When 9/11 happened, I was in my second week of student teaching. I was completely clueless about how to talk about the events with my students. Current events weren’t a part of my lesson plans and most kids didn’t seem all that interested in what was happening miles away from our home in northern Minnesota. But on that day, what was happening in New York and the world seemed very close. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to change the idea that keeping up with current events is something only adults do.

At first, I thought there was no way I’d be able to include every important current event. There is so much we need to cover each year – how would it fit?  Then I realized that it didn’t matter if I was covering all the news, as long I was getting kids interested in current events. 

Friday Current Events

Last year, I brought Friday Current Events to 7th and 8th grade humanities at Friends School of Minnesota. It’s been a hit! Here’s how it works:

In the first month of school, I act as the presenter to model the Friday Current Events process and establish the class culture. I pick articles that I know my students will connect to and allow them to easily see both sides of the issue.

Then I turn it over to the students for the rest of the school year. They all take turns presenting a news item and leading the class discussion. We draw names to make the schedule and every student is the Friday presenter once or twice.

The Friday Current Events presenter’s job is to:

  • choose a news story from a reputable source that connects to our social studies theme for the year (this year, it’s the Quaker value of integrity) and make copies for classmates to read
  • come up with several discussion questions to write them on the board
writing current events questions on the white board
  • have students read the selected news story while highlighting important information, and quickly jotting down their questions and comments in the margins
taking notes while reading current events article
  • hold a class discussion encouraging students to ask questions, express their opinions, and offer answers
student leading class discussion of current events

It is their time! Mostly, I get to sit back and watch proudly as the discussion takes shape.

“Having students in charge makes it more fun. When you’re the leader, you have to really think about what other kids might want to know and how to make it interesting.”  – middle school student

Topics this year have ranged from politics to economics and even advancements in technology. Some current events we have discussed:
  • end of the war in Iraq
  • Occupy Wallstreet movement
  • Holocaust victims get German pensions
  • Palestinians seek statehood from UN Assembly
  • world population reaching 7 billion

Each week the student leader brings a fresh perspective and a new event to discuss. It’s become one of the things I look forward to at the end of each week.

“I think Friday Current Events is great because even if you don’t know that much about what’s happening in the world, you get a sense of something that’s happening each week.”  – middle school student
While enjoying my morning coffee, I pull up the news online. I can’t help but wonder what the 7th and 8th graders will have to say about what is making the news. I guess I’ll have to wait until next Friday.