The Magic Hat – Mid-Week Focus – News Prompts

Hats off to teachers…it’s time for Mid – Week Focus!

Mid – Week Focus is all about quick and easy ways to approach teaching to keep kids on task in any instructional setting.

Let’s share insight and practical ideas. Let’s blend fun with function, and LET’S GET STUDENTS TO STUDY AND USE THE NEWS!

What’s under the magic hat? A world full of news!

What’s under the magic hat today?

A world full of news and views that will catch and keep kids’ attention…IF we as teachers encourage students to USE the news.

I’ve noticed recently that many children are unaware of much of what’s going on in the world.  Have you noticed this too?

Only a small percentage of kids in many of the schools where I teach access news of the day on their own. But, get this…kids I teach are fascinated to hear news that connects in some way with their lives and our time together. I choose news stories to share that I believe will delight kids and spark their interest in the world.

When I have time I even invite a student to come up to the table where I’ve placed a world map and let them touch

The news prompt we’ll use for writing today happened here!

the spot where the news I’m sharing took place, like you see in my blog pic here, for all of the class to see.

For example, in January of 2008, I showed all of my fifth grade students a news story that featured snow flurries falling in Baghdad, Iraq.

The news pic featured an Iraqi man and his child smiling as snow flurries kissed their faces. Why was the story special? Because the flurries offered a moment of joy in war-stricken Baghdad. Snow is common in northern Iraq, but not in the Iraqi capital. I explained to my students that the article said the snow dusted all of Baghdad; it was a gift from nature for everyone, people with different beliefs living in diverse neighborhoods.

How did I use this story as a prompt? I invited the class to begin a story where weather was the driving force for the main idea.

Another use of the Baghdad snow story as a prompt? Opening a discussion with older elementary students about events that bring people together and why.

Why do we need to prompt kids to use news prompts?

Maybe it’s because their parents or caregivers are so pressed for time that they don’t follow more than the headlines themselves, nor do they encourage their kids to read news on any of the growing number of  information “platforms.”

Is it because children are more interested in playing video games than they are in reading, even if they could read news if they wanted to on hand-held devices, not in “old-fashioned” newspapers?

Of course we want elementary school students to have access to age-appropriate news and information. Obviously some world news is horrible and horrifying; it’s important to protect kids from over-exposure to distressing news.

Maybe that’s it…maybe kids are already over-exposed to news they view in passing. This Mid-Week Focus is not on news with audio/video though; it’s on print news with still images for teachers to use as prompts to help kids learn.

Check out the following classroom-tested tricks for teaching that use the news as prompts.

PROMPT #1 – SOCIAL STUDIES: Ask students to find a current news story that takes place in a location the class is studying in Social Studies. Instruct them to look for a link between the past of this place they’re learning about and the present there, as described in the news story. This is a challenge!

Google Newspapers in Education for prompts and teaching tips.

You might want to clip articles or print them off electronic media to build your own news prompts file, like the teacher’s doing in my blog pic here.

Read select newspapers and Google Newspapers in Education to find examples of news prompts to share with the class.

PROMPT #2 – POETRY WRITING: Assign homework that challenges students to choose a newspaper headline  and write a free-verse (no rhyme) poem about the focus of the story.

Remind kids to use the words in the news story as a word bank for their poems. I recommend this for fifth graders. For example, using the story above about snow in Baghdad in 2008, a student could have written a poem titled, A Flurry of Joy.

PROMPT #3 – FUNNY STUFF NOT IN THE FUNNY PAGES: I clipped a news article a few years back titled, Firehouse dogs rule the roost. 

Funny stuff: What a funny word picture that title makes! I can see a dalmatian dog sitting on the hood of a shiny red fire truck, too comfy to move even at the sound of the fire alarm! Try this…Announce this news story title to your class, make sure they understand the meaning of “ruling the roost,” and invite them to all use this title and write a funny story.

Optional Prompt: The focus of this story was actually on how technology has made the role of dalmatians obsolete in some places. What a great history lesson! When firefighters rode horse-drawn equipment, dalmatians helped the horses run straight. This saved time reaching a fire and kept equipment from toppling over.

Now for a cool piece of news…all of the prompts presented in this post are quick, easy, attention-getting tools to help students learn.

Check back with Attentionology again soon for more tools and tricks for K – 5 teachers,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

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