Using News-Basics with Students
Whether or not you have time to teach current events in the classroom, you can use News-Basics to help your students become informed citizens. Here are ten simple ways.
1. Homework: Assign your students to read one News-Basics article each week. You’ll be giving them a basic understanding of important current events. You’ll also be making the news less daunting to them, and improving the odds that they’ll keep paying attention after they leave your classroom. (If you want to make sure they’ve done their homework, you can assign them to complete the news quiz for the article, or to print the article and underline important points.)
2. Do Now: If your students have access to computers in the classroom, they can read a News-Basics article in the minutes before class starts.
3. When done with an assignment: Students who finish in-class assignments early can visit News-Basics and learn about current events, if you have computers in your classroom.
4. Extra credit: Offer your students the chance to get extra credit by reading a News-Basics article and completing the news quiz, or by writing ten important facts they learned from the article.
5. Background for research: If your students will be researching current events in depth, News-Basics is a perfect first step—especially for students who haven’t been following the news. A little context goes a long way.
6. Preparation for a debate: To conduct a classroom debate on a topic in the news, first have the students read a News-Basics article and some of the op-ed links. Then divide the class into two teams and have each team list its arguments. (An especially good resource for this activity is www.ProCon.org, which covers opposing views on many News-Basics topics.) Once the students have their arguments ready, lead the class in a formal debate. For guidance on leading a debate with students, see “How to Hold a Class Debate,” on About.com. Or, for a complete primer on formal debates in the Lincoln-Douglas format, see this article at Education World. You’ll find a useful packet of handouts on debates and persuasive writing here.
7. Learning to evaluate op-eds: Each News-Basics article includes links to opinion columns with different points of view. Reading opposing viewpoints can be eye-opening. After students read the op-eds on a given topic, ask them to outline the arguments on both sides. Then ask them to write about which point of view they find more convincing, and why—or, hold an informal classroom discussion. For a guide to analyzing editorial point-of-view in newspapers, go here.
8. Writing opinion columns: After your students have read a few op-eds on News-Basics, assign them to write their own opinion pieces. Here are links to web pages that offer tips on writing op-eds:
• A simple op-ed structure (much like a 5-paragraph essay), from The Op-Ed Project
• A thorough, helpful guide to writing op-eds, from Duke University
9. In-depth research on the news: After students read a News-Basics article, ask them to research one particular aspect of the story further, and write a paper. A simple way for them to begin is to follow one of the links in the News-Basics article. (Example: Research whether or not the Minerals Management Service’s lax oversight of offshore drilling played a part in the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico; the links provided will get them started.)
10. Vocabulary-building: Ask students to list any words they don’t know in a News-Basics article, and have them look up the definitions. Combine their lists to create a master vocabulary list for them to study; then, quiz them on the list.
Why not send students straight to a respected newspaper? Why use News-Basics? Even the clearest newspaper articles assume a familiarity with basic background information. Asking students to report on a current events story from the newspaper will leave most of them with gaps in their understanding. They’ll get much more out of the assignment if they visit News-Basics first.
More resources for you
We welcome suggestions and input from teachers. If you have ideas for other ways to use News-Basics with students, please click here and share your thoughts. We’ll credit you by name, if you like. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!