One of my personal goals this year is to read the newspaper every single day, regardless of how many student essays I need to read or how crazy my morning commute. I want to be aware of the world around me, and I am committed to living a more news-literate life. I bought a newspaper subscription for my Kindle, and at the very least, I am going to read the news while I take the subway to and from school.
While working on myself, I also consider my students’ current events literacy. I want to help my students to become informed young citizens and lifelong news readers. However, finding time for current events during our jam-packed school day has always posed a challenge. In this post, I'll share some of the solutions I've found. However, my current events curriculum is very much a work in progress, so I would love to hear how you cover world events in your classroom.
Photo: One of my students reading a newspaper on the subway during a field trip. I need to learn from her!
Current Events — Why Bother?
Many studies point to the fact that the majority of American teens have little interest in current events and few strategies for understanding the news that they do read. For example, the 2006 National Geographic-Roper Survey of Geographic Literacy reported, among other startling statistics, that only 37% of American teens could find Iraq on a world map. The report concluded that the majority of young adults “demonstrate a limited understanding of the world.”
Yes, the studies and surveys are depressing, but change is in the air. The Common Core State Standards has started a trend towards teaching nonfiction literacy, and it seems to me that reading and analyzing current events is a logical way to fulfill this informational text standard.
Current events are necessarily relevant and provide connections to all curriculum areas. As students read and discuss current events, they analyze point of view, evaluate text claims, and determine the important ideas within a text. And news stories are generally short texts — perfect for shared reading, Socratic circle discussions, and homework assignments.
Okay, so clearly we need to teach current events in class. The next challenge is finding news articles. . . .
We get free newspapers delivered to my school every morning, so I’m tempted to pass them out to my students. However, I’m also nervous about putting an “adult newspaper” into my 3rd graders' hands. I don’t want to expose my students to overly mature or downright inappropriate content. I know some of you teachers have your students look at news articles in regular newspapers, and I would love to hear how you manage it.
I want to prepare my students for the wide range of media they will encounter, so I provide opportunities for my students to read news in print and online, and to listen to news podcasts and video recordings. Here are some of the news sources I have used with my students in the past:
Print News Magazines:
Scholastic News, a weekly magazine, provides articles on current events in an age-appropriate manner.
Time for Kids features articles on national and world news, entertainment, science, and sports. Teachers may choose a subscription geared for their grade level. The online version also offers printables and quizzes.
Weekly Reader is published for elementary, middle, and high school students and covers science, health, current events, and literature.
Kids' News Web Sites:
Scholastic News Online is a free resource with breaking news and highlights from the print magazine, above. The Web site is ad free and, like the print version, age appropriate.
Scholastic News Kids Press Corps presents articles and multimedia features written by kid reporters. I use this to inspire my students to become news reporters, too.
Washington Post KidsPost offers articles geared towards upper elementary and middle school, mostly on human interest and science topics. The Web site is fairly ad heavy.
The Learning Network of the New York Times is written for middle school and up. They provide curated articles and blog posts on topics relevant to students. I always preview these articles before sending my students to the computers to read.
Other Digital Media:
Nick News with Linda Ellerbee is a children’s television show that addresses current events as well as social and political issues in a television news format. The videos are available on Nickelodeon’s Web site, which has ads, or as a free video podcast through iTunes. I have not been able to find many other podcasts or video news reports specifically geared towards elementary students, so I often preview and choose podcasts and news clips from adult sources. If you have discovered any digital media resources specifically for kids, please share!
Not Enough Time? Current Events Homework Ideas
There never seems to be enough time in the school day to cover all of the subjects I need to teach, and current events often fall by the wayside. Many weeks, I simply send a news magazine home with my students to read for homework. We preview the issue in class, and I introduce four or five relevant vocabulary words. Then I use a current events graphic organizer to help scaffold my students’ thinking about the news articles they read.
During morning meeting the following day, I draw two students’ names and have them report on articles they read the previous night. I set a timer, giving each student one minute to report on an article. (This helps them focus on the main idea.) Then they start a class discussion by asking one thought-provoking question related to the article. My students love being the day's class correspondents, especially since they get to wear a sleuthy fedora while they deliver their reports.
I know that I can do more to teach current events in meaningful ways and could really use pointers on how you teach the news in your classrooms. What works well for you? Please share your current events solutions!