The last time I did current events as a student, I was in grade school, and I remember the ambivalence I felt whenever an assignment came up. I didn’t particularly like reading the newspaper - seemed like whenever I picked up the Daily News, there was a scary, front-page story about someone having been “slain.” The material on the inside pages did little to assuage my lack of enthusiasm. It was always difficult to find something - anything - to cut out, tape to a piece of looseleaf paper, summarize, and take in to school the next day to present to the class.
The presentation was the part of current events that I did like. It was fun to watch the delivery of -- and the teacher’s reaction to -- a variety of topics kids picked: from Louis’ boring political stories, to the more kid-pleasing entertainment news chosen by Ivy. Me? I preferred nature features, and vaguely remember reporting something on whooping cranes, and something else on the two-toed sloth.
As “enlightening” and “entertaining” as current events was in those days, I’m glad my own children have had a completely different experience. For one thing, their responses to the news are much more natural in that we discuss and react to things as they come up from day to day. We don’t call it current events. It’s just another part of what we’re learning that’s ongoing. As a result, my kids are much more aware of what’s going on in the world than I ever was, (which can be both positive and negative). I didn’t really think about the news until I was forced to because of a current events assignment.
Today’s kids also have access to many more sources of news than we did. These sources have articles written with young audiences in mind, and have other engaging features, such as videos, quizzes, polls, and contests to keep things interesting. For us moms, these sites offer ready-made lessons with ideas for discussions and activities that make it really easy to incorporate current events into your school day -- whether you’re looking at international cultures, the latest developments in science and technology, historic events that tie to today’s world, or diverse points of view and global perspectives.
At the end of this article is a list of free current event sites that you may already be familiar with, but I wanted to mention first two sites that stand out:
- Listenwise: This site offers a collection of audio current events stories, about 3 - 5 minutes in length, selected from public radio, and covering topics in social studies, science, and language arts. Accompanying lesson plans include listening comprehension questions, worksheets, and quizzes. This site can be helpful not only for auditory learners, but for building listening comprehension skills in all types of learners. It’s also a great way to introduce audio as a primary source. Kids can listen to authentic voices from another era, and hear about events from the people who actually experienced them.
Do Now: This site works along with two things kids already make abundant use of: smartphones and social media. Posted at the Do Now site are current events stories on civics, science, arts, and pop culture. For each story, there’s a media resource, like a video, a question to respond to, and additional resources for delving more deeply into a topic. Students respond to stories by replying in the Comments section at the site, or on Twitter or other platforms. The idea is to foster discussion and debate. There’s a research component too, as kids are encouraged to support their opinions with authoritative articles or other sources they can link to. Read more about the site here.
More free current events sites:
Newspapers in Education: Get free access to electronic editions of your local newspaper, plus lesson plans and other resources.
Izzit: Sign up for a free account to access current events lesson plans, streaming video, and free educational DVDs.
New York Times Learning Network: Features a Poetry Pairs section that matches up classic and contemporary poems with New York Times articles and photos.
Behind the News: Kids can watch how-to videos on news reporting and submit their own stories. More ideas on using the site can be found here.
Youngzine: Publishes articles written by kids, including original short stories, poems, books, movie reviews, and travelogues.
CNN Student News: Ten-minute video news stories for middle- and high school students.
Scholastic News: New stories from their magazines.
Student News Daily: Has a section on types of media bias.
Smithsonian Tween Tribune: News stories for grades 1 - 12.