Around 2005, I started a more regular and purposeful current events routine in my AP® Government and Politics class. I would supply three articles on Sunday, and students needed to read them by class time on Tuesday. I creatively called it “Current Events Tuesday.” No students cheered, but I soon noticed that student understanding seemed to increase because real-world events in the here-and-now provide concrete examples and make learning relevant.
A rigorous and well-planned current events program is essential to success in a Government class. To be successful, it’s critical to select the right articles, demonstrate an expectation, create ideal questions, and teach the media as you go.
Weekly might be too often, but once you mark your calendar and set your student deadlines, you’ve got to select and deliver the articles. Some will go old-school and photocopy a clipped newspaper article. Students can mark them up, circle vocab words, identify government functions. More teachers, however, will link chosen articles to their platform or LMS.
Articles need to be relevant, readable, and free. I usually select three articles. Depending on how precious class time is that week, I might allow time to read the articles on a slow Monday. In a perfect world, the top breaking news stories coincide with the Unit or Topic you’re teaching that week. You will find it worthy to occasionally assign relevant articles even if you have yet to cover that content. A brief intro and explanation—maybe define some vocabulary words or concept—will be time well-spent.
Start the year with more traditional news sources and straightforward articles. The Associated Press, USA Today, and the Big 3 TV news networks are my mainstays. Video clips can also be worthy. Some of the most useful come from 60 Minutes and the PBS Newshour. Short live video, like a clip from a press conference, is also a good idea.
Historical articles, especially during your Foundations unit, are a good choice. Secondary articles of the Smithsonian or American Heritage genre are good too. You could even squeeze in a primary source, like a notable congressional floor speech. These can be recycled year after year.
Regardless of when you might teach your Media Unit, go over the basics of the media early on—the media’s role, reporters’ methods, and the different genres of articles. The Media Bias Chart is a good reference tool. For a couple years I have begun with this chart and concept to avoid careless cries of “Bias.” And of course, expose your students to the partisan press. Select articles from the left and right, and then in class ask, “Which one is right, and which one is left?” “How can you tell?” Keep a running list of what you’ve assigned. It will allow or assure you to provide a variety over the course, and you’ll have a handy record of what you’ve assigned. A little CYA never hurts.
You can get a sense of my method at my website, USGOPO.COM.
Learn more about teaching Current Events, drafting good questions, and developing an expectation in our FREE Webinar on September 21, 2021, at 7:30 Eastern. Join Brian Stevens and me as we take a deeper look and discuss some finer points about the media and AP® Government and Politics.
David Wolfford teaches Advanced Placement® U.S. Government and Politics at Mariemont High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has served as an AP® Reader. He has a B.A. in Secondary Education and an M.A. in Constitutional and Legal History, both from the University of Kentucky. He has conducted historical research projects on school desegregation and American political history. David has published in historical journals, such as Ohio Valley History and Kentucky Humanities. He has written on government, politics, and campaigns for national magazines and Cincinnati newspapers. He is a James Madison Fellow, a National Board-certified teacher, and a regular contributor to Social Education. David is editor of By George: Articles from the Ashland Daily Independent (Jesse Stuart Foundation) and editor of Ohio Social Studies Review.
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