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Tip of the Week: Powerful Online Tools That Integrate Literacy Skills & Contemporary Events

Need a place to connect past with present? Need writing prompts? Need hundreds of articles about current events in an easy to access place? Need articles with leveled reading? Need a searchable databases that filter by keyword, grade level, Common Core reading anchors, and articles with machine scored quizzes?

If your answer to even one of those questions is yes, then I’ve got a list of tools just for you. All of them are web-based tools that use current events and contemporary topics to engage kids and all provide the chance for you to to encourage the development of skills required by the ELA literacy standards for History / Government. While at the same aligning to state standards that ask us to connect the past with contemporary events.

So why should we worry about current events? The simple reason is that connecting past and present is good for student retention and encourages critical thinking skills. Not to mention our state standards are asking kids to connect past choices, rights, responsibilities, ideas, beliefs, and relationships to “contemporary events.”

So today you get a few online tools and some helpful strategies that focus on current events:

At its most basic level, Newsela is a simple list of news stories from around in the world in eight categories. Having a handy place to go to find useful, student-friendly articles about current events is sometimes all we need. Especially elementary teachers looking to incorporate more non-fiction social studies content into their instruction. But for middle and high school teachers, this is also a great place to start having kids use a variety of evidence and resources, including more non-fiction.

Each Newsela article can be adjusted to four different Lexile levels. So every one of your kids can access the article at the level that best fits them. You also get quizzes aligned to Common Core ELA and the ability to create online classes. So today you get a quick list of helpful online tools and some strategies to help.

Listen Current
Listen Current brings “authentic voices and compelling non-fiction stories to the classroom. We curate the best of public radio to keep teaching connected to the real world and build student listening skills at the same time.”

Basically that means that Listen Current provides access to audio clips from National Public Radio and other public networks from around the world that cover both current events and historical topics. The clips are short and easy to use with students. And as we all continue to focus on literacy skills – reading, writing, listening, speaking – Listen Current seems like a perfect tool to add to your toolbox. They understand that you don’t always have time to build standards based lesson plans yourself, so they offer series of powerful lesson plans that are Common Core from the ground up – aligned to standards and ready to use.

You get the audio clips but in the Premium version you also get vocabulary words, comprehension questions, listening guides, handouts and related teaching materials, whole group resources, suggestions for associated video clips, small group readings, contextual background info, extension activities, assessment ideas, and additional resources. Find the lessons you like and add them to your Favorites list for easy access later.

Fantasy Geopolitics
Mimics the idea of fantasy football and other social studies fantasy games to engage kids in learning more about the world’s many different countries. The concept is pretty simple. Students draft a team of countries. Using a couple of databases that measure frequency of New York Times news articles and the tone of those articles, the games awards daily points for each country. The more points your team of countries receives, the higher you go in the standings.

During the game, players can make trades for different countries and pick up “free agent” countries to create a stronger team. The game involves and engages students in the study of how politics, geography, humans, economics, and foreign policy interact.

Great Ways to Teach Any Day’s Times
The New York Times shares a ton of resources such as graphic organizers for integrating current events and news into social studies and Language Arts. Whether or not you use Newsela or Listen Current, you need to head here.

Get a few of their organizers grouped together here.

5o Ways to Teach Current Events
Also from the New York Times, this list is a bit different because it provides specific types of teaching activities.

We can also adapt a variety of traditional literacy activities when we use news stories:
Quick Draw
History Frame
Word Sorts
Book Bits

Designed just for kids and features language arts, science and social studies lesson plans for the classroom and at home. Teachers can set up their own DOGONews page and create a very personalized learning experience for their kids.

  • News
    Fun and inspiring current events and news from all around the world.  Written for and in some cases by children, NEWS keeps our audience abreast of current events around the world.  With thousands of news articles and new original content added daily, we are the leading online source of current events for students, teachers and schools.
  • Sites
    A single-stop destination to discover the best and most appropriate websites for kids.  Each site is carefully vetted and reviewed before it makes the cut.  With hundreds of websites reviewed, SITES is a great resource for kids, parents and teachers.
  • Maps
    An interactive way for younger readers to read news headlines geotagged on a world map.  Learn about the world and see where it’s happening.

Teachers can select grade level specific news stories as well as stories in Spanish. Within these categories, you can also select different Lexile levels.  Stories are selected by professional journalists working closely with teens, tweens and teachers. Teens and tweens can post comments, with all comments moderated by their teachers before they are published. There are critical thinking questions at the end of each story and quizzes after most of them.

E-Star in Education
Sign up to access the digital version of the Kansas City Star to provide a quick way for kids to read the paper and download PDFs of articles for use on mobile devices. The site also gives you tools in different grade levels and subjects, lots of apps, and other useful resources.

Designed to provide teachers a way to quickly and easily turn TED talks and any YouTube video into an online lesson. With multiple choice questions, short answers, additional resources, and directions for next steps by students.

List isn’t big enough? Here’s a few more tools to explore:

Have fun!


3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Reblogged this on LEARNERSHOTSPOT.

    March 13, 2015
  2. Reblogged this on ben2know and commented:
    worth viewing

    March 13, 2015

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