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Lesson 7

Identifying the difference between fact and opinion

Journalist training school background:
Journalists must not include their own opinions in a news report. They can include the opinions of those involved in the story, but must not report them as fact. They must be able to tell the difference between fact and opinion, as well as speculation and rumour

NewsWise values

This lesson focuses on the NewsWise value: truthful.

Learning objective

To understand that news online is targeted to the reader.

Learning outcomes

  • Explain the difference between news reports and opinion pieces.

  • Use language clues to analyse whether a statement is fact or opinion (also including speculation and rumour).

  • Summarise a news story using the key facts.

Starter/baseline assessment

  • News report or opinion? Pupils read an extract from a news report and an extract from an opinion piece, identifying which is which. How did you know? Were there any words or phrases that helped you? 

  • Challenge: can you find an example of an opinion in the news report paragraph? What is different about this compared with the opinion piece?

  • Discuss the difference between the news report and the opinion piece. Watch Gary Younge’s explainer video to explore why news publications also publish opinion pieces. Opinion pieces differ from news reports, which must be truthful and only include other people’s opinions. Having your own opinions about news is important, but the main thing to remember is that when writing a news report, you don’t report your opinions as facts.

Learning activity

  • Before beginning the following activities, you may like to use Spot the truth to model the activity.

  • Pupils read different tweets about a breaking news story: a gorilla escape from London zoo (see Rumour has it …). Pupils analyse each statement using the Language clues to identify whether it is fact or opinion. 

  • Challenge: introduce speculation and rumour. As well as sorting statements into fact and opinion, pupils also identify the statements which are actually speculation or rumour.

  • In role as reporters, pupils write a news headline and summary (using the 5 Ws), stating the facts of what actually happened in the news story. This could be a drama activity, with pupils performing news bulletins in role as TV or radio reporters.


  • Refer back to the news story from the starter. Pupils write either a fact or opinion statement about it. 

  • Challenge: write a speculation or rumour statement. In pairs, pupils swap statements and decide what type of statement their partner has written, highlighting the language clues.

  • Ask some pupils to share their fact, opinion, speculation or rumour statements with the class. How can you tell the difference? What type of language clues can we look out for? Why is important to be able to tell the difference between fact and opinion when online? What would happen if a journalist reported a speculation or rumour as fact?

Questions for assessment

  • What is fact/opinion/speculation/rumour? 

  • Why is it important to know the difference between fact and opinion? 

  • How can we check whether something is factual? 

  • How can we tell the difference between fact and ________ ? 

  • What is the difference between a news report and an opinion piece?

Core knowledge and skills

  • Journalists can include other people’s opinions in news reports through reported or direct speech, but they must not include their own opinions.

  • Opinion pieces, where journalists are allowed to share their own opinions about stories, are different to news reports and will be clearly marked as opinion.

  • When a breaking news story first happens, it can be difficult to know which information online is trustworthy because not many facts are known. Despite this, people make guesses, share their opinions or even make-up information. You may see:

  • Fact: something that is true and can be supported by evidence; 

  • Opinion: a person’s thoughts or feelings; 

  • Speculation: a guess or inference about what has happened; 

  • Rumour: a story that has not been proven, often parts of the story that people hear about from others, without any actual evidence.

  • See Language clues to model how language analysis can help to identify the difference between fact, opinion, speculation and rumour.

Extension opportunities

Pupils write their own opinion pieces in response to a news story.


Curriculum links

Reading comprehension

  • Distinguishing between fact and opinion; summarising key information; 

  • analysis of language.

Digital literacy

Managing online information

  • evaluate the validity of information online;

  • differentiate between opinions, beliefs and facts.

PSHE education

Living in the wider world

  • recognise ways in which the internet and social media can be used both positively and negatively; 

  • how to assess the reliability of sources of information online; and how to make safe, reliable choices from search results; 

  • how text and images in the media and on social media can be manipulated or invented; strategies to evaluate the reliability of sources and identify misinformation.

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