Many teachers look to bring discussions of current local, national and international issues and events into their classrooms.

I’m one of these teachers because I believe that when students have an opportunity to discuss current events in their classrooms, they tend to develop a greater interest in civic life and politics. They also begin to look differently at the concepts they are being taught in their academic classes as those concepts take on a greater relevance. Finally, they also tend to develop improved critical thinking and communication skills.

As I am particularly interested in incorporating current events that my students view as important to their lives, one of my never fail, go-to-resources is “The Lowdown” from KQED.

“What’s ‘The Lowdown?’” you ask.

It’s a great multimedia, multi-content current events resource that has never failed to work for me.

Versatility Exemplified

“Why is it so great?” you ask.

Its versatility exemplified for teachers who want to add current events into any content area.  Each edition has a number of embedded resources within densely informative text. Take a look at the last edition I used in my psychology classes regarding consciousness, which I will use later in the year with my government classes regarding policy, “Does your school start too early in the morning?

Wide Array of Excellent Resources

Matthew Green produces and edits “The Lowdown” and often collaborates with “Above The Noise.” “Above the Noise” is a new YouTube video series produced by KQED that supplements “The Lowdown” by cutting through the hype around controversial issues.  

Another regular aspect to “The Lowdown” are the substantial, but flexible lesson plans written by Rachel Roberson. “The Lowdown” combined with its informative text, engaging and instructive videos, other interactives like graphs, comics, and maps, alongside the lesson plans gives teachers all the resources they need to allow their students to get depth in and work with the issues. This wealth of materials is what allows teachers from all content areas to see “The Lowdown” as a go to resource.

Substantial Text and Video

Whenever I use a new resource, I have to personalize it some way. The first thing I do is read or watch it and create a corresponding set of questions for my students geared toward how I want to use the resource. Before using the “Does your school start too early?” edition, I created a set of how/why questions for both the video and the text that references the interactives that I want my psychology students to see. I also do it to make sure that I know what I want my students to get out of the resources. The questions give the class a common set of information that will act as the basis for a class discussion after I have perused the students’ answers and seen what they have for the discussion.

Flexible Lesson Plan

The lesson plan is great for its depth which allows it to be used in a number of different settings, timings and content areas. The lessons follow the same template:

  • Opening Quick Write
  • Objective
  • Central Question with Context
  • Vocabulary Break Down
  • Investigate (with stop times for video discussions)
  • Make and Share
  • Assessment/Reflection
  • Extension/Homework
  • Common Core and NGSS Standards

The level of specificity and the common template allow teachers to pick and choose how they would like to modify the resources for their classroom. I used the lesson plan as the backbone of my lesson with my students. Even though I created my own questions, I focused on the objective, used the “Investigate” for the video,  the “Make and Share,” and the “Reflection.” I also use the “Extension” with my government classes as it connects to policy questions.

Favorites

My favorite aspects to the lessons are the quick write, make and share, and the extension.  I use them to make sure my students write everyday, but also are able to get their opinions out in the world and they have an option to take their opinions to the next level. As mentioned above, I usually create my own questions, but I also use the lesson’s questions to get started.  The make and share revolves around Disqus comments or we have used Twitter to get our ideas out into social media. Finally, the extensions allow the students to apply their opinions to the real world. In my government class, we’ll actually contact school board members to survey their understandings and opinions of start times.

“The Lowdown” is a great resource for teachers of any content area. There are social studies, English, science and math issues that bring current events into any classroom. Try “The Lowdown” and let me know what you think. I think you’ll agree that it’s a great resource for your classroom.

 

Integrating Current Events with KQED’s “The Lowdown” 30 November,2017Bob Kelly

Author

Bob Kelly

Bob Kelly teaches US History, Government, Economics, Psychology, and Academic Decathlon at Minarets High School outside Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California. Bob has taught for 20 years in all sorts of social studies content areas and school settings including Palo Alto, Mariposa, and the Central Valley. He loves blending new and old school understandings and approaches to the world we live in. He is a well-experienced teacher trainer in both history and technology integration and has been an AP reader for the US History exam as well as a Google Apps for Education Certified Innovator and a PBS LeariningMedia Local Digital Innovator. He also teaches teachers how to teach AP US History as he is a College Board Consultant. Bob was also a football coach for 20+ years.

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