Every year the N.Y. Times asks students what news topics they find most interesting. This year, students responded with over 7,500 mini-essays. As in past years, the study found that “offering students free choice to read whatever they liked best resulted in a surprising breadth of topics.”
To get your students engaged in the news, here’s a mix of teacher-tested advice from the Times and from Newsela and our educator staff:
- Find news that matters. Choose — and let students choose — articles they care about, like “news you can use” topics, and news about other teenagers doing incredible things. Pick articles that reflect the diversity of the class (and the world). Take advantage of technology and delve into international news sources, or connect with educators on social media and ask for recommendations. Students are far more likely to continue reading when they can relate to the subject matter.
- Build up background knowledge. Students often struggle with reading current events because they lack prior knowledge of subjects, so consider assigning one background-building article with strong context each week to give students a base of knowledge about the world around them.
- Bring in, or take out. Ask outside experts to class, and have students bring in articles, texts or images that interest them for show and tell, collages or posting to a classroom gallery (in person or through online boards and sites). Take students out of the classroom — physically or virtually — to places currently figuring in the news.
- Engage deeply with the news. Debate the pro and con sides of an argument in class, and have students brainstorm solutions to current issues, and maybe even create a nonprofit (either real or fake) to tackle them. Let students be journalists themselves. Have them report a story, interview fellow students, write an editorial or an open-ended reflection on a topic, make a news broadcast or podcast, set up a dummy Twitter account, and write letters to local media. Check out PBS’s Student Reporting Labs for some ideas. Holding mock elections or campaigns can get your students engaged in election season news coverage.
- Get creative. Have students illustrate the news, write storyboards, comics or infographics, or add thought bubbles to news photos. Write a song or poem using an article’s contents, build timelines of events, and play games. Find connections to literature to boost interest.
- Make time for the news. Carve out independent news reading time, and maybe begin class each day by reading the news. Introduce an article slowly — assign it Monday, giving students the week to read, annotate, and write questions — and hold a class debate Friday. If there’s little time for news in class, make news materials available, even leaving magazines or newspapers lying around as a break from textbooks.
What other tips do you have for getting students into the news? Tweet @newsela and let us know!