Teaching Current Events: A conversation with Kelly Gallagher and Sarah Cooper

April 28th, 2009

Kelly Gallagher, author of Readicide and the upcoming DVD Article of the Week, and Sarah Cooper, author of Making History Mine, use some similar strategies in their classrooms to make sure that their students are knowledgeable about current events in the world. Article of the WeekKelly’s Article of the Week activity puts students in touch with real world writings from news stories, essays, editorials, blogs, and speeches. Reading and interacting with these articles each week ensures that students graduate with a better chance of comprehending the world around them. Making History MineIn Sarah’s middle-school history classroom she encourages her students to think about why it’s important to know about current affairs and she challenges them to realize that what happens in the world does have an impact on their lives. Each week, on Current Event Fridays, two or three students pick a local, national, or world news story and present it to their classmates, followed by a discussion. During this VoiceThread conversation, Kelly and Sarah will talk more about the genesis and goals of these classroom activities, and they invite you to share your strategies for teaching current events to your students. They have already started the conversation, so it's your turn to join them. Just click on "comment" on the bottom of the VoiceThread window. Sarah and Kelly will select the most interesting contributions to the conversation and the winners will receive a copy of both Kelly’s DVD and Sarah’s book. For a quick tutorial on how to use VoiceThread, click here. No special equipment needed - just a phone and a computer! The introduction will begin after you start VoiceThread and the slides will advance on their own. Kelly and Sarah's comments start on the third slide.

Entry Filed under: Content Areas

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Day 100, Swine Flu, etc. &hellip  |  April 28th, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    [...] strategies for how to make current events come alive in your reading or writing classroom? Click here to learn more about some new books from Kelly Gallagher and Sarah Cooper who’ve recently [...]

  • 2. Susan Mack  |  April 30th, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    One of the most powerful “grabbers” that I have used in my Content Reading graduate class is Reading Reason #7…the statistics about Michael Jordan’s income…and…that Nerds win! I believe I am helping to give mileage to Kelly Gallagher’s wonderful resource, Reading Reasons. I am anxious to explore his new Article of the Week resource.

  • 3. Julie Crowell  |  May 4th, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Our school has participated in weekly Socratic Seminars since February of this year. We began the process of reading and annotating articles in our individual classes and decided to take it to the next level and implement it as an entire school process. Building wide all students and faculty read and annotate the same text and then particpate in Socratic Seminars to explore the meaning of the text. We started this during Black History Month with “The Gettysburg Address”, Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and an excerpt from a Bill Moyer’s interview with President Obama. While these did not start out being “current events” texts, what happened during the course of these seminars is unbelievable! Students who at first relied on the teacher to lead the discussion have become the leaders themselves. Students have become more engaged in the reading, finding meaning and look forward to the seminars. They are having intense, authentic and meaningful conversations about the topics being covered that carry on after the seminar is over. After the seminar is competed the students and staff do take time to refect on the process.

    Most recently students and staff have participated in seminars over topics such as “current events” such as domestic abuse “Respect of women is key to Manhood”, as well as “The Shadow of Shame”, along with this piece brought the discussion over the Rihanna and Chris Brown case and information from http://www.dosomething.org over teen dating abuse. Students and staff have also engaged in readings and seminars over students and ethical behavior in and out of class, “1 in 100 Americans Jailed” and “Teenagers Locked up for Life Deserve a Second Chance” .

    Students are being introduce to current event topics on a weekly basis. They are actively listening to what each other has to say, but more importantly they are reading with a deeper thought process and purpose.

    I believe this way of reading and discussion has allowed for trusting, meaningful relationships to develop among the staff and students. It also has introduced them to topics that are going on in the world around them and how it relates to them. It is through this practice of reading, annotating and seminar discussion that a higher level of understanding and acheivement is occuring in the student’s classroom and within our school community.

  • 4. Julie Crowell  |  May 5th, 2009 at 8:06 am

    Building wide all students and faculty read and annotate the same text and then particpate in Socratic Seminars. We started this during Black History Month with “The Gettysburg Address”, Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and an excerpt from a Bill Moyer’s interview with President Obama. While these did not start out being “current events” texts, what happened during the course of these seminars is unbelievable! Students have become more engaged in the reading, and are having meaningful conversations about the topics.
    Most recently students and staff have participated in seminars over topics such as domestic abuse “Respect of women is key to Manhood”, as well as “The Shadow of Shame”, students and ethical behavior , The number of Americans Jailed” and “Teenagers Locked up for Life Deserve a Second Chance” .

    Students are being introduce to current event topics on a weekly basis. They are actively listening to what each other has to say, but more importantly they are reading with a deeper thought process and purpose.

    I believe this way of reading and discussion has allowed for trusting, meaningful relationships to develop among the staff and students. It also has introduced them to topics that are going on in the world around them and how it relates to them. It is through this practice of reading, annotating and seminar discussion that a higher level of understanding and acheivement is occuring in the student’s classroom and within our school community.

  • 5. Dab  |  August 18th, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    I have just today found out that I have 2 8th grade classes for a course entitled “Current Events.” Any ideas as to begin to go about it? School starts next week and I am not a Social Studies or History teacher.

    I am totally out of my teaching expertise/subject area. I have absolutely no materials and have no idea what I am going to sustain a current events course 5 days a week for a 10 week period! Class size is about 20 to 25 students.

    Thanks for any advice.

  • 6. Sarah Cooper  |  August 19th, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Hi Dab,

    Wow, what a challenging yet fun assignment! Although the class must seem daunting given that it starts next week, a current events class is a gift in many ways. It begs for student participation and presentations, meaning that you can be more of a facilitator and explainer of the day’s news rather than a presenter who is on the spot.

    For materials, you could try contacting your local newspaper to see if they would deliver papers daily or weekly to your school for free. Although print newspapers are going the way of the dinosaur, there’s still nothing like them for showing students how news is organized and why certain stories are interesting or important enough to appear in the paper.

    In addition, I’ve found Scholastic’s Upfront (condensed and easier versions of New York Times articles, grades 9-12) and Junior Scholastic (current events for grades 7-8) to be both appealing and informative for students. Junior Scholastic is at http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/classmags/junior.htm; Upfront is at http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/classmags/upfront.htm. The ordering page is at http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/classmags/subscribe.asp?esp=CM/ib/20080820/awa/CMM_inc_sub///inc/tout//// A semester/quarter’s worth of either magazine is about $9 per student.

    For an easy beginning structure to the class, you could have two or more students do five-minute current events presentations each day. If you send an email to me at SCooper@flintridgeprep.org, I’d be happy to send you the rubric and directions I’ve used for 7th, 8th and 9th grade presentations. (You can see a description of these presentations on pp. 113-118 of my book Making History Mine: Meaningful Connections for Grades 5-9, which includes a whole chapter on current events. The book is available for browsing at http://www.stenhouse.com/0765.asp.)

    Depending on the number of computers you can access during class, you could also do a number of projects having students investigate what’s available on sites such as http://www.nytimes.com (free subscription required), news.google.com, news.yahoo.com, and many others. One interesting activity is to have students find coverage of the same story at three or more sites and discuss what is similar and different in what reporters choose to focus on. Is there such a thing as unbiased reporting?

    One more idea is to assign groups or pairs of students to different continents, countries, or areas of the world and have them explore the major issues that appear in news articles about the place. Then they can do a poster project, PowerPoint presentation, blog, podcast, editorial piece, debate, or mock newscast based on the information they find. They could also compare coverage of the region in U.S. newspapers with that found in international newspapers; a good list is at http://dir.yahoo.com/News_and_Media/Newspapers/By_region/Countries. (This is an activity I’ve always wanted to try but haven’t yet!)

    Best of luck with your students, and please feel free to contact me with any questions.

    Best wishes,
    Sarah Cooper

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