Current events have an important place in social studies instruction because they're great for comparing to historical events. This blog post shares five ways to bring current events into your classroom - and they're easy! Click through to read more.
Every Teacher New Year, I have a classroom resolution. The first year I taught it was to survive. The second year, it was to make it another year. I don't remember what it was the third year, but I do remember being confident enough my fifth year to make the resolution something about pedagogy, even though I don't recall what it was. Last year, I worked to up my gamification skills.

This year, I want to enrich my curriculum with activities that foster critical thinking. One way I plan to do this is to bring more current events into the curriculum. I think current events are a good way to do this for a couple of reasons:

1. I want for my students to know what's going on in the world--not just what shows up in their social media feed--so that they can be informed citizens.
2. I want for my students to understand bias and to learn how to recognize it so that they can read the news intelligently, realizing that getting their information from one source is not always a good idea.

When bringing current events into your classroom or asking your students to, a good place to start is mediabiasfactcheck.com. This site ranks news sources according to bias (evinced in loaded language and omissions) and factual reporting. When you go to the homepage, type in the media source you want to check in the search engine. When search results appear, click on the name of the news source for information about the publication's veracity.

A reliable site for fact-checking is factcheck.org.

So here it is...

5 Ways to Bring Current Events into Your Classroom

1. Current Event Bulletin Board

My department head does this, and it's really cool. Hang a laminated world map at the center of the board. Have students bring in a current event and draw an arrow from the place on the map where the event took place to the article. The class can discuss these articles, or early finishers can get up and read them.

2. Current Event Retelling

Current events have an important place in social studies instruction because they're great for comparing to historical events. This blog post shares five ways to bring current events into your classroom - and they're easy! Click through to read more.As an ELA teacher, I loved doing this with novels, but this would work with historical figures, too.
Select a major news event or events, and have students retell it with a twist--they will cast people from history or characters in novels as the "who" in the articles. How would these characters behave in a similar situation? They should add interviews from the characters' perspectives. Have students put all of their stories together into a class newspaper.

*For this one, I would caution against local news and tragedies--you don't want to make light of someone's suffering. Stick to culture, business, and politics--there's tons of material there.

3. Same Story, Different Source

My co-teacher did something like this with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last year, and it worked really well. She pulled articles from pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian newspapers. But you can do it for any topic.

Discuss a current event with your class. Have students find it covered in various sources. They should note how it is told differently from one source to the next by identifying loaded language and omissions. Ask students what the effects of these things are. Use this as a catalyst to discuss bias.

4. Current Event Journal

My AP U.S. History teacher did this when I was in high school, and I really enjoyed it as a jaded 11th grader. Have students keep a Current Event Journal over the year or the semester in which they will describe and respond to major news stories each week. They can focus on events that are directly related to the course (business for economics, politics for civics, everything for history and literature :)).

At the end of the year or semester, have students decide what the "top stories" are and create a newscast in which they report them. They can partner up and film them to share with the class.

5. Current Event Paragraph

I have been doing this activity with my students for a decade, and it's been a valuable way to bring current events into a content-heavy course by asking students to make connections between the past and the present.

Have students bring in articles related to events, topics, or themes that you are studying. Discuss how the current event connects to your unit of study. Then have students write a paragraph that summarizes the article, explains its significance, and connects it to your current unit or topic of study. You can preview my handout here.

How do you bring current events into your curriculum? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Back to school season always sneaks up on us teachers, but we CAN prepare for it by thinking ahead! In this blog post, I'm sharing three ways to make back to school better, including classroom setup, planning for substitute teachers, and creating student avatars. Click through to read the full post!

I don't want to say it. I mean, I really don't want to say it. Saying it somehow makes it true, and as much as I love my job, I have to confess that I don't want it to be. I want to keep staying up late and sleeping later. I want to keep not constantly having papers to grade. And most of all, I want to keep having longer than 10 minutes to eat lunch.

But I guess I have to face the reality that summer break is almost over, and a new school year is about to begin.

I truly am excited to meet my new students--I just wish I could do it at 11 A.M.

Every new school year brings new considerations and a chance to start fresh. I thought about it a lot this summer over leisurely lunches and in between Netflix binges. And I thought I'd share some of my ideas with you.

This week, I am considering classroom structure and community and simple tweaks I can make to simplify my life throughout the year. Next week, I will be considering skills that I think my students need and how I plan to build them into the curriculum.

Both weeks, I will discuss three ways to help us do this. So here's week one--

Three Ways to Make Back to School Better

Way 1: How I Will Set Up My Classroom

Back to school season always sneaks up on us teachers, but we CAN prepare for it by thinking ahead! In this blog post, I'm sharing three ways to make back to school better, including classroom setup, planning for substitute teachers, and creating student avatars. Click through to read the full post!If you've known me for a bit, then you know that I LOVE tables in the classroom. I took a job in a new school system last year, and I no longer have tables (sad day, but they are harder to come by than I ever knew). 

Here is why I love them:
1. Tables are ideal for collaboration. I put four to five students around a table and partnering up and discussion come without a second thought.
2. It's so much easier for me to maneuver around the room--desks just get in the way (they are so easy to trip over).
3. Desks send a psychological message to students that tables don't--school, desks, rows, isolation, "SHHHH".... 

This is how I compensate for not having them:
1. I clump desks into groups of four, all facing the front. Desks on the left front get the label on the left (Group 1, Seat 1). Desks on the right front get the label on the right front (Group 1, Seat 2).
2. Behind Seat 1, I put Group 1, Seat 4 (Label on the Right). Behind Seat 2, I put Group 1, Set 3 (Label on Left).

Back to school season always sneaks up on us teachers, but we CAN prepare for it by thinking ahead! In this blog post, I'm sharing three ways to make back to school better, including classroom setup, planning for substitute teachers, and creating student avatars. Click through to read the full post!
Grab the free labels HERE!
I do this so that I can implement Kagan Structures--amazing for the collaborative, interactive classroom. But instead of wasting time doing cute things like "Person with a summer birthday, go first," I can save time by saying, "Work with your shoulder partner. Even person go first." Or, "Work with your face partner, odd person go first." It's all about that number.



Grab my free labels HERE.

Way 2: Getting to Know Each Other with Avatars

Secondary teachers have probably noticed that our students are largely over traditional "getting to know you" games and activities. But they do still need to get to know each other. It builds community and validates them as individuals. It gets them used to the idea of collaborating with each other (in our information-based, post-industrial economy, collaboration is WAY more important a skill than competition).

I took a note from Google and other largely millennial-driven corporations, and decided to let my students get to know each other by creating avatars. Here's how I did it last year (and it worked well, so I plan on doing it again):

1. Share a Google Slides template with students, set so that everyone can edit. 
2. Send them to a free website like this one to build an Avatar.
3. Have them share their Avatars with the class.

How to Implement:

I start with a directions slide:
Back to school season always sneaks up on us teachers, but we CAN prepare for it by thinking ahead! In this blog post, I'm sharing three ways to make back to school better, including classroom setup, planning for substitute teachers, and creating student avatars. Click through to read the full post!

Then I show them my example:
Back to school season always sneaks up on us teachers, but we CAN prepare for it by thinking ahead! In this blog post, I'm sharing three ways to make back to school better, including classroom setup, planning for substitute teachers, and creating student avatars. Click through to read the full post!
Slight embellishment on the writing talent--we don't want students to feel shy about sharing their talents, so set modesty aside.

Then I give them about 15 or 20 minutes to create theirs. Finally, they share them with the class. Since they have all been editing the same presentation (I copy as many template slides as I have students into the presentation), I just project the one presentation. Here are two student examples:
Back to school season always sneaks up on us teachers, but we CAN prepare for it by thinking ahead! In this blog post, I'm sharing three ways to make back to school better, including classroom setup, planning for substitute teachers, and creating student avatars. Click through to read the full post!

Back to school season always sneaks up on us teachers, but we CAN prepare for it by thinking ahead! In this blog post, I'm sharing three ways to make back to school better, including classroom setup, planning for substitute teachers, and creating student avatars. Click through to read the full post!

It's a super fun and engaging way to get to know each other. If you are gamifying, wow, you have Avatars for your students' profiles.

This is a part of my gamifying system. Check it out HERE.

Way 3: Being Ready for Emergencies 

We all have to be out from time to time. Sometimes those times are completely unexpected. The best thing you can do is to set up an emergency sub folder at the beginning of the year. Make sure you keep an updated seating chart and your classroom rules in it (super important). Then put activities in it that will keep your class moving ahead--NOT wasting their time. The worst thing we can give subs is busy work. I know I don't want to return from an unexpected absence to spend my planning period calling parents and assigning detention.

My department's major focus this year is on writing. So here's what I did to make sub work count:
1. I created a three-columned chart. On it, I listed all of my units in one column and the textbook chapters that align with them in the next. If you don't have a textbook, you can link to online readings (a pain to do, but worth it in the long-run). I also found films on YouTube that go with each chapter and linked to them in the third column.
2. Then I have a week's worth of activities that will enable students to keep on track with the content and to work on their writing skills. (Picture this in an email to the school secretary: copy handouts 1, 2, and 3, and use the accompanying reading and video for unit 5--DONE!) It goes like this:

    - Students will read any chapter in any textbook or an online reading and complete activities that are more relevant and engaging than the questions at the end of the section. 
    - Then they will narrow a topic, generate a thesis statement, plan an essay, write a rough draft, engage in relevant peer editing, and finally compose a final essay draft.
    - Students will watch a film and complete a film guide over their topic and create a test.
    - Students will reflect upon their own performance with a self-guided work rubric. There is also an editable rubric for the essay final draft.
    - When you return, take questions from the tests they created and make quiz to use as formative assessment. This way you will get a better idea of what content to revisit.

This takes some time on the front end, but once you have it, it's done and unplanned absences are so much less stressful. These are the ones I made:
Back to school season always sneaks up on us teachers, but we CAN prepare for it by thinking ahead! In this blog post, I'm sharing three ways to make back to school better, including classroom setup, planning for substitute teachers, and creating student avatars. Click through to read the full post!

Back to school season always sneaks up on us teachers, but we CAN prepare for it by thinking ahead! In this blog post, I'm sharing three ways to make back to school better, including classroom setup, planning for substitute teachers, and creating student avatars. Click through to read the full post!
Check them out HERE!
How are you getting ready to go back? Leave a comment and let me know. And come back next week to check out vital skills I am finding ways to integrate into my curriculum for the upcoming school year.


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