Teaching Current Events {& A Printable!}

As a teacher of high school students, I feel a sense of duty to talk to my students about what is going on in the world. I talk about current events on a semi-regular basis, mentioning things on the news frequently at the beginning or end of class, and I offer a wide-variety of extra credit opportunities regarding current events. But as a teacher of high school students in the history classroom, I feel a sense of duty to do more than simply mention these events, or offer extra credit opportunities here and there. While I do think that it is a collective duty that all teachers share, I have a strong desire to do my part, and then some, when it comes to the current events education of my students. 

This year, at the end of the 9th grade World History unit on the Muslim World in November, I engaged my students in a week-long extension unit on the Middle East. Technically, it is not a part of the 9th grade required curriculum, but I made time to give students the opportunity to make connections between the ancient history classroom and modern day events. During the week, we covered Middle East geography, Israel, Iraq, Iran, the Taliban & Afghanistan, and the Arab Spring & ISIS. 

This was the first year that I taught this extension unit and I will definitely be improving upon it for next year, but I do think that for this first year, it went well. We began the extension unit by watching Promises and Betrayals, a documentary from the BBC on the history of the Middle East (link here). It provided a strong overview for the students on the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, dating back to World War I. I had to jump ahead quite a few years in order to teach this unit, and this video gave my students more of the background that they lacked.

From this introduction video, we worked our way through coverage of the overall geography and then a specific focus on each of the areas or issues that I outlined above. This was a lecture intensive week, but there was also a lot of room for student questions and discussion - of which there was a lot! 

As I said, my students did not have any sort of background on these topics, aside from what they'd seen about ISIS on the news (beheadings, anyone?) and so I felt that it was better to provide lecture heavy information (with printed notes) to provide information prior to our discussions. 

After our class lectures and discussions, students spent other class time reading UPFRONT Magazine articles and answering the related worksheet questions. Students read about the impact of the Iranian Revolution and Malala's bravery, and they analyzed political cartoons and talked about President Obama's foreign policy. Classes ran smoothly and the students remained engaged during the lessons, continuously raising their hands to ask a question or make an observation. 

For homework, students were asked to find 2 news articles relating to the current events that we had discussed, and analyze them. Of everything that we did in the extension unit, this homework proved to be the most difficult. I had to teach my students how to search for a news article online, which I didn't think I'd need to teach them, but it also provided an excellent opportunity to teach research and analytical skills. I created a homework sheet for this that I thought I would share here! You can download the printable (my first one!) by clicking on this link!

I am now also using this as an open extra credit opportunity for students. They can choose their own news topic and research current events on their own during the term to gain extra points and help to boost their grades. I have already had a few kids take advantage of this opportunity and they're gaining valuable skills in the process!

When I teach this next year, I want to try to find a way to move away from the longer lectures and maybe include more activities to better engage my students. Are you a fan of current events? If you're a teacher, do you make sure to incorporate current events in your classroom? And for those of you who aren't teachers, how would you want to learn about current events? I'd love to hear from you guys about how to best teach current events! 




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