5 ways to get pupils interested in current affairs

Maddy Barnes

I’m an English consultant and assistant headteacher at Sacred Heart Catholic School. I am passionate about boosting language and literacy skills through debate and discussion, as well as through the use of vibrant, engaging resources. As education practitioners, we can often find ourselves full of enthusiasm and ideas but time poor, so if you’re looking for a free, easily accessible resources to help you stimulate conversations, I highly recommend The Week Junior magazine’s ‘All About’ articles.

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Image credit: Unsplash // Keenan Constance. Image credit: Unsplash // Keenan Constance.

In the age of social media and ‘alternative facts’, sparking your pupils’ interest in the world around them and ensuring they know how to navigate current affairs is essential. Understandably however, in the face of tricky questions and misinformation, many education practitioners can find it difficult to know where to start. To help kick off your conversations, in this article I have outlined my top tips on getting pupils interested in current affairs that are easy to follow, and more importantly, effective.

1. Nurture confidence

The first challenge when approaching a dynamic discussion about news topics is ensuring that every pupil feels confident expressing “Choosing an age-appropriate topic is vital.”themselves. Understandably, this can be difficult. Complex issues can be hard to grasp for younger pupils, making them reluctant to share their opinion. A great way to tackle this is with a ‘ma-ma-moo’ game, where students give a convincing speech using only the words ‘ma-ma-moo’. This removes students’ fears around not knowing what to say, and the chance to be silly and creative with their speech ahead of a more focused discussion boosts their confidence in public speaking.

2. Encourage discussion

Choosing an age-appropriate topic is vital when trying to encourage discussion. Splitting the class into groups to consider both ‘for’ and ‘against’ arguments will help them see different points of view. Encouraging pupils to take turns being on both sides of the argument really helps them to learn to be empathetic, as well as challenging them to think about why people might agree and disagree with their point of view. Today, being able to have a meaningful discussion and holding space for the ideas of others are important life-long soft skills that will serve your pupils long after they leave education.

3. Be honest

In a contemporary media environment dominated by conversations around ‘fake news’, it is essential to be prepared to be honest with pupils on important issues. Answer their questions directly and honestly, but without delving into too much detail; a painstaking explanation of the EU withdrawal process would send even adults into a panic! It’s always best to follow children’s lead when facing tricky topics. They will make it clear to you once they have reached the level of detail that they are comfortable going into, so go with that.

4. Use engaging resources

Information shared should be clear and concise, so it is worth taking some time to think how you can present the facts simply. It is important not to“Two pieces of good news make a piece of bad news easier to swallow.” skirt around important issues that might be upsetting, but remember to express them in a reassuring tone. An effective way to do this is to use the ‘sandwich’ technique: two pieces of good news make a piece of bad news that bit easier to swallow. It is also really important that the resources you use are age-appropriate. This will help to keep your pupils interested and stimulated. We all know that when it comes to discussing complex issues with children, having tangible, real world examples can make answering the difficult questions just that bit easier.

5. Make it fun

Most importantly, children should leave the classroom having had fun! Real world issues can be complex and difficult at the best of times, but there is no reason why lessons have to be the same. Given the right platform and in a safe environment, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by just how much your students will have to say when they are enjoying themselves!

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