What is the truth?

While my fourth graders can easily tell me that my boots are black and not pink and then explain that it’s the truth because they can see it and prove it, they weren’t as easily able to identify a “half truth” even when it was about the color of shoes. Imagine how easily persuaded they are when they see or watch ads on TV, hear “facts” from articles or adults, and interpret behavior.

I have to be honest, I got this idea from listening to Serial and watching Jinx and Making a Murderer, which have taught me that what is the truth and what is a lie is very confusing when manipulated. Further, it taught me that I have a responsibility to help my students understand what they are being told and what is being asked of them. I’m starting small. We’re going to talk about persuasive texts this quarter, and I’m going to look at advertising and argument writing, but I have some big picture ideas for the future.

This was my simple attempt at helping students to understand the differences between truth, lie, and half truth.

The conversations went something like this:

Me: What color are my boots?

Kids: Black.

Me: Is that the truth or a lie?

Kids: Truth.

Me: Why?

[Taking notes on the conversation]

Me: (Kid #1), ask me what color my boots are.

Kid #1: What color are your boots?

Me: My boots are pink. Is that the truth or a lie?

Kids: Lie.

Me: Why?

[Taking notes on conversation]

Me: Look at (Kid #2)’s shoes. (Kid #2)’s shoes are purple. Is that the truth or a lie?

Kids: Truth.

Me: But they’re also orange and white and yellow.

Kids: ….Lie? But…

Me: Is it the truth that they are purple?

Kids: Yes.

Me: Is that the whole truth?

Kids: No.

[Conversation and taking notes about half truth]

Me: Why might someone leave out information?

[Conversation in which everyone was saying that people leave out information for good reasons like not wanting to hurt each other’s feelings and I had to break their hearts and say someone might leave out information in order to manipulate them]

This is clearly a very simplistic review and obviously my students understand what a truth and a lie are, however, I’m hoping that this simple conversation is something we can refer to later when we talk about statements we are reading in the persuasive texts we tackle. We’ll go back to this page and ask is it a truth? Is it a lie? Is it a half truth? What’s true about it? What did they leave out? Why did they do that?

Here are some of their definitions of truth, lie, and half truth (in their own words).

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