Five days of the Wall Street Journal laid out on a desk in a classroom

My Go-to Current Events Lesson Plan for Newspapers

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This year, I was fortunate enough to have free delivery of the Wall Street Journal for my classes. I do love CNN10 and video current events, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to get free newspapers. I stacked them up neatly on my desk each day, and I gave students weekly homework assignments that required them to choose a paper and read it at home.

But I also tried to use them in my classroom on a somewhat regular basis. My school has a monthly DEAR – Drop Everything And Read – Day, and these are great for that. They’re also great for occupying students who finish other assignments quickly and having “nothing” to do. There’s always news to read.

From time to time, I devote a whole class period to reading the newspaper and discussing current events. Here’s an overview of my lesson plan for one of those days. Hopefully it’ll give you some ideas on how you can do this in your own class.

Getting Started: The Do Now / Anticipatory Set

On the way in, students took a copy of the morning’s paper. For a Do Now, they scanned the front page of the paper and looked for at least one story that seemed interesting.

On the front page of the Wall Street Journal (the paper I was using), there’s a column on the left that lists major stories with a one sentence summary. I pointed this out to students to help in their scanning efforts.

Front page of the Wall Street Journal

Most papers have a similar feature somewhere on the front page, and you should point this out to your students (especially if they haven’t read a paper in class before).

After they’ve had two or three minutes to peruse the front page, I popcorned around the room and had a few students share the stories they had chosen and briefly say why they had chosen it. To wrap up this little intro, I pointed out three articles that were major news stories that day.

Finally, I explained the directions for the day. The students would read the paper, briefly discuss in their groups, and then report out a thirty to sixty second summary of one article per group. This entire intro took about five minutes.

Phase Two: Sustained Silent Reading

After the introduction, the students took twenty minutes for sustained silent reading. I love the idea of SSR because it helps teach students that reading is something you have to plan to do. You can’t do it with a phone in one hand, responding to texts or browsing social media. You can’t do it while chatting with your neighbor.

You gotta sit there, open up the paper, and read. And if you don’t find something interesting, you just keep looking until you find something interesting to read.

This is also why I like doing this with a physical newspaper as opposed to on the Internet. Sure, in theory you can do the same thing with a tablet or a computer by logging on to a newspapers website. But it’s so easy to get distracted by clicking on a link or an ad. The analog nature of a newspaper lends itself to focus, and it provides a bounded universe for your students to explore with abandon – and limits.

At this point, I took a few moments to go to my computer in the back of the room and take attendance. Once that was done, I wandered through the groups to see what the students were reading. I nudged a few kids to engage with the paper and pointed out an article where students seemed at a loss for something to read about.

Then, I sat down in the front of the class and read the paper too. Because modeling.

Phase Three: Sharing in Groups and Sharing Out

Once the sustained silent reading period was over, the students had to share out in their groups and prepare a brief summary to share with the class. In my district, students are more or less required to sit in groups of three to four at all times, so there’s no transition time.

I gave the students seven to eight minutes for this part. I walked around the room and listened to their conversations at first to hear what they were sharing about. Over the course of the sharing time, I stopped in each group to guide them a bit in preparing their summaries and ensure that they had a person designated as a reporter.

Once everyone had prepared their summaries, we took five minutes to go around the room and share. Each group had designated a reporter, and that reporter gave a brief summary of the article that the group chose. Depending on how thoroughly they summarized the article, I may have asked a follow up question or two. But for the sake of time, I tried not to draw this out too long.

Follow Up for Homework

The routine in my class at this point was that you had to read the Wall Street Journal and summarize three articles per week. So the reading and sharing exercise in class helped the students complete one of those summaries. Their homework was to summarize two additional articles.

All in all, the lesson was successful. Everyone was engaged at some level in reading, which is a plus. Monitoring the group conversations, most students contributed something. The students identified a varied set of articles – the Senator Menendez trial ended with a mistrial, Senator Franken was accused of sexual misconduct, and the Justice League movie bombed at the box office. The discussions and summaries offered a form of formative assessment, and the written summaries students would complete for homework offered a more formal assessment of their understanding.

And we made effective use of the newspapers.

What about you – what do you like to do with your class when you have newspapers available? Have you tried this lesson or something similar? How did it work out for you? Drop a comment below.

Along with newspapers, I also use video current events quite frequently in my class. CNN10 is one of my favorite digital resources. Here are some suggestions to incorporate CNN10 into your class on a regular basis. If you’re not lucky enough to have free delivery of newspapers, you should check this out – because CNN10 is both free and fun.

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