Will’s post, A Long Way to Go, is so true. I think every school should have a required current events program for the students. A little over five years ago when I was teaching at J. H. House I went to the principal with a concern about how little our students knew about current events. Many of them had no clue even as to what states bordered Georgia; let alone who our leaders were or anything that was going on in the daily news. I proposed a current events program to start the day for all students in grades 3-5. Students watch the news, mindmap what they learn, and then the class takes a few minutes to discuss it. Connections are made to whatever they are studying. I was the instructional technology teacher at that time and when the students came to the lab I would have an activity ready that would springboard off of something that happened in the news. It took some time but you would be amazed at the payoff. Kids even began to love listening to the news. They looked forward to this part of the day. One highlight for me was one day when one of the students walked in after the Presidential debates and exclaimed, “Mrs. Davis, can you believe what (she named one of the candidates) said about education? Then she went into a long discussion, with accurate facts, as to how she could not believe he would make such a statement about an issue that was near and dear to her heart. Wow! I floated back down to the lab. That made my day and the memory of it can still get to me. I formed a group of kids, KeyPals, who began corresponding via email with school board members, county office representatives, senior citizens, etc. They discussed the news! I began a Wall of Fame & Notoriety in the lab so students would have visuals of faces in the news. You know the power of visuals! We subscribed to AccuNet Photo Archive so we could legally use pictures in all our creations. Students used these great photos in their lab work. It took some time but I think this project is one of the ones that I am most proud of because when I go back to the school, that vibrant, alive, caring discussion of daily news is still going on.
Recently, I took the GSU preservice teachers (Literature Circles) group on a field trip to that school and they saw this program in action.
“I truly enjoyed the students at J.H. House. They were friendly and helpful while we were on the visit. It was a great joy to see everyone so engaged in all the classrooms. I could tell that the students were used to visitors, because everyone stayed on task throughout the day. I really enjoyed being in the computer lab at the school… looking at all the big names in American politics and life in general… that was a learning experience for me!”
Mary Beth tells about her favorite part of the day….
“Thank you for a wonderful field trip to J.H. House elementary! My favorite part of the day was when all the students watched CNN and had an open forum discussion. What made it even better was when I got to go to the computer lab and work on an Inspiration project about the CNN topics with a fifth grade buddy. Your students knew such interesting facts, it made me go home and watch the evening news. What has been the most interesting fact that you have learned about from your daily CNN viewings? Good luck with your Weblogs. If you ever feel like checking out mine covering the Newberry Award winning book titled The Witch of Blackbird Pond, go here: http://anvil.gsu.edu/witch. Have a happy fall break and I hope to come back and visit again someday.”
Mary Beth’s statement that it made her go home and watch the evening news is another highlight . I can’t wait to tell the kids at House that what they were doing inspired a GSU student to go home and watch the news. Amazing! Thanks Mary Beth for sharing….
Sandy’s statement was simple and telling….
“I loved that the students at this school get to watch the news.”
Tessie was in awe….
“The most awesome thing I saw today was students watching CNN. Often students think the news is boring and for adults.”
Take a look at the write-up about the visit and the results of the interview my Wrinkles group conducted with the GSU students at the end of the day. The GSU students made comments back to my Wrinkles group that are worth reading.
So I say it can be done. We can do it but we have to make it a school-wide priority. The House kids are engaged and passionate about the news. They are reading, thinking, listening and building a cornerstone for being a good citizen. They still lack the writing skills which is why I formed the NewsQuest group last year. All of this is so important and crucial to our well-being as a nation. I think testing and measuring everything on the basis of one test is going to be the ruination of us, but I won’t get started on that. Another day…
Thank goodness I had a principal with a vision that made it a priority because it was not easy in the beginning. It has to be a school-wide focus with backing from the administration.
Another highlight I had at House was when a group of students came to me upset because their teacher was not letting them watch World News (at that time we had it broken down into categories) and this teacher felt she needed to move on to other curriculum areas. Now that is OK but can you imagine – students complaining about not getting to watch the news. I suggested they take it up as an issue in student council. I said they could write the teacher with reasons why they felt the news was beneficial and guess what – the World News was back on the agenda for those kids. Democracy in action……..
I would get upset when these kids moved on to middle school and high school and they only discussed news if they happened to be in a journalism class or a social studies class. But you have to make change where you can and let go – sometimes I have to work at that. Alright, most of the time, but, hey, I try! If we don’t make discussion of what is going on in the world part of our teaching, where will we be a society in years to come?
I see weblogs as a possible avenue to make a difference here. I’d like to see more sites where students are writing and thinking about what is going on in the news. We all need to empower the kids and get them involved in issues of the day. We as teachers need to foster the development of that voice. Can’t you see how it could work in every curriculum area? Let’s create a forum for developing the student voices. We as teachers can oversee it to give them the guidance to be responsible, thinking citizens who can make a difference.