Monday, January 18, 2010

Real World Reflections: Students Blog about the News

As I've mentioned before, I start every workday by driving to school with National Public Radio (NPR) blaring from my speakers. I am more than a fan of NPR; I am obsessed. The difference? Well, if I don't get a regular dose of news in the morning, I feel disconnected. If our local station is conducting a pledge drive or if the radio is so static-y that I can't listen, my day is not as smooth. There is something about being informed that makes me feel, well, part of the world.

Though what my students listen to on their ride to school in the morning differs from my choice of stations, I know that they're interested in what's going on in the world. They may not be ready to sacrifice a half-hour or twenty minutes of music for news, but that does not mean that they don't care about what's happening in the world. Their world.

For instance, Miep Gies, the brave soul who helped hide the Frank family during the Holocaust, died this past week. She was 100 years old and humble able her role in saving Anne Frank's diary so that the rest of the world could read it. As I listened to an interview with Ms. Gies, I knew that students needed to know about her life. I had planned for students to write a blog post about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his contribution to the Civil Rights Movement. I still wanted to give students the option to write that post, but decided to offer an alternate assignment. Now they could choose to write about either Dr. King or Ms. Gies. Some students chose to write about both.

Part of my realization in this lesson was that most of my students are disconnected from the daily news, but truly care about important events and happenings when someone takes the time to share it with them. As I introduced the day's blogging assignment, a regular feature in our classroom, many students genuinely wanted to know more about Miep Gies, the Holocaust, Anne Frank, and genocide. We had a rich discussion about these topics, which totally lead the whole lesson for the day off track, but I did not care. We talked. Like people who care about the world and humanity and history and society talk. It was real. They learned from that conversation, and so did I.

I promise to continue to bring up news items in class, even if we are lead astray and I don't accomplish all of what I've planned. I look forward to have real, relevant discussions with students about news that matters. Just as I need to hear the news on my drive to work to feel connected, talking about important news events like Miep Gies, the recent earthquake in Haiti, the economy, elections, and other items of interest will engage them in the larger world.

Here is a student sample blog post about Miep Gies:

Student 1

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