Read all about it: the value of headlines

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News stories illuminate a subject, says Bella Mandry, Geography and Environmental Systems and Societies Teacher at the International School of Singapore

Miss, did you see that earthquake on the news last night? For many geography teachers, such a question would be a dream. With short attention spans and a busy timetable in and out of school, it’s not always possible for students to relate events in the real world to their subject areas. 

With the advent of the internet, researching a subject in the news is more important than ever as it can act as a vehicle for promoting good presentation skills, careful internet searches and the ability to ask meaningful questions about how news is presented. It answers those key questions: Why are we studying this? and Why does it matter?

Of course, you never quite know what might happen next in the news and this can put some teachers off. But the reality of a packed curriculum is one of the reasons why building your subject in the news into the week has such meaning.

In my classes, I have one student make a 15-minute presentation each week, at the start of the class so that they don’t get cut short and there is time to continue if discussion ensues.

In grade 11, I give students a specific topic and an article to start them off. Older students pick and research a subject. So far, they have covered everything from cholera in Haiti to hurricanes. I encourage them to use the timeline and Wonder Wheel function on Google to learn to filter information. Wonder Wheel provides a more visual method of research, which appeals to many learning types.

Students are required to present three-to-five visuals as they inform the class about what they have found. They keep the words on the slides to a minimum to avoid direct reading my classes have had success using Prezi, an application which aids presentations. 

The next stage is a short discussion about the presentation. I have tried prepping students beforehand, telling them to prepare a good question. This extra time helps the shy learner.

We have a class wiki where students are able to upload the presentations and tag key words and topics, and I get them to revisit old topics with a warm-up activity where they are asked to make a comment or update the wiki.

The wiki creates a living display in the classroom, and once it is up and running, it starts to look after itself. Even with short student attention spans and a busy timetable, any subject teacher can make use of the media.