Despite the fact that are kids are very connected to the online world, they are not always aware of what’s happening outside of their own circle of snaps and texts. Last year, for example, I was shocked when many of my seniors had not heard of Colin Kaepernick and his protest. Granted, they are Canadian…but were they living under a rock?
Since then, I’ve been working to find ways to build more awareness of current events into my lessons. There are topics that I know my kids are already interested in – and I’m using some of them to grab their attention – but I’m also creating lessons on topics that I think are important for them to consider (like our overuse of plastics and what it’s doing to our planet).
Also, each time I create something new, I work to include a variety of activities that cover all of the strands of our curriculum, so students will get opportunities to read, view, write, speak and listen. Using topics that are relevant to teens turns up the engagement factor with all of these things.
First, we begin with a writing prompt to get the students to collect their initial thoughts on the issue.
As I always do after they’ve had time to reflect, students will share their ideas with a partner. Then, I give them a series of activities and readings that will require them to delve deeper into the topic.
With this new series of products, the first reading is a magazine-style article that is directed toward teens. It gives them information in a light, conver-sational tone. On the digital version, there are also links to related videos that students can watch to get even more information on the topic. As I don’t always have access to Chrome Books in my classroom, I’ve created paper versions as well, with links to the videos on the slideshow that I use to direct the conversation.
After the kids have explored the topic through the reading and videos, I’ll ask them to return to their initial response, and add any new ideas that have resulted from their reading and viewing.
Then, to dig even deeper into the issue – and teach them some writing skills as well – I use several mentor passages that explore the topic. Students will look for the moves of the writer and record any responses they have to the ideas presented. After they’ve finished, we discuss their findings and responses as a class. This allows me to review concepts we’ve discussed, like idea development and word choice. My kids are well versed with mentor texts already, so my hope is always that they can readily identify the techniques used by the writers I’ve selected. If not, it’s time for a quick review.
For example, in the passage above, my hope is that the kids will point out that the phrase “purposeful about media consumption” is a far more effective phrase than “using your phone.” I would want them to understand that this phrase is specific and clearly explains the writer’s point: that users need to be more mindful of how they consume what’s on their screens.
My new lessons are pretty versatile. I can use them for reflection and discussion only, or to lead into a writing assignment for the students. If I’m going for the quick version, after we look at the mentor texts, I’ll ask the kids to revisit their initial response, add new ideas and try some of the techniques they observed in the mentor passages. Or, I may use the prompt, discussion and passages as a jumping off point for a writing assignment.
My plan, after I return from the break, is to give my students several topics to explore, and then they will choose one of them as a basis for a writing assignment.
Right now I have two products in this series with plans to add quite a few more. I have one based around the idea of Screen Time and another on Plastics in the Ocean. Both are together in a growing bundle (grab it now and save; new products will be yours at no extra cost).
Anxiety and Stress
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