Follow That News: A year long current events project for my students


I'm old enough to remember clipping an article out of a newspaper, writing a summary of it, presenting it to my middle school classmates, and adding it to the collection on the wall. (So yeah, me, ancient.) We had to do this once a month and it was always a completely different story. 

As a teacher, I wondered what would happen if students followed the SAME topic in the news all year long. I created an assignment/project I called Follow That News.  

You can have a copy of it here, click the link and then "use template." It's not fancy, just a lot of written directions about the project, the different assignment descriptions and some rough idea of the due dates. 

Here is the gist of it:

In the fall, students choose a topic in the news that is of interest to them. Of course, they have to write what they already know about it, and why they want to follow that story. Then, in October, January, and April, students write an update about what is happening in that news story, including an opinion section so that they can separate what is happening, from what they think about it. (Separating facts from opinions, important skill huh?)

In February, students write a work of fiction based on what they know about their news story. This could be a fictionalized account from the point of view of someone prominent in the news, or someone impacted by the events, or something else. (Note, these are fun to read.)

In May, students create a slide about their topic and present to the class for 60 seconds.

In June, students write a final reflection about their learning, the process, what they got better at, and what they predict will happen next in the story they were following. 

Of course you're welcome to change, adapt, add or subtract from any of that. 

What I like about this project: 

It gives students a much more in depth understanding about what is actually happening in at least one aspect of the word. A news story they thought they knew about from the headlines can surprise them when they begin to pay more attention to it. 

The project becomes something they can work on when they finish other work early, or if I have a sudden sub day. And we also spend days working on the various writing prompts in the project. Got a few minutes left at the end of the period? Have students search up their news topic and see what's new.

This project includes about 75% of the standards I need to work on with my students. We practice reading non-fiction, writing arguments, writing fiction, speaking, and listening. (Thank you Listenwise.) Of course we work on those standards in other ways all year long too, but this is a great second layer of application and another way for students to show they are meeting the standards, hopefully with a topic that they might be more engaged with. 

Resources to help you: 

I created a custom search engine made up of reputable news sites. I chose sites included in this Forbes article, 10 Journalism Brands Where You Find Real Facts Rather Than Alternative Facts. The article listed ten and then had a follow up list of honorable mentions, so I included those too when the site was not completely behind a pay wall. Note, if you click the link to the search engine, it doesn't look like much and you'll need to train students to scroll past the ads. You can try it out by searching in the box below. 

I also thought you might like this Interactive Media Bias Chart

Listenwise has great public radio content searchable and suitable for kids. 

Newsela is also a fantastic resource, but you probably already knew that. 

If you want to create your own custom search engine for students, you can start here. 

If you've read this far, you're probably committed to making sure students have a deep understanding of our world and what's happening. Thank you for that, and I hope the resources in this project will support you in your journey. 

Typewriter photo credit to: Markus Winkler on Unsplash