Spin-doctoring, the purposeful twisting of words to manipulate nonfiction readers, can create dangerous propaganda for minds unaccustomed to critical analysis of word choices. We must teach 6th- through 9th-grade students to read critically and be on the lookout for subtly injected points-of-view in nonfiction and misleading "facts."
This lesson, in the form of a ready-to-use handout, takes a humorous approach to verbal manipulation by first presenting a funny retelling of a criminal's history in euphemistically vague terms. Students will experiment, in a collaborative exercise, with writing their own "news briefs" and then trading them with a partner who will "spin" the news item into a falsely positive yarn. After discussing the modifications, they will write a short essay response about spin-doctoring.
Multiple extension exercises follow the initial writing exercise, involving research and written analysis of contrasting actual news stories; a study and short essay about manipulative advertisements; writing short fiction to depict the use of euphemisms to protect young children; writing personal narratives to reflect upon word power and its positive and negative uses; and peer review and revision.
This lesson fulfills CCSS Literacy and Writing Standards for grades 6 through 9/10. The exercises involve reading as much as writing, and could extend through five class periods. The author of this lesson is a professional writer/editor as well as a private writing teacher.