Current Events Jump from the Mundane to the Mesmerizing

Step into my classroom during our weekly Current Events segment, and you might see students standing in opposite corners debating whether or not colleges should base acceptance on kindness. You may find students using Play-Doh to sculpt their own ideas for testing the speed of snakes.  There might be even students using their sweatshirts and a marble to mimic a “closed time-like curve.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 1.29.53 PMI first implemented Current Events five years ago. Back then, it was a pretty lackluster undertaking. Students would choose an article, often cutting it out of our local newspaper, which offered stories about road repair and sports victories – hardly fodder for meaningful conversation. They would summarize the article to the class and then ask two “discussion” questions. The entire process left the class withdrawn and bored.

So what has caused the huge shift from detached reading to relevant interaction?

First, I found Newsela. Here is a website that is a powerhouse of articles that students are interested in, written in ways that they can understand. They’re no longer limited to what they can find in the small supply of print newspapers or what they can decode from the wordy adult “news” sites. Second, I created a system that has students using Bloom’s Taxonomy to create activities for the articles they choose. The process is relatively easy once you explain it to the students, and they absolutely love being able to play teacher.    

Students begin by choosing an article of their choice from the current quarter. They fill out a brief organizer explaining why they chose this specific article and how it connects to our lives. Next, the students plan six activities to lead the class in. The six activities correlate to Bloom’s Taxonomy and they allow our class to become engaged with the text on a much deeper level. When I first explain this to my kids, I do my own Current Event presentation modeling the process, and provide a list of possible suggestions for each level. Students always impress me with their creativity as they get more familiar with the activity.

A typical Current Events presentation lasts 45 minutes to an hour.  Sometimes we get through all of the activities, and sometimes I let students pick and choose a few of their favorites. Not only do the kids look forward to it and remember what they read, they’ve also started referring to the articles in other classes and choosing follow-up articles for their next presentation. Students often try to “trade” for an earlier presentation day because they are so excited about their article. It’s wonderful to see how the Current Events segment has been transformed from a mundane obligation to a noteworthy classroom event.

Erin Vanek is a gifted intervention specialist for Brunswick City Schools in Ohio where she teaches fifth through eighth grades. She is also the author of the blog, Creative Teacher’s Classroom.  To purchase her graphic organizers for your own Current Event, click here. Follow her on Twitter at CreativelyTeach.