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Creativity is key when teaching current affairs

Chloe Taylor, English teacher at Ormiston Shelfield Community Academy in Walsall, discusses how to get students reading the news

Posted by Julian Owen | January 18, 2019 | Teaching

As Im sure many teachers will agree, broaching current affairs with a class of young people is sometimes no easy feat. With social media encompassing more and more of our daily lives, and along with the proliferation of fake news stories across the web, the definition of news is becoming broader and broader. As an educator, it can be difficult to draw studentsattention to real and relevant news in an engaging way, and my best advice is that teaching current affairs should be creative and inclusive of many perspectives – reflecting the world itself.

At Ormiston Shelfield Community Academy, we recently participated in a current affairs enrichment programme, held in partnership with The Week Junior magazine. The programme was designed to be enjoyed by our Year 7 and 8 students, and aimed to help them make sense of the worlds most important and exciting news and events. Our goal was to empower students to form and share their own opinions on news and current affairs topics, boosting their literacy, debating and critical thinking skills.

During the programme, I found that there are a number of benefits to teaching current affairs in an interactive way. My students got stuck in to a range of activities, from gaining first-hand journalism career experience with The Week Juniors editor Anna Bassi to diving into lively debates about current affairs using the news resources available. The students also took part in a Roving Reporter competition, which turned them into mini journalists; we were delighted it was won by our very own student, Libby West. She was awarded with a day out to Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre for her class, and the school was featured in the following weeks edition of The Week Junior. By stepping outside of their normal classroom activities, my class shared new and creative ideas that they channeled eagerly into practical exercises. The most striking change was in my studentsconfidence. Students who were previously reluctant to read and speak in class were willing to have a go at expressing their own opinions in an organised debate context.

Most importantly, the students had great fun! Enjoyment is such a key aspect of childrens learning, so it was fantastic to watch a class of glowing faces actively participating throughout the programme. My class responded extremely well to the content of the magazine which, while age-appropriate, did not attempt to gloss over the important and complex issues facing the world. Students reported throughout and after the programme that they felt more knowledgeable about current affairs and were eager to learn more.

I can confidently say that I have seen an overwhelming change in my studentsapproach to current affairs. They are curious, opinionated, and keen to read for pleasure outside the classroom. As a teacher, I have learnt several new interesting activities to incorporate into my lessons, helping focus on the importance of body language when public speaking, and writing news stories using independent research. The classroom activities can also transfer into the studentshome time – a favourite homework task is to read a newspaper article, summarise it, and bring it in to use as a debate subject in class. Another enriching activity is to encourage students to identify a piece of the news and consider how it may impact the world they live in; this stimulates cross-curricular understanding of how current affairs influence their own lives. Creative additions to a lesson, such as The Week Juniors resources and regular class debates, can make current affairs lively and fun; the results will shine through in your studentscritical literacy and comprehension. I would encourage all teachers to get creative and empower students to enjoy the wealth of benefits drawn from discussing current affairs.

Find out more about what The Week Junior magazine can do for you school here: schools.theweekjunior.co.uk

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