Sometimes middle school students just aren’t interested in current events. A reason for this might be that students don’t have the space to explore these issues with their peers. As a journalism teacher, I strive to encourage student interest in current events because I want children to become informed citizens as they grow up. Current events are a gateway – Students are confronted with real-life situations and are forced to form opinions based on facts told through the lens of another, informed person. Blogging can become the space for students to share current events, formulate opinions, and converse with their peers outside social media.
There have been countless times when a student walks in to the computer lab and says, “I don’t know what to blog about!” Typically, current events aren’t natural avenues for some students to turn to when they’re stuck on what to blog about. So I started to simply ask, “What’s going on in the world around you?” Some of my students spend so much time on social media or texting that they forget there’s an actual physical world around them with new, exciting, or scary things happening every second that doesn’t only involve their small circle of friends. Turning to current events can open new doors when a student doesn’t know what to blog about. It can provide them with a space to learn about something new and maybe share their knowledge with their classmates.
Blogging makes it incredibly easy to foster student curiosity about current events. Being on an actual computer (and away from their cellphones and social media) lends itself for students to just peruse various news organizations’ websites as you would leisurely scan an actual newspaper in a coffee shop. Students can visit a variety of news websites to learn about the same topic from different perspectives. I encourage students to refer to our local newspaper website first and then venture out to more well-known national newspapers. I also encourage students to read the same news story from a variety of perspectives and journalists. Since a news story can change depending on which journalist wrote it, I encourage students to do a significant amount of “research” before they blog about a specific current events story. This helps them get the “whole picture” of a certain situation. I have a list on the board of news organizations that I believe to be reputable, but still offer a variety of perspectives.
Students are free to research whatever news story they wish to write about. If a student is truly stuck, I might offer a suggestion about a current new story that I know might be of interest to middle schoolers. Other students might just need the reminder to turn to current events when he or she is experiencing writer’s block. Since politics are such a hot topic on the news nowadays, many of my students have started to become more informed about our government and how our country is run. Some students even go as far as calling themselves the “political writer” for our class blog. This, in turn, is motivation for other students to begin reading up on our nation’s political news stories so that they can join the conversation. Students don’t want to feel left out and they pride themselves in becoming well-versed about what they consider an adult topic.
Blogging about current events is an excellent way to motivate students to learn outside the classroom while they are still in the classroom. With the blog, students finally can have a space where they can discuss real life situations and events that are normally the topics of adult conversation with their peers.