the circles don’t overlap, they should identify examples of how the webpages are different. Where the circles overlap, they should identify examples of how the pages are alike. Encourage students to think about the information offered through photographs and other images as well as text. If your students are unaccustomed to working with Venn diagrams, you can do this activity as a whole group.


Questions You Have

Bring your students back together, and ask them to list some questions that came up while they were working on their Venn diagrams. Jot down your students’ questions, and explain that it is always important to think about what makes a source reliable for a particular purpose.


Alignment to Common Core State Standards

Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

Identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.

Use the illustrations and details in a text to describe its key ideas.

Identify the reasons an author gives to support points in a text.

Identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).

Extension Activity

As an optional homework assignment, ask your students to work with family members to conduct an online search about a topic they think is important or interesting and compare information and images from two different sources. Leave time in class to discuss what they learned and how they reacted to any fair or unfair information they discovered.

Illustration of person holding and looking at laptop.

New Virtual Workshops Are Available Now!

Registrations are now open for our 90-minute virtual open enrollment workshops. Explore the schedule, and register today—space is limited!

Sign Up!