Integrating current events into the classroom curriculum troubles me. I am not doing it intentionally at the moment. At one time, I was passionate about current events. It was misplaced during a series of shifts in my work and I need to restore it to my classroom.
My first position in the 1980’s and 1990’s was as a middle years and high school social studies teacher. We called them division three and four back then. That was part of an interesting (failed) attempt at continuous outcome-based learning her in Saskatchewan; but I digress. I incorporated newspapers and news clips in my lessons. Students monitored topics as homework and shared their conclusions in class. At the end of the year, a parent told me she was impressed with her son’s new interest in reading the newspaper.
During these first two decades of teaching, my current events focus was on the Cold War, South Africa, and Free Trade. I spent a weekend painting a huge outline map of the world (Peter’s Projection) on the back wall of my room. It became a huge infographic complete with article summaries, graphs, charts, timelines and images. On Fridays I took a period to watch a weekly current affairs program broadcast for middle and senior grades. I do not recall the name of the program now.
I took on administration at the turn of the century. Eventually, I gave up social studies and took on other assignments. That was a mistake in retrospect. My mentor at the time cautioned me to take care of myself first, but I ignored his advice and I put myself into areas I lacked strength. Current events should have been as relevant to computer science, health, and arts education; I did not see it. Picking up the new curriculum and trying to be an effective administrator became far more important to me. I do not believe I completely neglected current events, but it was far more incidental.
Incidental is not wrong. Student concerns and interests about the world around them must be attended to. Student initiated conversations about current event may be the most effective approach. It is authentic conversation (just to toss that word into my discourse). It is not always particularly relevant to the learning outcomes. That it be relevant is important to me because learning needs real world connections.
Since 2007 I have been an elementary generalist teaching up and down between grades four and six. Student initiated conversations about current events are less sophisticated. I have not been effective either. This needs to change. I found Teaching Kids News this Thursday during the #saskedchat discussion. What other grade appropriate sources are there out there? How are you approaching current events?