One of the aspects that I like most about teaching world geography is that we study the world as it is today. That doesn’t preclude history, as I often tell my students we often have to look to the past to understand the current situation, yet the bulk of our time is focused on current global issues. Over my ten years of teaching I’ve experimented a lot with how to tackle current events. Some of these methods missed their mark. This post will detail websites I use for current events, strategies I’ve tried, and methods I hope to use next school year.
This year was our first year being 1 to 1 in which every student had a Chromebook. I loved it as not only did it allow me to access so many additional resources, it also reduced my copy costs, and it allowed me to aggregate all of my go to current events sites under one Canvas module. When I wanted to have students explore an issue they had a nice jumping off point to start their exploration. The websites I had located under this module were:
Newsela (Leveled current events)
Listenwise (NPR current events podcasts)
TweenTribune (Leveled current events)
Newsmap (Headlines from around the world)
Newspaper Map (Newspapers from around the world)
CNN 10 (CNN student news/stories geared for Jr. High & H.S. students)
Newseum Front Pages (Front pages from over 800 papers from across the globe each day)
All Sides (News stories from told from the left, right, and center)
If you are looking for more news sources, Chris Heffernan aggregated more in his post here.
When I first started teaching I vowed my students would know current events backwards, forwards, up and down. My first year I had students doing weekly current events reports. Students had to find a news story, print it out or cut it out, and then answer the 5 Ws. (Who was involved? What happened? Where did it happen? When did it happen? and 2 Whys:why did it happen? and Why should I care?) I found that students were doing these so frequently that the quality was really low. Also, I was drowning in grading. When I got my end of year surveys back far and away students number 1 complaint was these current events reports. I knew I had to make achange.
My second year I kept the format yet switched to having the assignment due every 2 weeks. I found the quality improved just by reducing the frequency. In addition, I wasn’t swamped in grading. Students animosity towards this assignment greatly decreased yet, it was not perfect. I kept this format for the next couple years until I was assigned to teach 2 blocks of Language Arts.
Before I started teaching language arts I had the good fortune to see Kelly Gallagher ( @KellyGToGo ) present. Even if you don’t teaching language arts, and you have the chance to see him, go because he is one of the best presenters I’ve ever seen. He detailed his article of the week assignment. You can see his assignment and articles on his website here. Dave Stuart Jr. ( @davestuartjr ) has his version and articles here. Angela Lattin at Vale Middle School also adapted Kelly Gallagher’s assignment here. That year and for several years after I used my version of his assignment here. This assignment was due every 2 weeks. On the date it was due we debated the issue. Students really got into the debates. Sometimes I used Today’s Meet as a backchannel during the debates. I stopped using this format when I was assigned to teach only geography yet, I may brink back weekly AoWs this year as I found them to e very successful.
The past couple years I used another one of Kelly Gallagher’s strategies the “Reading Min” in place of a weekly current events assignment. For this each student would sign up for 1 day each month to present an article that connected to our course. Students would print out the article and verbally explain what the article was about, what happened, how it connected to our course and why it was important. This gave students choice on the story they selected as well as gave them routine practice presenting to their classmates.
My biggest success with current events came this past year with the introduction of Fantasy Geopolitics ( @playfanschool ). This current events game had so many of my students hooked all year long. Learn more about the game here. Here is also a post of how I plan on furthering my incorporation of Fantasy Geopolitics into my course for next year. In addition to Fantasy Geopoltics I occasionally had days in which students would explore current events from the region we were studying using the sites I listed above as a jumping off point. Students would fill out this organizer. We would then plot their stories on a map using Google My Maps. Students would plot on the map where the story took place, caption their pin with what it was about, and inlude a link to the story.
For next year I want to try more strategies from this great New York Time Learning Network @NYTimesLearning ) post “50 Ways to Teach with Current Events”. I liked the idea of having a current events gallery walk that was included in the article. I also liked the idea of having a photo, chart, map, or politcal cartoon of the day. This could be introduced at the start of the period and give students routine practice analyzing photos, charts, maps, and political cartoons. Students could create infogrpahics for a story they read too. One last idea mentioned is have students take picture notes as they read as opposed to your typical notes and annotations.
Some other ideas I would like to try in regards to current events are having 2-3 days a week of current events silent reading. One of the biggest changes I made to my LA classes to encourage reading was non negotiable 10-15 minutes of silent reading each day. I saw the amount of reading and the interest students had in reading sky rocket. Why not do this in my geography class? In addition I would like to try book snaps with current events. Books snaps were created by Tara Martin ( @TaraMartinEDU ). I came across this great post by Stacy Yung ( @stacyyung ) on how she has students use Book Snaps to analyze primary sources. Why not do this with current events?
These are the ways I have used current events in my class. What sites and strategies do you use to address current events in your class?