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CTRL-F: Find the Facts is an online verification skills module designed to help students evaluate digital information and determine what to trust.

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4. Trace the Information

Information online often gets reconfigured or used out of context. Sometimes the best move is to track down the original version of a story, quote or image.

Guiding Questions


  • Why is it important to trace information back to its original source
  • Which techniques can we use to find the original context?


Estimated Time


The activities in this section should take between 1 hour, 40 minutes and 2 hours, 25 minutes (depending on choice of Starter Activity)




News, information, and images will appear in many places outside their original context. Similar to a game of broken telephone, information can be altered or become distorted as it moves from source to source. Tracing information back to the original source allows us to get closer to the truth with a story that is more accurate and complete.

In this lesson, students learn how to trace information to find its original context, including the click-through and find technique, check the date and reverse image search. Students become familiar with false context and how information used out of context can cause misinformation.


Learning Outcomes


By the end of these activities, students will be able to:

  • explain different ways in which information gets altered or distorted online;
  • describe different techniques for tracing information back to the original source;
  • demonstrate lateral reading and tracing skills to verify information.


Key Terms


altered, context, distorted, false context, reconfigured, reporting on reporting, reverse image search


Starter (50-60 min)


Play a game of ‘Reporting on Reporting’ to introduce the idea of how information can get reconfigured or distorted as it passes from one source to another. It is adapted from other games like ‘Broken Telephone’ or ‘Gossip Revisited.’


1. Organize students into three, six or nine groups depending on the size of your class. This can be done physically or through an online platform or tool, such as Google docs.


2. Provide each group with one news story. Each group will have to work together to paraphrase the story in 100-150 words. This is the first re-reporting. Provide 15 min.


News story examples:


Teacher Note: CBC Kids News has shorter articles written for lower reading levels that may be more suitable for your class.


3. Each group’s synopsis should be passed to another group, who will paraphrase the story in 50-75 words. Do not include the original story when the synopsis is passed. This is the second re-reporting. Provide 10 min


4. Next, the second synopsis will now be passed along one more time to a new group. Do not share the original story or first synopsis. This group will read the second synopsis and determine a headline for the story, along with a subtitle. This subtitle should summarize the story in one sentence. This is the third re-reporting. Alternatively, this group could prepare a short social media post and click-bait headline meant to attract page views. Provide 5 min.


Teacher note: Organize the activity so that each group works on a different story at the same time. Just make sure that each story gets passed through three groups as described. 


5. Organize the content produced for each news so that starts with the third re-reporting, then second re-reporting, first-re-reporting and then the original story.


6. Have the groups review the original story and analyze how the story changed as it was re-reported.

  • How closely did the final reporting match the original story
  • What interesting parts of the story were left out?


Alternate Starter Activity (15 min)


Play a game of ‘Broken Telephone’ outside.


1. Divide students into larger groups of 7-8 students. Ask students to line up with 5 metres between them.

2. Share a sentence or phrase with the first person in each line and ask them to pass it along to the next person. They can move up to closer to the next person when they pass along the message but still keep a 2-metre distance.


Sample phrases:

  • A dog named Goose ran loose through the spruce forest chasing a moose.
  • The funny bunny hid the coloured candy in the coloured can.
  • The panda stopped eating Pad Thai during the pandemic.


There should be no repeating. If the next player did not hear what was said, that’s okay; it is part of the fun of the game! The next player then moves up to share what they think they heard to the following player, and so on. This continues until the word or phrase reaches the very last person.


3. Debrief on the activity. Questions:

  • What did you learn through the activity?
  • How easy is it for a message to change when it is passed from one person to another?
  • Did anyone deliberately try to change the message? If so, why?


Fundamentals (10-15 min)


Watch the “Trace the Information with Jane Lytvynenko” video and ask students to respond to the questions on Activity 4.1.

  • How can a story or image become altered online?
  • What are some of the motives behind distorting or altering information? Provide an example.
  • Why should we trace information back to the original source?


Skills (30-35 min)


1. Watch “Click Through & Find with Mike Caulfield” and ask students to respond to questions 1 through 4 on Activity 4.2.

  • How do you find out if a story or claim has been altered? What is the key strategy?
  • Why is it helpful to click through to the original story?
  • What is false context?
  • How do you quickly search for keywords on a page?


2. Watch “Check the Date” and ask students to respond to questions 5 and 6 on Activity 4.2.

  • What technique can we use to find the original context or setting of a story?
  • How can out-of-date articles help spread misinformation?


3. Ask students to practice the techniques with the examples in the “Tracing Information” Google Forms or Activity 4.3.


Teacher Note: The Google Forms option allows students to check their work and view a walkthrough of the technique after submitting their answers.To access background information and tips for using Google Forms, please download this support document.


Skills Part 2 (20-25 min)


  1. Watch the “Search the History of an Image” video and ask students to respond to questions 7 through 9 on Activity 4.2.
  • How can images be a form of misinformation or disinformation
  • What two questions do we want to answer when verifying images? How are they independent of each other?
  • What are different ways you can search the history of an image?
  1. Demonstrate the reverse image techniques using examples found below. Have students perform the techniques on their computers or mobile devices. Practice both Google Search and Tineye (tineye.com).
  1. Ask students to practice using a reverse image search with the examples in the “Searching Images” Google Forms or Activity 4.4.


Consolidation (10 min)


  1. Through words and/or images, ask students to explain why it is important to trace information back to its original source.
  2. Find two examples to share with a classmate so that they can practice tracing information.



Modifications for Remote and Blended Learning


To be added soon

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