Teaching current events to middle school students is extremely important for educators.
In teaching students about the world beyond the classroom, we equip them with the tools of critical thinking, responsible citizenship, and a broadened perspective.
This blog post is full of ideas and resources for middle school classrooms. It offers practical strategies and thought-provoking assignments that make learning about current events exciting and give students the tools they need to navigate the many things happening around the world.
Why Teaching Current Events Matters in Middle School
Teaching current events has many benefits for middle school students.
This subject helps:
- Develop critical thinking skills. Exposing students to real-world issues teaches them to analyze and evaluate information from diverse sources, a skill necessary for their future education and careers.
- Fosters informed and responsible citizenship. Being informed helps students form opinions on local and global issues, setting the stage for success as active community participants.
- Expands perspectives and cultivates empathy. Studying current events goes beyond the headlines; exposure to various ideas challenges students to expand their perspectives, fostering a compassionate understanding of different cultures, backgrounds, and viewpoints.
Teaching Current Events to Middle School Students
From media literacy to engaging discussion formats and non-fiction articles, these suggestions and ideas will help you cultivate informed, empathetic, and forward-thinking minds in your middle school classroom.
1. Diverse Media Access
You can also have students check out any of these student-friendly websites geared toward kids:
- Time for Kids – Offers news articles specifically tailored for students, covering a range of topics in an accessible and engaging way. This website is suitable for grade 6 students just beginning to be exposed to the news.
- DOGO News – Provides current events and news stories designed for kids, focusing on making complex topics easy to understand. This website started as a news source for a 3rd grader and now has articles for K-12.
- CBC Kids News – Provides news stories from across Canada in an easy-to-understand format written for kids. This website is suitable for ages 9-13.
- Teaching Kids News – Give students news in a kid-friendly way that provides context so kids can understand what’s going on. This website is suitable for grades 3-8.
- News4Youth – Provides news and current event topics for grades five and up. Requires a subscription.
Other websites, such as Positive.News, Good News Network, and The Learning Network are also great sources for current event articles. Always check out these news sources beforehand to ensure the content is suitable for your students.
2. Discussion-Provoking Articles
Integrate discussion-provoking articles into lessons using the Article of the Week format. Many teachers like using Kelly Gallagher’s Article of the Week format. Dave Stuart Jr. also provides great articles for class discussion.
Here are some fantastic Article of the Week resources, including themed articles, you can use in your middle school classroom:
The ultimate Article of the Week Full Year Mega Bundle is designed specifically for middle school teachers and students! This comprehensive resource is a game-changer packed with engaging materials to captivate your students and enhance their reading comprehension and thinking skills. This resource will give you an article for every week of the school year!
With a total of 44 captivating high-interest non-fiction articles and 41 graphic organizers, this bundle offers a wealth of educational content that will keep your students excited and motivated to learn. Each article comes with 3 post-reading activities, carefully crafted to reinforce comprehension and encourage critical thinking.
To support the diverse needs of your students, this bundle includes both regular and modified versions of the articles, catering to a wide range of learning abilities. Additionally, you’ll find 88 MP3 audio files available for both the regular and modified articles to support all learners in their educational journey.
You might also like this article, 3 Ways to Make Teaching Non-Fiction Interesting.
3. Engaging Video Clips
Video clips provide a dynamic and visually engaging way to present information. Combining visuals, audio, and motion can grab students’ attention and make the content more compelling. It can also give students a more authentic and immediate connection to the events discussed.
- Explore video resources like CNN10, CNN’s student news section, which provides a new 10-minute video each school day to keep students updated.
It’s also important not to avoid teaching controversial or social justice topics.
You know the students in your class, so you will know what they can handle. You may also want to check out this blog post, The Importance of Self-Reflection When Teaching Social Justice Topics or Addressing Controversial Issues in the Classroom.
4. Educational Podcasts
Not only do podcasts provide an alternative way to engage with information, but they can be a great way for students to absorb and find current events for several reasons:
- They often present information in a conversational and engaging format, making the content more accessible and enjoyable for students.
- They are easily accessible and can be listened to at any time, allowing students the flexibility to engage with current events at their own pace.
- They cater to different learning styles, making them an inclusive medium for students with diverse preferences.
- Unlike brief news clips, they can provide a more thorough analysis and discussion, offering students a deeper understanding of the events being covered.
- They encourage students to focus on spoken language, recognize different tones, and understand nuanced expressions, helping them improve listening skills.
- They come in various formats, including interviews, narratives, and panel discussions, allowing teachers to choose content that aligns with their instructional goals and students’ preferences.
KidNuz provides news for kids in 5-10-minute podcast episodes five days a week.
You can get this free Teacher’s Guide To Podcasts if you’ve never used podcasts in your classroom. With this resource, you can learn ways to engage your students while practicing literacy skills, reinforcing the concepts they learn in class, and building classroom community – all while using podcasts.
For more information on podcasts, you can read the following articles:
- Why Should You Use Podcasts In Middle School?
- 9 Fantastic Ways To Use Podcasts In The Classroom
- 11 Creative Ways To Use Podcasts With Students
If your students are new to podcasts, you can try out this Podcast Non-Fiction Article to help them understand the medium.
5. Connect Current Events to Literature
Many books geared toward middle school readers have issues that mirror today’s society. Here are a few examples:
- Refugee by Alan Gratz – Alan Gratz weaves three different voices together in Refugee- Josef, a Jewish boy escaping the concentration camps in 1930s Nazi Germany; Isabel, a Cuban girl who sets out on a raft to America in 1994; and Mahmoud, a Syrian boy immigrating to Europe in 2015. Their lives are bound together in an ending the reader won’t see coming. This novel tells the stories of three refugees from different periods and places. It offers a powerful exploration of displacement, empathy, and the refugee experience, connecting to current global discussions on immigration and human rights.
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – Starr is a sixteen-year-old girl living her life in between two worlds, the poor neighbourhood she lives in and the affluent school she attends. Her life takes a drastic turn when her childhood best friend Khalil, is shot by a police officer. Addressing themes of racial injustice and police brutality, this book provides a relevant and thought-provoking exploration of social issues. It encourages discussions on activism, inequality, and systemic racism, aligning with ongoing societal conversations.
- Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan – This novel follows the life of Amina, a Pakistani-American girl, as she navigates middle school and struggles with issues of identity and belonging. Amina is now in middle school, and suddenly everything starts changing. Her best friend wants to make her name more “American” and starts hanging out with the popular crowd. Does Amina need to change who she is too, or will she stay true to herself? This book can bring about discussions of cultural diversity and the immigrant experience.
Teaching current events through literature will help students understand the impact of certain events and attitudes in society, giving them strong examples of consequences, empathy, and resilience.
Stories have the power to offer nuanced perspectives, allowing students to explore the human experience in various contexts. By engaging with characters and situations in stories that mirror or parallel real-world events, students can develop empathy, gain insights into the consequences of actions, and witness examples of resilience in the face of challenges.
This approach enhances their understanding of societal issues and encourages critical thinking and emotional intelligence.
6. Current Event Assignments
Current Events Assignment
In the Current Events News Assignment, students are given several graphic organizers to analyze their current events. After their analysis, they present their current event to the class to expose students to various issues.
This assignment comes with gradual release teacher instructions to ensure students get the maximum benefit of the assignment as you teach current events. Find the Current Events Assignment on Shopify CAD and Teachers Pay Teachers USD.
Here is what one teacher has said about this resource:
“Another great resource that is super user friendly and made my planning so much easier. Can easily use again and again with whatever is happening in the world to make it current and relevant with your students.”
Hot Topics Assignment
Perfect for teaching current events, students are provided with a structured environment to explore controversial issues like animal testing, school uniforms, or global warming in the Hot Topics Class Discussion Assignment. After their exploration, they lead the class in a discussion.
I approve all topics before students start working on this assignment to ensure all topics are age-appropriate and related to our curriculum. Find the Hot Topics Class Discussion Assignment on Shopify CAD and Teachers Pay Teachers USD.
Here is what one teacher has said about this resource:
“This is great. It goes well with Article of the Week. You can incorporate this is so many ways. Great if you have a talkative class that will engage in some meaningful discussion.”
Don’t Forget About Fake News
When teaching current events to students and having them navigate through online media, it is important to ensure they know what a legitimate source is. Students are never too young to learn about the rise of fake news and understand how to spot it in their research.
This Fake News Unit contains five high-interest lessons to help students understand what fake news is and how to spot it.
The lesson topics are:
- What is Media Literacy?
- What is Fake News?
- How to Spot Fake News
- Fake News Stations (5 Different Topics)
- Creating Fake News Final Assignment
Here is what one teacher has said about this resource:
“This is a great way to introduce a very important topic for students who regularly encounter misleading or fake news while they are online. It is a fun unit for a serious topic – lots of ways for students to make connections with the things they are seeing online in social media or hearing from other students. Helps to build critical thinking skills!”
Teaching current events in the middle school classroom can be engaging and exciting for students when you use the right resources. Ensuring a good mix of relevant topics and world issues will help students stay engaged, connect the content to their lives, and be eager to learn more about the world around them.
The key is to make the content relatable, thought-provoking, and diverse to capture students’ attention and maintain their enthusiasm for learning about current events.