Every Teacher New Year, I have a classroom resolution. The first year I taught it was to survive. The second year, it was to make it another year. I don’t remember what it was the third year, but I do remember being confident enough my fifth year to make the resolution something about pedagogy, even though I don’t recall what it was. Last year, I worked to up my gamification skills.
This year, I want to enrich my curriculum with activities that foster critical thinking. One way I plan to do this is to bring more current events into the curriculum. I think current events are a good way to do this for a couple of reasons:
1. I want for my students to know what’s going on in the world–not just what shows up in their social media feed–so that they can be informed citizens.
2. I want for my students to understand bias and to learn how to recognize it so that they can read the news intelligently, realizing that getting their information from one source is not always a good idea.
When bringing current events into your classroom or asking your students to, a good place to start is mediabiasfactcheck.com. This site ranks news sources according to bias (evinced in loaded language and omissions) and factual reporting. When you go to the homepage, type in the media source you want to check in the search engine. When search results appear, click on the name of the news source for information about the publication’s veracity.
A reliable site for fact-checking is factcheck.org.
So here it is…
5 Ways to Bring Current Events into Your Classroom
1. Current Event Bulletin Board
My department head does this, and it’s really cool. Hang a laminated world map at the center of the board. Have students bring in a current event and draw an arrow from the place on the map where the event took place to the article. The class can discuss these articles, or early finishers can get up and read them.
2. Current Event Retelling
As an ELA teacher, I loved doing this with novels, but this would work with historical figures, too.
Select a major news event or events, and have students retell it with a twist–they will cast people from history or characters in novels as the “who” in the articles. How would these characters behave in a similar situation? They should add interviews from the characters’ perspectives. Have students put all of their stories together into a class newspaper.
*For this one, I would caution against local news and tragedies–you don’t want to make light of someone’s suffering. Stick to culture, business, and politics–there’s tons of material there.
3. Same Story, Different Source
My co-teacher did something like this with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last year, and it worked really well. She pulled articles from pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian newspapers. But you can do it for any topic.
Discuss a current event with your class. Have students find it covered in various sources. They should note how it is told differently from one source to the next by identifying loaded language and omissions. Ask students what the effects of these things are. Use this as a catalyst to discuss bias.
4. Current Event Journal
My AP U.S. History teacher did this when I was in high school, and I really enjoyed it as a jaded 11th grader. Have students keep a Current Event Journal over the year or the semester in which they will describe and respond to major news stories each week. They can focus on events that are directly related to the course (business for economics, politics for civics, everything for history and literature :)).
At the end of the year or semester, have students decide what the “top stories” are and create a newscast in which they report them. They can partner up and film them to share with the class.
5. Current Event Paragraph
I have been doing this activity with my students for a decade, and it’s been a valuable way to bring current events into a content-heavy course by asking students to make connections between the past and the present.
Have students bring in articles related to events, topics, or themes that you are studying. Discuss how the current event connects to your unit of study. Then have students write a paragraph that summarizes the article, explains its significance, and connects it to your current unit or topic of study. You can preview my handout here.
How do you bring current events into your curriculum? Leave a comment and let me know!