In these days of near universal ownership of mobile devices, the reporting of news has become almost instantaneous and with eye witness accounts often the first thing we see, current events don’t stay ‘current’ for very long.
Given the plethora of websites with sketchy, biased, inaccurate or wholly false information it can therefore be challenging to determine what qualifies as ‘real’ news,
Nevertheless, there is a place in the classroom for current events, either taken directly from a reputable newspaper or other reliable source. Reading and discussing the news on a daily basis should give students a healthy interest in the world around them. And what’s more controversial topics can stimulate classroom debate and allow young people to see themselves as potential agents of change.
The news can also be used across the curriculum to add variety, texture and context to many lessons. Whilst language classes may study the traditional format of news writing, they might also make use of the paper for off-beat, fun activities such as:
• Send students on a newspaper scavenger hunt for different parts of speech. Make it fun by allowing them to choose which section (news, entertainment, sports, travel) to search. Provide highlighters so they can colour-code nouns, verbs, adjectives within the features.
• The news is often full of flamboyant headlines. Ask pupils to spot adjectives from A to Z. They can underline the words and list them in their notebooks.
• For young students, current topical news presents a chance for them to use the Internet to search for information both at school and at home as part of their homework. Help parents to keep their children safe online by sending home guidelines printed on mousemats or as a printed hand-out.
• Choose a news story with facts and figures that could be turned into a graph. The rising cost of petrol, for example, or the population within a country or continent. Challenge students to create graphs that show the information clearly. A ruler is a necessity!
• Make maths fun – create an exercise based on house prices to add a twist to a maths lesson. Ask students to find the average price of ten homes advertised for sale near their homes or to the school, ask them to compare the number of rooms and other details such if they have a garden or garage as well as the proximity to local schools, shops etc.
• Give students a weekly shopping list and ask them to compare the prices of key items across 3 major supermarket websites for a couple of weeks. This could be presented back as a graph as well as students working out the % savings between each retailer and the average price of particular items – arm them with a notebook and pen to record their results!
• Hang a world map on the wall and ask students to identify countries in the news or pull out the weather pages and ask them to identify the cities listed in the city temperature listings for all over the world.
• Ask older students to critique business or political articles in the paper. Did the journalist explain the overall issue clearly? Is any important information missing from the article? Is the reporting biased to make a particular point?
Current events are an important part of life for young people and will shape their future. With a bit of creativity they can complement traditional learning and provide an additional, topical and rich source of material to connect students to the world around them.