I used to do current events way back in a former teaching life. I think current events are important; kids need to learn that there is a world outside of their world. So I made my students bring articles they found in the newspaper or on the internet (wasn’t I the tech genius letting them use the internet!) and write a summary. I then taped it to the wall so others could read..which they never did. Sigh.
I stopped that a long time ago…but I’m bringing it back thanks to a new (and free) website I found: TweenTribune.
If I am being honest, I only started using TweenTribune because I needed something to keep my journalism kids busy while I was working on formatting the paper, but they loved it. When I expanded it to my co-taught class, they jumped right in and started reading, commenting, and talking about what they were reading. I actually heard one of my “I hate everything about this class including you but secretly I kind of like it” students yell to his buddy to read an article he just commented on. He didn’t summarize it for his friend; he said read it. And his friend read it.
Basically, the site is a collection of age appropriate articles from Associated Press organized by subject. There are no articles about violent murders or play by plays of last night’s game (the two most common article types that I wished students would ignore). Lengthy, confusing articles about government policy or international relations are also omitted, but the topics will still show up alongside topics such as “Tweens in the News.”
Students are able to comment on the article. I tell mine their responses have to demonstrate they read, but they can connect it to their own lives rather than just summarize. They are also able to see each other comments if I approve them fast enough. This is, of course, the best part.
I can monitor all comments and choose not to post any that don’t meet my criteria. I can see comments made by each class and they have a button to show them articles that others in their class have commented on. I can keep my class open for any student to sign on with, or I can lock it. Students can sign on with a class or as individuals – perfect for kids who want to keep using the service after they leave your class. And the customer service is friendly and fast (at least for teachers that forget their passwords over Spring Break).
The articles are all short and written at a pretty easy level, so advanced students and avid readers may not feel challenged enough. But lower-level students and non-readers will feel unthreatened by the site and will certainly find something to interest them. You could factor it into lessons as a method for differentiation with more advanced student using a different news site.
What started out as a tool to productively occupy an elective class turned into a new method to teach research and literacy. Old fashioned lesson plans meets modern-day tools. Cool.