Earlier this month, The New York Times published an article called 50 Ways to Teach with Current Events that included tips and resources for teachers who want to incorporate the news into their classrooms. Although much of the article promotes The New York Times own features and contests, many of the ideas are creative and effective ways to begin conversations about current events and journalism. Here are my favorites:
3) “Read about News-Making Teenagers” – The New York Times has a page each month where they compile news stories that feature teenagers. You can check it out here. There are lots of great stories about teens taking action and making a difference in their communities, and the page breaks the stories down into helpful categories. You could also collect stories from your local newspaper that feature teenagers. This makes the news stories more relatable and gives students ideas for how they can get involved.
7) “Compare News Stories” – I thought this suggestion would be a good way to talk about bias in the news. Choose a controversial topic and select two articles that address the topic from different news outlets. Have students compare how the sources report on the issue and incorporate critical literacy skills by asking students to analyze the language the articles use and how it influences the reader’s understanding of the event.
8) “Be a Journalist Yourself” – This one is common sense, but if you’re working on a unit about different forms of writing and the differences between journalism and fiction, ask students to pick a local or school issue that they are passionate or curious about and then have them write an article on the issue. You could compile students’ work to create a class newspaper to share with parents and other students at the school.
21) “Analyze Photographs to Build Visual Literacy Skills” – I thought this might be an effective way to introduce students to a unit on current events. You can project a provocative photograph from a recent story the class will be investigating and ask students to a complete a modified Know, Wonder, Learn activity to analyze the image.
24) “Create an Infographic” – This is a great way to translate the data provided in a news article into visual format. Programs like Piktochart are free and easy to use with students, and asking students to create visualizations of statistics will help them conceptualize the data and deepen their understanding. This would also be a great opportunity to discuss how different ways of presenting data can have an impact on your understanding, and how it is important to examine sources’ original data to insure the author is not manipulating the presentation.
28) “Create Storyboards” – I think this could be helpful with events that are ongoing with new developments each day. Creating a storyboard or timeline could be a visually engaging way to teach students how to summarize the main points of a story and how to connect a series of events.
31) “Create a Twitter Feed” – For this activity, students could report each day on an ongoing event, using the summarizing skills mentioned in the last activity. If other classes or teachers follow your class on twitter, this could start a conversation about the events throughout the school. This could also work with a historical event; students could create a twitter page as a class that tracks the timeline of the events you are studying, or students could adopt the voice of a historical figure and comment on the events of the time as that person.
32) “Explore a Particular Community” – I think this could be an interesting activity in conjunction with #7, compare news stories. Students could choose a particular cultural, religious, professional, or ethnic group and look at the ways they are reported on in the media. This could be a way to start conversations about stereotypes, and to offer a more representative perspective by drawing in stories from alternative news outlets.
35) “Create an Audio Podcast” – If you don’t have a student radio station at your school, have students create podcasts on a current event and post them on the school website for other students and parents to listen to. Translating stories into their own words and then working on scripts for the report will help students deepen their understanding of the issues.
36) “Connect the Past to Today” – If you a studying a particular historical event, ask students to look for connections in the current news and talk about how the events are related and how they differ.
37) “Pair the News With Literature and Poetry” – This is similar to the last activity, but as you are reading novels or poetry in English class, look for current events that connect to the themes in those works. Have students write a comparison piece between the two texts, or ask the students to interpret the event through the eyes of a character.
41) “Take Informed Action” – If students are impacted by a particular story in the local or national news, ask them to brainstorm ways they might be able to contribute. Help them organize outreach into the community and market their ideas to the entire school.
Incorporating current events into the classroom is a great way to increase students’ traditional, visual, and media literacy skills. Current events also present opportunities for students to practice critical literacy skills, analyzing the language and perspective to see who is the intended audience and whose views are being privileged. Current events don’t need to just stay in a civics or history class, students can track current developments in the science and math community, learn about what is happening globally in language classes, and connect themes and conflicts in literature to today’s world. Does anyone have other examples of ways they’ve successfully used current events in their classroom?
Gonchar, M. (2014). 50 Ways to Teach With Current Events. Retrieved from http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/10/07/50-ways-to-teach-current-events/?_php=true&_type=blogs&ref=education&_r=1