Back in the day – seriously . . . way back in the day – during my 8th grade US history teaching days, I worked very hard to include at least some sort of current event activity every week. Some days it was me highlighting an interesting event or article that related to our content. Another day might be a student asking a question about a particular topic. On a great day, it was both – connecting past events with current topics that were relevant and engaging for my students.
I think we all agree that connecting past and present is a big deal. Something that we need to be more intentional about doing. More and more standard documents, my state included, require linking instruction and learning to “contemporary issues.”
But it can be difficult at times making those connections. One great way to integrate current events into the classroom is to use the New York Times Learning Network. Great resources, ideas, materials, and suggestions every day.
And a semi-recent article from the Network provides some very specific ideas of what this can look like.
Aptly titled 50 Ways to Teach with Current Events, the article describes 50 incredibly useful strategies for incorporating contemporary issues into your instruction.
They’re all grouped by category:
- Reading and Writing
- Speaking and Listening
- Games and Quizzes
- Photographs, Illustrations, Videos and Infographics
- Design and Creativity
- Making Connections
- Building Skills
Some of their ideas work best as regular routines, others as one-shot activities. The New York Times folks obviously want you to hang around their site but all of these ideas can be implemented using any other trusted news source.
A few examples?
Ask and Answer Questions
Each day we choose an important or interesting Times story and pose the basic news questions — Who, What, Where, When, Why and How — in our 6 Q’s About the News feature. Students can first answer the “right there” questions that test reading comprehension, then move on to the deeper critical thinking questions, then write their own “6 Q’s” about articles they select.
Brainstorm Solutions to the World’s Problems
Why not put students in the role of policymakers? They can look closely at an issue covered in The Times and brainstorm possible solutions together, using our Problem-Solution handout (PDF) to take notes. Then they can work together to draft a policy proposal, perhaps one that suggests a local solution to the problem, and present it to the class or to the school board or city council.
Play Fantasy Geopolitics
Have students draft teams of countries, similar to how they might draft players in a fantasy sports league, and then accumulate points based on how often those countries appear in The New York Times. Classrooms can track point scores and trade countries using the resources on the Fantasy Geopolitics site, a game created by Eric Nelson, a social studies teacher in Minnesota.
Interpret Editorial Cartoons and “Op-Art”
Patrick Chappatte publishes editorial cartoons on topics ranging from ISIS to the Ukraine. You can use the Visual Thinking Strategies facilitation method to ask open-ended questions, letting students make meaning out of the cartoons. Or, have students analyze some of the “Op-Art” on the Opinion pages of The Times. How do these images make an argument? Students can also try their hand at drawing their own editorial cartoons or Op-Art.
Decipher an Infographic
Take an infographic or chart in The Times and have students explain what it shows using sentences. Our handout “A Graph Is Worth a Thousand Words, or At Least 50″ can serve as a guide.
There truly is something for everyone here – US, World, Geography, Econ. Head over and get all 50.