Using Current Events in the Classroom

Students become more aware and engaged with the world around them when current events are explored in the classroom.

Part of preparing students for the future is maintaining relevancy with resources used in the classroom. While every new gadget or program may not fall within the budget, the information students access can be both real-life and relevant when current events are used. The usage of current events within any curriculum can allow students to build their knowledge base about the world around them while diving into discussions and investigations that involve respecting and accepting the differing perspectives of others.

Depending on the topic, current events and news can bring about many strong opinions and emotions. Diving into current events can help students extract fact to help with the formation of their own opinions rather than riding the bandwagon of what’s popular or what’s purported within their personal circles. Being informed and possessing the ability to discuss topics with fact-based examples is a skill that students can utilize well beyond their classroom years.

Current event studies and activities don’t have to center around often divisive hot topics of politics. Truly any curriculum can have students exploring and investigating topics and concepts relevant to the field. Whether it’s a scientific breakthrough, a historical discovery, a musical first, or an artistic showcase, there is always new information or new perspectives and layers to be found within any subject area. When students explore these topics, they are honing their research and literacy skills while also delving into a variety of other subject-specific standards.

Where to Find the News

While blind online searches can garner results, it’s not necessarily the best way to investigate the news. Depending on the age group, there are a variety of resources students can utilize to locate current events and stories that are relevant to a wide array of curricular areas or interests.

Newspapers– Most major cities will offer teacher resources and online programs for schools/classrooms. NIE (News in Education) is offered by publications like The Columbus Dispatch with a host of resources and activities for exploring the news. The New York Times and The Washington Post also have digital editions and resources for students.

Online News Magazines- Online sources can be a perfect way for a building or classroom to utilize the news. Many of the digital publications have sections for different grade levels and offer a variety of content choices. While some are subscription based, all are great sources for relevant and age-appropriate news. There are also a wide range of teacher resources and activities that can be used to delve further into content and/or news study.

AppsPutting news at students’ fingertips can be an excellent way to help them uncover current events. Subscriptions to student-friendly news services typically offer easy access that can be used with students of varying ages and reading levels. Once a go-to favorite has been chosen, be sure to head to the app store to see if it can be made more accessible.

Blogs- A great way to find content-related, current events is by visiting blogs of key organizations. Whether a student interest or assignment has them visiting NASA, a local zoo, or a corporation, there is likely to be a blogpost or two that can offer some great information. Source and author validity would be key mini-lessons when using these platforms.

How to Use the News

Traditionally, a current event assignment would consist of a student locating an article, writing a summary, and stapling the article and summary together to submit. This may or may not have been done in tandem with a short speech in front of the class. While summarizing and oral reports have their places, they do not have to be the only way students interact with current events.

Turning to local, state, national, and world news allows students to view events through different lenses and areas of impact. Focus could be on a singular source or a comparison of multiple sources. Students may collectively search events or be charged with finding individual topics. There are lots of activities that can be generated around current events.

Springboards– Current event journals or discussions can springboard a PBL study, genius hour study, or research topic.

Debates/Discussions– The news is a naturally debatable topic, so tasking students with researching different sides and unique perspectives is a great way to introduce debate, and it allows students to garner talking points for group discussions.

Connections– Finding current events that relate to a topic of study is a great way to help students make connections. This could involve taking historical concepts and events and connecting them to current issues, determining real-life situations/figures that connect to those found in literature, etc.

Subject-Area News Centers/Galleries– Students can create a news center with highlights and descriptions of current events related to an area of study or a particular subject. This would be a great visual for a classroom or hallway.

Editorials/Persuasive Essays– The study and regular review of current events is a perfect fit for diving into persuasive writing. As students interact with text and topics that may be a bit controversial, composing an editorial is an excellent way to hone their skills at persuasive essay writing with evidence-based material.

Current events offer an engaging way to expose students to more informational text. While exploring current events meets literacy goals, there are also a multitude of additional skills that are strengthened and impacted. Whether in print or online, having students in tune with current events is a perfect way to keep studies relevant and engaging.