News: Using the news in the classroom

4 Nov 2014

All the news by Robert Couse-Baker on Flickr

Discussing the news with students gives them a ‘real world’ context to their learning. It also helps students to understand the global context of their local lives, and explore similarities and differences.

The wide range of news topics, including politics, current events, and natural disasters, makes it easy to integrate the news into the curriculum, starting with the most basic areas of reading and numeracy. Encouraging students to read and discuss the news builds upon their language, vocabulary and reading skills. It’s also an effective tool for teaching Maths concepts, particularly fractions, decimals, currency, and averages.

The use of news in education can also significantly enhance broader curriculum areas, such as Citizenship, Environmental Studies, or Geography. Students become better informed, more reflective and analytical. It helps them understand issues of global importance, and the people and places associated with these issues, by seeing in practice some of the complex problems and challenges in the world today, such as how to resolve conflicts and combat disease. By debating on these issues in class, students develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Following media coverage also helps students develop skills of recognising bias and stereotypes.

How to use the news

  • Critical thinking and analysis
  • Action and impact
  • Tutor time

In other words, teachers can introduce a news story in class, and have students discuss and analyse the issues, after which they brainstorm for concrete ideas on how to make an impact and create change. While news stories can often be disturbing for young people, they can also stimulate them to take action and make a positive impact.

For example, students can compare the local and global impacts of natural disaster by looking at news reports of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 (images and analysis at BBC News – Typhoon Haiyan) and Hurricane Sandy in 2012 (coverage at BBC News – Hurricane Sandy). The discussion can include an examination of the causes of flooding in both regions, the level of damage, the effectiveness of the response, and the rebuilding efforts. Students could then discuss the preventability, if any, of the disaster, and ways in which to help people affected by the flooding.

News stories can provide inspiring, short activities for tutor time and can build on students’ interest and enthusiasm about the big stories of the day. Here are a few simple activities to try out with your tutor group:

  • Show a short video clip (the BBC news website has many suitable clips or you could maybe show a different perspective with clips from Al Jazeera) and follow it up with a discussion.
  • Have a question related to a news story on the board which students then discuss – you could have copies of an article or newspaper (free papers such as the Metro can come in handy here) around the classroom for students to refer to. Pairs could be asked to come up with points on either side of the argument when asking ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ questions.
  • Show a picture and ask students if they know what story it relates to or if they can come up with a question about it (the Development Compass Rose could be useful here).
  • Bring up a world map and show where a news story is happening. What else do students know about that part of the world? Can they make any connections between themselves and/or the UK and there?

Teaching resources

Browse through teaching resources relating to the topic of ‘media’ >>

Produced fortnightly during term time by the British Red Cross, Newsthink looks at the stories behind recent headlines, with ideas for further exploration in secondary schools.
www.redcross.org.uk/What-we-do/Teaching-resources/Newsthink

The Day is a news website designed especially for UK schools. Much of the content is only available on subscription but there are also some useful free articles.
http://theday.co.uk/

First News is a subscription newspaper for KS1-3 students (ages 5-14)
www.firstnews.co.uk/forschools/

Newsround: Big stories reported in a ‘pupil-friendly’ way
www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/

You may want to read our blog on tackling complex questions before embarking on some topical stories.

Or use the Oxfam guide for dealing with controversial issues.

You could also use our ten critical questions to help pupils explore a topic.

And feel free to login and post your own suggestions in the comments box below. How have you explored the news with your pupils?

The photo at the top of the page is ‘all the news’ by Robert Couse-Baker on Flickr.com and used under a Creative Commons Licence.

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