Friday, November 7, 2014

Exciting Resources for Teaching Current Events

National News Engagement Day was October 7th, but just because we missed it this year doesn't mean it's too late to get young people thinking about current events. Devoting just one day to something as important as global news is silly, anyway; in our opinion, engagement with news should be ongoing. The New York Times has compiled a thoughtful list of fifty excellent ideas for teaching with current events. Many can be tweaked to suit students of different ages, and parents can use many of the ideas at home to help kids discuss and understand the news they see, hear, and read.

The list is divided into the following categories: Reading and Writing; Speaking and Listening; Games and Quizzes; Photographs, Illustrations, Videos, and Infographics; Design and Creativity; Making Connections; and Building Skills. Some ideas, like an assignment to write an editorial about a newsworthy issue, would be excellent to implement as a regular classroom routine. Others, like creating a news-inspired theatrical performance, would be fun one-time projects.

Of course, the ideas on this list can be used to support kids in exploring any news source, not only The New York Times. One of our favorite resources for non-fiction texts is NewsELA. The site allows teachers to adjust the readability of news articles to fit their students' reading levels; this means that students in the class can read differently leveled articles about the same topic and discuss it together, even if they have widely differing reading skills.

A recent Times experiment may also be of interest to educators. A new feature allows young people to pick the Times articles that interest them most and either tweet about them using the hashtag #NYTLNreads or post about them in the articles' comment sections. In a sentence or two, readers should explain why they think their peers would enjoy reading the article, too. Check out the page where, once a week, The Times features a compilation of articles selected by students in individual classrooms around the country.This feature is in its beta stage, but educators should investigate it and encourage their students to participate. Young people can also submit their choices independently.

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