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New York Agriculture in the Classroom

Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix

Lesson Plan

Source Sleuth: Investigating Credible Sources About Beef

Grade Level
6 - 8

Students will discover why it is important to use credible sources, learn strategies for identifying credible sources, identify primary sources of information, and practice citing sources. Grades 6-8

Estimated Time
One or two 50-minute lessons
Materials Needed
Background Agricultural Connections

For many consumers, it’s hard to determine whether an online source is credible or not. Since information on the internet can be created—or in some cases fabricated—by any user, it’s easy to present false information as fact. So, how can we find credible sources, especially when it pertains to the food we eat?

That’s where the term source sleuth comes in. The word sleuth comes from the Old Norse word sloth, meaning “trail” and sleuthing is following a trail. For students to successfully identify credible sources, it takes both persistence and patience. In this lesson, students will learn strategies for identifying credible sources and do some sleuthing to determine the validity of information about beef production. They will practice citing sources, paraphrasing data, and interpreting conclusions.

  1. Show students a fake or satirical article from the web, and present it as though it is true. Do your best to convince the whole class. It can be a fake news segment, an announcement about the “discovery” of a new animal species, or any topic your students will easily engage with. See links below for ideas.
    • gives an extensive historical recount of the fictional country of Molossia.
    • highlights the health benefits of consuming dehydrated water, including customer testimonials.
    • encourages visitors to help save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, which is bordering on extinction.
  2. Once students are convinced, reveal the hoax. Explain that this example was given to demonstrate the need to view information with a critical eye. Although some websites feature fake news for humor, there are countless others that appear to be legitimate, yet publish fabricated information with the intent to deceive readers.
  3. Tell students that in this lesson they will learn strategies that will help them identify credible sources. 
Explore and Explain
  1. Write on the board, “Where does content on the internet come from?”
  2. Instruct students to write their idea on a sticky note and place it on the board. Read out some of the ideas to the class, grouping sticky notes with common ideas together.
  3. Emphasize that content can come from any one for any purpose. Use the fake article introduced at the beginning of the lesson as an example. Reiterate that virtually anyone can build a website and create “information” on the internet.
  4. Distribute the informational text, Source Sleuth: How to Identify Credible Sources. Instruct students to read the text and answer the reflection questions. Decide how students should respond to the reflection questions—independent writing, small group discussion, video or audio recording, online discussion thread, class discussion, or chain note.
    • Note: Chain note is a strategy that begins with a question printed at the top of a paper. The paper is circulated from student to student. Each student responds with one or two sentences related to the question before passing it on to the next person.
  5. Model the Clue Card activity. Use one of the Clue Cards to demonstrate how to dig deeper into a source. Show students how to locate key phrases from their card within a web page or document by using their keyboard’s find command (Control+F or Command+F).
  6. Encourage students to use a search engine to further investigate original sources cited in the document.
  7. Divide the class into small groups of 2-3 students. Explain that each group will receive a Clue Card featuring a research inquiry related to food production. On the back of the card will be a clue—a website that will point them in the right direction. Students will investigate the clue, locate the information, and provide the requested evidence to support credibility. They will document their findings on the Evidence Sheet in the correct sections. Once they complete the first inquiry, they will exchange their solved Clue Card for a new card. Depending on the time allocation and students’ capabilities, you may assign a certain number of Clue Cards to complete in the remaining class time. Educators may need to be flexible with the specific answers received; this is a challenging activity. Remember, the overall goal is for students to gain sufficient practice digging deeper into the sources they find in order to establish credibility. Answers may vary from the attached answer sheet.



  • Assign the informational text, Source Sleuth: How to Identify Credible Sources, as homework prior to the lesson. Have students post their responses in a video discussion platform, such as Flipgrid or Viologues.
  • Assign each group one card. At the end of the allotted time, have each group share their findings and demonstrate how they “solved” their inquiry on a projected monitor. Students complete the Evidence Sheet as they listen to their peers.
  • Use the Beef Boasts printable to discuss some of the positive things taking place in the beef industry.


After conducting these activities, reflect on these questions:

  • What was difficult about locating credible information?
  • How did you know the website "clues" provided were trustworthy? What did you observe that reassured you?
  • How would you finish this sentence, "Finding credible sources takes..." (Explain your reasoning.)
California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom
California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom
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