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CURRENT EVENTS


    


Before Multicultural Restructuring

  • Major Objective:  Citizenship Education
  • Content Area:  Social Studies and Language Arts
  • Grade Levels: 3-8
  • Time Period:  Entire School Year on a Weekly Basis (15 minutes per day)
  • Objectives:

1.      Students will demonstrate the ability to locate and summarize orally the contents of newspaper articles on current events.

2.      Students will develop the propensity to stay abreast of current events.

 

Background Information 

            In most elementary schools, sharing is a part of the daily and weekly routine of the classroom.  During this time, primary grade students come to the front of the class to present something they have brought to show or discuss with classmates.  Some teachers make this a required activity and others leave it optional, but practically all teachers encourage parents and students to participate in this informal public speaking event.  Typically, the activity is arranged on a schedule so that students and parents will know the day of the week each student is expected to be a presenter.

             In the upper grades (4th-6th and in some middle school classrooms) the sharing of personal experiences, toys, and other objects from home gradually gives way to activities more closely related to the academic curriculum.  In one common extension of primary grade sharing, upper-grade students present one current events article on a weekly or biweekly basis in front of the class.

 

General Procedures 

  1. Teachers establish a rationale and routine for current events sharing and present it to their students.  They might explain that staying aware of current events is a natural part of citizenship responsibilities and survival strategies for most adults in our society, and that most adults get their current events update from a variety of sources, including radio and TV news, newspapers, and various newsmagazines.
  2. The teacher might then say, “To help develop the desire to stay in touch with important news events, all students in the class throughout the entire year will have the weekly or biweekly responsibility to give an oral report on a news article of their choice.”
  3. Beyond this, the teacher will set up ground rules such as the following:
    1. Each student will be given a specific day of the week on which to give the oral report.
    2. On occasion, the students can pass up the opportunity to be a presenter but must let the teacher know before sharing time.
    3. Students will neatly cut out the articles they are summarizing, so these can be posted on the current events bulletin board.
    4. On their presenting day, all students will be responsible for providing a written and oral summary of their news articles.  The summary will, minimally, answer these questions:

                                                               i.      Who or what was the news story about?

                                                             ii.      What happened in the story?

                                                            iii.      Where did the story take place?

                                                           iv.      Why did you find this story interesting?

                                                             v.      What questions, if any, do you have about this news story?

    1. After the oral summary, students can ask questions to be answered by the presenter or other students in the class.  The teacher moderates this part of the presentation.
    2. After the oral presentation, the student’s written remarks will be submitted to the teacher, and the student’s newspaper article will be posted on the bulletin board with his or her name neatly written in.  Articles will be posted and removed on a weekly or biweekly basis.  When the articles are taken down, students can keep or discard them.

 

Analysis

             This format has several positive features but also notable flaws.  It follows the traditional individualistic pattern of teaching and learning-students work alone-for an entire year with no modification of structure.  The sheer repetition of the activity would probably dull student motivation long before June.  Thus, as structured, the activity does little to promote educational equity or intergroup harmony.  Regarding educational equity, it is noteworthy that the teacher assumes that all children in the class will have access to newspapers.  With one out of four young children growing up in poverty in America, this is an inappropriate assumption.  Also, for limited English proficient speakers and others, a format that allowed the presenter to address a smaller group, say 8 students rather than 32, would likely be more constructive for this type of public speaking event.  In addition, teachers utilizing this traditional format do not exploit the potential for involving students in collaborative deliberation in this year-long project, and typically do little to promote parental support for the activity.  Finally, the routine nature of the instructional activity-where week after week the students have the same responsibilities-severely limits its instructional value.  For example, as structured, the activity does little to promote awareness of

1.      the manner in which the news media select and “create” news;

2.      the distinction between local, regional, state, national, and international news;

3.      the distinction between profit-making, and nonprofit-making news organizations;

4.      the fact that selected cultural and ethnic groups in the United States create their own sources of daily, weekly, and monthly news;

5.      the various ways in which telecommunications can expand students’ and teachers’ perceptions of current events by creating two-way electronic mail communication between classrooms in different school districts, states, and nations.

 

Some of the deficiencies are addressed in the revised activity structure that follows.

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After Multicultural Restructuring

 

  • Major Objective:  Citizenship Education
  • Content Area:  Social Studies and Language Arts
  • Grade Levels:  3-8
  • Time Period:  Entire School Year for Varying Amounts of Time (the activity may be dropped in certain weeks and months.)
  • Objectives:

1.      The learner will demonstrate increased knowledge of news production and dissemination in the United States.

2.      The learner will demonstrate the ability to locate, summarize, and evaluate the contents of various forms of current events reportage (print, radio, and television news).

3.      The learner will develop an interest in staying abreast of the news.

 

Suggested Modifications 

  1. By newsletter, the teacher informs parents that a yearlong study of news gathering and reporting will soon commence, and that, within two weeks, students will be asking parents to donate newspapers, magazines, and other print sources for projects.  Parents with experience in news gathering or reporting are encouraged to share their experiences with the class.  Teachers can also solicit newspapers from professionals and various business organizations.
  2. The teacher introduces the activity in an open-ended way by asking students what they think current news is, and what they think current events means; then the teacher has all students describe, in writing, what they do to stay aware of current events.
  3. The teacher asks students to brainstorm the following question: “In what different ways could the students in this class, working together, become more knowledgeable about news gathering and reporting in our community, state, and nation?”  The teacher then analyzes and uses some of the student ideas to establish the initial structure for current events sharing.
  4. The teacher arranges to have a class library, in which a range of recently published newspapers and magazines will be made available for student to read and cut articles form; there will also be a weekly classroom newspaper from a source such as Scholastic, Inc. or Weekly Reader, if the school budget permits.
  5. The teacher tells the class that for the first few months, the class will employ several strategies to increase their knowledge base. “After the new year we’ll evaluate our progress, and perhaps adopt some new strategies.  The strategies we will use now include cooperative group sharing of newspaper and magazine articles, presentations by and interviews of local journalists and publishers, individual and buddy research papers on news-related topics, and weekly or biweekly discussion of articles form the class newspaper, My Weekly Reader.”
  6. Every student in the class has one partner and is also a member of a four-or-five student team.  The teams are established in late September and stay together for about 6 or 12 weeks; if 12 weeks, the students can switch partners.  For reporting on newspapers or magazine current events articles as delineated in the “before” activity, two teams of four students each can be combined.  Half the group of eight students can report on Tuesday while the other half reports on the following Tuesday, or the groups can rotate on a weekly basis.  By utilizing small cooperative groups for the reporting activity, rather than having each child speak n front of 32 students, the teacher (a) creates a more supportive climate, (b) allows more time for other types of sharing, because the four-student group takes less reporting time than the whole-group model, and (c) provides a setting that permits more active language involvement for a wider range of students.
  7. With this extra time, during certain weeks the teacher can report on a current events article he or she found interesting.  In addition, in a modified Meet the Press format, the students can, on a biannual or more frequent basis, arrange to interview a local print or television journalist or publisher from the English and non-English media.  If the more frequent basis is chosen, interviewing other community personalities like the junior high school principal, town sheriff, or school custodian may also prove illuminating.  Student research projects about famous journalists, specialized ethnic and cultural publications, and current issues about problems facing the journalists and the newspaper industry can also be reported on occasionally.
  8. The questions students ask journalists and publishers during the Meet the Press interviews should be as probing as possible.  For this reason, the students will be encouraged to ask their parents and older siblings for ideas, and parents will be invited to the Thursday or Friday afternoon interview.  These sessions can also be videotaped.  The teacher can suggest questions that reveal the economic basis and political dimension of local newspapers.  For example, why do some papers cost money while others are given away?  How are “given-away” papers similar to television stations?  In terms of expressing political preferences and opinions, what are some differences between newspapers and television?  What is the difference between public radio and television and commercial radio and television?
  9. During the course of the year, teachers will bring variety to the weekly activity by:
    1. Using articles from the class newspaper as the basis for thought-provoking discussions;
    2. Encouraging students to vary the type of current events they report on, in terms of the source of the news (local, regional, state, national, and international levels of news), and type of news: sports, politics, entertainment, scientific, education;
    3. Having students carry out comparisons of local newspapers, local newspapers versus local television in their treatment of a specific story, and analyses of what is included and excluded from local newspapers as well as the class newspaper;
    4. Linking current events to historical anniversaries like the Columbus Quincentennial (1992); the fiftieth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education (1994), the integration of major league baseball (1997) and the U.S. armed forces (1998), and the creation of the State of Israel (1998);
    5. Having each group of eight students keep a scrapbook of the articles they have reported, and by occasionally inviting several students from each group to present one of their articles in front of the whole class;
    6. Having student volunteers go out to interview and videotape fellow students, teachers, parents, and administrators about a specific controversial current event.  The class can view, discuss, and critique the videotaped interview.

 

Final Comments 

            The “after” treatment of the current events activity took a routine activity, almost a time filler, and transformed it into a more ambitious collaborative undertaking.  Because the current events activity lacks a unifying theme and has the potential, with ongoing modifications, to last an entire year, it does not fall within the lesson sequence or unit parameters.  But as the horizons of the activity are expanded, it takes on some unitlike characteristics.  In addition, in any given month the teacher can make current events part of a more elaborate unit of instruction.  For example, the teacher can lead the class into a unit related to the development and production of a class newsletter or paper.

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