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Ideas for Using Current Event Articles in the Science Classroom

Summary:
This will provide various ideas for using current event articles effectively in the science classroom. Materials:
  • Applicable current event article for students to read (can be collected by students). See Other Resources below for good internet current event resources.
  • Pen, pencil

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Source:
Courtesy of Jennifer Bergman and David Mastie.
Grade level:
6 - 12
Time:
Prep time and class time are small, ranging from 5-20 minutes depending on idea implemented.
Student Learning Outcomes:
  • Students will see that that the science they are studying is real and relevant in their world.
  • Students will learn to communicate more effectively about science.
Lesson format:
Reading, writing and presentation activity

National Standards Addressed:

DIRECTIONS:

Idea 1: Use reading and then discussing a current event article as a warm-up activity for your class. Teacher prep time includes finding an applicable article that is related to what you are studying in class and making copies. Students should grab an article upon entering class and should start reading. Discussion will follow after 5-7 minutes of quiet reading time. There is no specific grading related to this idea. Students know they need to read the article and pay attention to details in case they are called on during discussion time (e.g., "David, what did you think about this aspect of the article?" "Susan, explain why scientists were excited about this particular result." etc). This is always a good warm-up activity because it gives the teacher 5-7 minutes to take attendance and deal with other administrative issues.

Idea 2: Find an article and have students write questions about the article. Teacher prep time includes finding an applicable article that is related to what you are studying in class and making copies. I would put the following text at the top of the article: "Directions: Read this article carefully. Underline, check, circle and/or highlight it as you would if you were taking notes. Then, follow directions below the article." I would put the following text at the bottom of the article: "Now, using the notes you've taken, compose 5 multiple choice questions and 2 short answer questions that you think target the important areas of the article. The multiple choice questions should have the correct answer circled. The 2 short answer questions do not need to be answered." Obviously, the teacher should change the number of questions to be written depending on the length and depth of the article.

The grading of this assignment is quite simple. I simply gave appropriate credit if the right number of questions were written. This part of the process I felt comfortable having a dependable teacher's aide do. I would then go through the questions and answers for each class and pick out the most clever, creative or in-depth questions. I would copy these to be placed on the overhead when the students came in the classroom. This became quite an incentive for students to do their best work on this activity. It took a bit of time for me as the teacher, but it was worth it to see a student recognize their question/answer on the overhead and beam with pride. I would regularly give this out as a homework assignment.

Idea 3: Have students find their own articles and present them to the class over a period of a month or so. I would use this technique at the beginning of every big unit we were studying (e.g., 4 big units in the year - Water, Geology, Atmosphere, Space). I would give the assignment at the very beginning of the unit. I then gave students (with plenty of reminders) 2 weeks to collect any article about the very general concept of the unit. At the end of the 2 weeks, the students knew they could be called on any day from that point forward. Being called on to present their article meant that the student needed to have the article present that day and needed to give a 1-2 minute summary of the problems, issues and/or scientific findings presented in the article. Grading was very simple - did the student have the article on the day they were called on and could they summarize it for the class?

I wouldn't give a class less than 2 weeks time to collect the articles; otherwise, you'll end up with many more repeated articles. You'll want to let students know where they can find appropriate articles (might include local newspaper, national newspapers, national magazines like Time, Newsweek or Scientific American, appropriate internet sites (I limited my class to the list found below)).

I like this idea because it meant that no class time was wasted. If a particular class moved quickly through activities that day, I would choose (as randomly as possible), 1-2 students to present their current event articles to the class. We would discuss their presented facts for the remainder of the hour.

Idea 4: Find an article that is timely and appropriate for what you are studying in your classroom and write prompts (multiple choice or essay questions) related to the article. The benefit of this idea is that it most closely mirrors Reading Comprehension sections on standardized tests students will be expected to take. The downside of this idea is that it involves the most teacher prep time (finding article, writing questions, making copies, grading answered questions for accuracy). Consider sharing this preparation task with at least another teacher (or 2-3!) that teaches the same subject. Then, you may only have to do the prep work every other time you use this approach.

ASSESSMENT:

Will vary from classroom to classroom depending on the idea implemented.

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Last modified March 24, 2006 by Jennifer Bergman.

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