Checklist: Teaching with Current Events in Your Classroom

 

Plan ahead with this checklist!

As you prepare to engage your students with current events, use these ideas and key questions to guide your planning:

1. What are my goals?

We believe that the goal of studying current events is more than helping students know what is going on in the world. More importantly, it is about developing in students the capacity to reflect and deliberate on today’s world within a group that might be more diverse than they encounter outside the classroom. From this practice, students can develop the skills and dispositions they need to be thoughtful participants in society.

What do you want your students to learn from engaging with current events?

2. How do I choose which stories and issues to address?

This checklist offers a toolbox of strategies that you can use to address events of any type. Many teachers choose news stories to bring into their classrooms that relate directly to their curriculum. Many also give students the opportunity to take the lead in deciding which events to discuss. Regardless of whether or not students take the lead, we believe it is important to listen carefully to students to learn what stories and issues are affecting them directly or are on their minds.

On our Current Events page, we will highlight issues and events that relate to core themes of Facing History and Ourselves, including identity and belonging, civic participation, the fragility of democracy, historical legacy and memory, racial justice, discrimination, bigotry, and genocide. We will highlight two themes—immigration and voting rights—in greater depth in an ongoing manner. Check the page regularly for new current events stories and activities or sign up below to stay updated.

What issues are especially relevant in your school and local community?

3. How often will I discuss current events with my class?

Our research suggests that teachers who incorporate current events into their classes most often spend about a half class period each week doing so. We recognize it can be hard both to prioritize current events and to find the time to fit it into the limited class time you have with your students. Regardless of how much time you are able to devote to current events, we recommend protecting that time and establishing routines to minimize the amount of extra planning it requires. Also keep in mind that some news stories may impact students more than others, and that occasionally it will be important to spend additional time helping students reflect on and discuss the news.

How will you plan to integrate current events into your schedule, and how will you decide when to put aside your lesson to address a news event?

4. What are some trusted news sources that represent a range of viewpoints that I can bring into my classroom?

Here is a list of sources that we regularly browse to keep track of the news and find reports suitable for classroom use:

Which local news sources in your community could you add to this list? What news sources will best meet the needs of your students?

5. How can I prepare my students to have a reflective and respectful discussion of current events, especially those that may be emotional or divisive?

Be proactive in creating a foundation for reflective and respective discussion of current events, or any topic, in your classroom. Fostering Civil Discourse: A Guide to Classroom Conversations provides specific and detailed guidelines and strategies for setting the stage for your work with current events. We especially recommend creating a classroom contract with your students at the beginning of the school year.

Once you lay the groundwork, how you facilitate each current events discussion should vary depending on the issue and the source at hand. The following table provides some sample scenarios with suggested teaching strategies for each.

 

  When you want students to…

  Try this strategy…

  Uncover the complexity of an event

  Iceberg

  Discuss a contentious topic

  Four Corners
  Save the Last Word for Me
  Big Paper

  Process an emotionally difficult event

  Journaling
  Color, Symbol, Image
  Graffiti Boards
  S-I-T

  Analyze Images and Video

  Close Viewing Protocol
  See, Think, Wonder
  Crop It

  Understand diverse perspectives

  Town Hall Circle
  Learn to Listen, Listen to Learn

  Connect a topic to their own lives

  Text-to-Text, Text-to-Self, Text-to-World
  Connect, Extend Challenge

 

6. How can I help my students understand the news they read and separate fact from fiction?

To prepare students to be thoughtful and active participants in democracy, we must help them develop critical thinking and media literacy skills. These skills help students judge the reliability of information they encounter in the news, assess how their own biases influence their responses, and make careful decisions about how they share news through social media.

Consider investigating and using the following resources to help your students hone their media literacy skills throughout the year:


A version of this post was originally published on Facing History and Ourselves’ blog, Facing TodayFacing History and Ourselves is an international education nonprofit whose mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice and anti-Semitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry.