Understanding conspiracy theories

Journalist Damien Thompson defines counterknowledge as misinformation packaged to look like fact. It is manifested in multiple formats including conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, and pseudo-history. It’s tough for adults to do the research necessary to insure that they aren’t taken in by counterknowledge, so it’s no surprise that students will struggle with sorting the wheat from the chaff.

In this activity, students are introduced to the concept of counterknowledge and then work in teams to use strategies designed to help them determine why the stories presented to them are examples of misinformation packaged to look like fact.

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Objective: Students work in teams to determine why the conspiracy theories presented to them are examples of counterknowledge (misinformation packaged to look like fact).

Teacher Resources

Activity materials may be accessed in any order by clicking on the appropriate link. You may find it useful to start with the Activities Directions link to get a sense of the activity itself before looking at other sections.

  1. Preparation
  2. Activity Directions
  3. Assessment
  4. Extensions

Full Activity Plan pdf

Student Resources

This site is meant to be used by teachers. Student Resources are provided, but please do not direct students here. Copy and paste the link to the handout and whichever of the Online Resources you want students to use on your classroom webpage, in your classroom area of the school’s Learning Management System, or wherever you distribute digital materials to students.

  1. Counterknowledge handout
  2. Online Resources

Susan Brooks-Young: