Plan Ahead With Our Checklist

As you prepare to engage your students with current events, use these ideas and key questions to guide your planning:

This resource was part of our Election 2020 collection, designed to help you teach about voting rights, media literacy, and civic participation, in remote and in-person settings.

Last Updated August 27, 2020

Current Events Teacher Checklist PDF Workbook

Current Events Teacher Checklist PDF Workbook

Download a printable PDF workbook of our teacher checklist for preparing to teach current events to middle and high school students. We include recommended news sources, key questions to ask as yourself as you plan, and strategies for navigating emotionally difficult or complex topics.

  1. What are my goals?

    We believe that the goal of studying current events is more than helping students know what is going on in the world. More importantly, it is about developing in students the capacity to reflect and deliberate on today’s world within a group that might be more diverse than they encounter outside the classroom. From this practice, students can develop the skills and dispositions they need to be thoughtful participants in society.

    In addition, if students are engaged in remote learning, it is important for them to have opportunities to process events that are happening in the news, or impacting their lives, with the support of their learning community.

    What do you want your students to learn from engaging with current events?

  2. How do I choose which stories and issues to address?

    This checklist offers a toolbox of strategies that you can use to address events of any type. Many teachers choose news stories to bring into their classrooms that relate directly to their curriculum. Many also give students the opportunity to take the lead in deciding which events to discuss. Regardless of whether or not students take the lead, we believe it is important to listen carefully to students to learn what stories and issues are affecting them directly or are on their minds.

    On our Current Events page, we highlight issues and events that relate to core themes of Facing History and Ourselves, with collections of teaching materials on global immigration; democracy and civic engagement; hate, violence, and injustice; racial justice; and COVID-19. Check the page regularly for new Teaching Ideas, Explainers, and tools or sign up below to stay updated.

    What issues are especially relevant in your school and local community? How can you find out what issues matter most to your students?

  3. How often will I discuss current events with my class?

    Our research suggests that teachers who incorporate current events into their classes most often spend about a half class period each week doing so. We recognize it can be hard both to prioritize current events and to find the time to fit it into the limited class time you have with your students. Regardless of how much time you are able to devote to current events, we recommend protecting that time and establishing routines to minimize the amount of extra planning it requires. Also keep in mind that some news stories may impact students more than others, and that occasionally it will be important to spend additional time helping students reflect on and discuss the news.

    How will you plan to integrate current events into your schedule, and how will you decide when to put aside your lesson to address a news event?

  4. What are some trusted news sources that represent a range of viewpoints that I can bring into my classroom?

    Here is a list of sources that we regularly browse to keep track of the news and find reports suitable for classroom use:

    Which local news sources in your community could you add to this list? What news sources will best meet the needs of your students?

  5. How can I prepare my students to have a reflective and brave discussion of current events, especially those that may be emotional or divisive?

    Be proactive in creating a foundation for reflective and brave discussion of current events, or any topic, in your classroom. Fostering Civil Discourse: How Do We Talk About Issues that Matter? provides specific and detailed guidelines and strategies for discussing current events with your students, whether you are teaching in person or remotely. We especially recommend creating a classroom contract (or a remote learning contract) with your students at the beginning of the school year.

    Once you lay the groundwork, how you facilitate each current events discussion should vary depending on the issue and the source at hand. The following table provides some sample scenarios with suggested teaching strategies for each.

    The below table is best viewed on a desktop computer or in landscape orientation on a mobile device.

    When you want students to… Try this strategy… The following strategies are also available with adaptations for remote learning:
    Uncover the complexity of an event Iceberg
    Discuss a contentious topic Four Corners
    Save the Last Word for Me*
    Big Paper*
    Process an emotionally difficult event Journaling*
    Color, Symbol, Image
    Graffiti Boards*
    Analyze Images and Video Close Viewing Protocol
    See, Think, Wonder
    Crop It
    Understand diverse perspectives Town Hall Circle
    Learn to Listen, Listen to Learn*
    Connect a topic to their own lives Text-to-Text, Text-to-Self, Text-to-World
    Connect, Extend Challenge

    What elements of a class contract are most important to you? Are there additional discussion strategies that have helped you to structure successful conversations with students?

  6. How can I help my students understand the news they read and separate fact from fiction?

    To prepare students to be thoughtful and active participants in democracy, we must help them develop critical thinking and media literacy skills. These skills help students judge the reliability of information they encounter in the news, assess how their own biases influence their responses, and make careful decisions about how they share news through social media.

    Consider investigating and using the following resources to help your students hone their media literacy skills throughout the year:

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