Why do I care? Connecting current events and the classroom

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When my journalism students pitch an idea for a story, they know I’m going to ask one question.

“Why do I care?”

While they may struggle, it’s important for them to understand that their audience will ask the same question. Just as you are asking yourself right now, “What can I learn from this?”

In order to do this effectively, the students must have an understanding and appreciation for what’s happening in the lives of people both locally and around the world. They have to be plugged into their readers as well as politics, the economy, the environment, and the entertainment world.

Unfortunately, studies show that young Americans today are less concerned about what’s happening in the world compared to previous generations. And that’s because they aren’t being taught to care.

As educators, it’s our job to connect current events to the classroom in order to engage students and create more informed, thoughtful citizens. We should be doing this in each of our classrooms. When I talk to students and they don’t have an understanding of the news beyond what’s trending or the day’s headlines, it disturbs me. I know there’s hardly enough time to get everything you need to accomplish into one lesson, but I challenge you to incorporate one article, or one story into your teaching each day.

In my journalism class, like many others, we talk a lot about relevance because there’s almost no point in writing a story if it doesn’t connect with the reader. It’s your responsibility to draw a line from the content you’re teaching to your students. Blending current events into your lessons will not only help you accomplish this, it will multiply the impact. Whether you teach social studies, art, math, or German, you can find dozens of articles or videos each day that are relevant to your students.

Incorporating current events into the classroom can help your students in so many ways beyond giving them a look into someone else’s life. It helps with vocabulary and critical thinking skills. Your students will also learn different models for presenting information or telling a story.

Helping students to develop an understanding of the importance of issues, events, and people will not only make them better citizens, but it will also increase their chances of being lifelong readers.

At the very least, discussing one current event topic each day can help foster cooperative learning and get your students talking to you and one another. Ask them what they’re reading on Facebook or Twitter besides their friends’ status update. Tell them what stories interest you. I bet it won’t take long for them to see why they should care about what you have to say.

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