News stories and current events are a great way to help students become engaged in the topic that they are studying, and also to realize that the topic of study is REAL, it is relevant, and it is something that is currently happening around them. In addition to helping engage students, there are several other reasons to use news articles in class, as well. News articles are an ideal method to integrate common core standards for reading informational text. In addition, news stories can be a way to build up students’ international and national awareness of themselves as part of a larger community. News stories can include video clips, and, most commonly, written articles. These written texts are a great way to build up language skills, in context.
I use articles in several ways. Here are a few ideas:
— at the beginning of a unit, or mini-unit, to build up background knowledge, and to engage students. Students can read one article, and answer questions, or complete a graphic organizer. Students can read different articles on related topics and jigsaw to find common ground, and common themes among there topic. For example, in a recent unit on genetics, students read one of several articles about genetic mutations, and then shared information about what causes mutations, what are the effects, and whether or not mutations are beneficial.
— at the end of a unit, students can write a position paper, based on a controversial news article, or write their own news story, modeled after a given story, based on their content knowledge.
— students can read to related news article for homework, with questions or a written summary, to build up vocabulary, reading skills, and content knowledge.
As useful as news articles are, it can be difficult to find articles at your students’ appropriate reading levels, on topic that are relevant. Some magazines and news sites have a kids news portion, such as Time or National Geographic. However, my new favorite website takes current news stories, on many topics, searchable by keyword, and presents them on various reading levels. Check out Newsela. It is in beta, and free, at least for now. With a click of the button, you can adjust the reading level on any article from high school down to 4th or 5th grade. You can give different students different reading levels of the same article. Some of these news articles even come with quizzes built in. I’m so impressed with the selection of articles, and the ability to easily differentiate! I have already used this website three times, and have gotten great results! I hope you check it out, and please share your impressions in the comments section.
Tara is a science teacher from upstate NY. She has taught General Science, Biology, Environmental Science, and Earth Science.