Incorporating World Issues in your ELA Classroom

Today’s students have the world’s knowledge at their fingertips. Everything about anything they could ever possibly what to know is just a click, swipe, or tap away; and yet, it seems as if so many students are disconnected from worldly issues.

When we have students who are #smh at non-issues (like who is dating whom and who is wearing what) and declaring #fml when they encounter the smallest, ever-so-minute first-world issues, we as educators are faced with a monumental task: helping our students become more aware of the world around them.

To do this, I look to outside reading sources. After reading articles about some of the very real hardships that others around the world deal with on a daily basis, I notice that my students complain a little less about not having the newest something or other.

With the implementation of common core, many secondary teachers are including more nonfiction text into their curriculum. Finding authentic, engaging nonfiction text that actually speaks to our students can be somewhat challenging though.

Recently, I invested in a classroom set of The New York Times Upfronta magazine published by Scholastic, and I could not be more pleased. (I am not a paid endorser for, nor do I work for or receive any profit from Scholastic or the New York Times). This publication is amazing, and my students look forward to reading it. Yes, they want to read it!

You might be wondering why I love this publication so much and why I am singing its praises from the mountaintops. This magazine has it all: relevant, timely, engaging content written just for teens. If there is a controversial topic in the news, chances are it will be covered in an upcoming issue.

So far this year, my students have read about police officers and whether or not they should be required to wear body cameras, the background of and the pros and cons of the Iran deal, teenagers who work long hours in the dangerous conditions of the tobacco fields, and the confederate flag.

To make these lessons meaningful and standard-driven, I focus on many of the reading informational text standards while incorporating these articles in my classroom. Primarily, I focus on three very important English language arts skills: paraphrasing, quoting, and summarizing.

To help students really understand the difference between these three concepts, I use my Paraphrasing, Quoting, and Summarizing lesson. This lesson comes with a completely editable, 27-slide PowerPoint presentation and 11 pages of student resources (including handouts and graphic organizers to use while reading). Once you teach the lesson, your students will know the difference between the three and they will be able to apply it to the articles in the magazine. Even better: once your students are familiar with the concept, you can easily save an article or two along with some of the student resources for an emergency sub plan!

As educators, it is our responsibility to help mold our students into productive, well-meaning, aware, and responsible members of society. It’s not an impossible task; we just have to look outside of our comfort zones and borders to do so.

Click here to view my Paraphrasing, Quoting, and Summarizing lesson.

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  • Finding "relevant, timely, engaging content written just for teens" is always a challenge. Thanks for suggesting The New York Times Upfront. I'm going to check it out right now.

    • It's an amazing source. I'm holding onto a rather current issue. It has an article about the Confederate flag. I plan to incorporate it into my Mockingbird unit in the spring.

  • Making it all relevant for teens is such a challenging task, but it's so important in our world right now that they do have a better understanding of current world events. Thank you for sharing your ideas!

    • Very true, Michelle. It is so important that they understand what is going on around them.

  • I appreciate how you make your lessons meaningful AND standards-driven! Thanks for some great ideas!


  • I LOVE the New York Times Upfront–I use it all the time in my classroom. I love that you use it and have students summarize, quote, and paraphrase!

    • Thanks. It is such a great resource. The students just love it.

  • I definitely think the New York Times Upfront is a valuable resource worth having in any classroom. So great to see you utilizing it with your students!

  • The New York Times Upfront sound like an awesome resource! I'm going to have to go check it out!

  • I used to use Time for Kids which wasn't always timely. I can just imagine the discussions you're able to have!

    • The discussions are great! I'll have to look into Time for Kids for my lower-level students.

  • Thanks for linking to that magazine, that sounds fantastic – I'm going to look into it!


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