Chicago Defender News Literacy Curriculum Lesson 1: The Flint Water Crisis

CNL News Lesson

Lesson Outline

30209735.sf.jpgWritten by:  

Myiti Sengstacke, African American Studies Instructor
City Colleges of Chicago, Kennedy-King College

Michelle R. Yisrael, Reading, English & Literature
City Colleges of Chicago, Kennedy-King College


To examine The Flint Water Crisis using news literacy vocabulary.

Essential Question:  

How did the media help the Flint Water Crisis unfold so that the people of Flint could receive the help they needed?


Students will be able to…

  • Deconstruct & analyze key elements of news reports
  • weigh evidence
  • evaluate sources
  • note context and transparency
  • demonstrate critical thinking and civic engagement

News Literacy terms to be incorporated:

  •  News Literacy
  •  Deconstructing the news
  •  Breaking News
  •  News Driver
  •  Source Evaluation / I.M.V.A.I.N. formula

Introducing the Lesson:

Prior to the presentation students will read 2 articles from the Chicago Defender  and discuss the environment by which the Flint crisis grew and the motivation for the decisions made by politial leaders.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is there a right to clean water? Should there be a formal acknowledgement of that right?
  2. What is the  water crisis in Flint Michigan? How serious is this problem?
  3. Which citizens spoke out about the danger?
  4. Why was the water supply for Flint changed from the lake to the Flint River?
  5. What are the results of that decision?
  6. How did the government respond to warnings about the safety of the water? Why is the population of Flint especially vulnerable?
  7. What is lead poisoning? What are its effects? What might be the long-term effects of lead poisoning?
  8. What needs to be done to make the water safe? Who will pay for the fix? When?
  9. How will distributing water bottles and filters solve the problem?
  10.   What actions might citizens take to improve water quality and to hold government officials responsible for their actions or lack of action in protecting the public?

Historical Link & Whole Group Discussion:  

Compare and Contrast a historial reference - Research a Chicago Defender article covering a story when the government failed the people with bad decisions.

Videos to link the lesson:


  • Evaluating Sources:  Using the  / I.M.V.A.I.N.  chart.
    • Use the IMVAIN chart to evaluate a news article and a video about the Flint Michigan Water Crisis.

  • Write an Essay:
  • Choose one topic. Construct  a 3-part parallel thesis statement, then write a 5-paragraph  essay supporting the thesis statement.  
    • A citizen’s responsibility to react to the news.
    • The effects of lead poisoning to children.
    • Citizens right to clean water.
    • Government credibility is  an essential element in a democracy

  • Peer Review & Collaboration:
  • Students will select groups of 3-5 students who chose the same essay topic,  to read and discuss the essay.  

  • Oral presentation:
  • Create a PowerPoint or Prezi Presentation about your topic and present your small group collaborative discussion to the whole group.