Develop Better News Habits with Students

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What’s your News Habit? Test your News IQ here

FANschool is reimagining the news delivery and interaction method for students who have never held newspapers before by using a fantasy sports-like model to improve daily habits in their sweet spot for learning.

We think our social learning mechanism, which enables us to draft content and score points for news, does a better job of positive brain training than anything else in existence (i.e. print news, radio news, television news, internet news, email newsletters). Students’ brains are different from kids’ brains a generation ago because of the way they’re taking in information, especially fast-paced, digital information. The question is: How do educators meet students halfway?

When we ask students how they want to receive news, they usually yell out something like “Put it in Snapchat!”. This is a real challenge for teachers as good learning gets lost in all the social media junk.

While there are lots of ways to help your students develop better daily current events-interaction habits, find what works for you and let us do the rest! Any combination of these classroom practices will help boost your student’s awareness as they play, remembering that was not created to be an endpoint, but rather a launching pad:

HABIT 1: Meet Students Where They Are and Take Them Higher.

Assume your students aren’t hanging out where you did. They’re not going to the news: We have to bring it to them. And handing it to them or telling them to go to a website and “read this” or “do this assignment” or “take this quiz” isn’t going to work for long.

Most of them don’t touch a real newspaper on a daily basis (or see you doing that) and probably can’t find the right channel for a nightly news broadcast on television. Your students hang out on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube, which program them to take certain actions and make certain clicks, for better or worse.

Encourage students to like or follow news sources they want, where they are. This will bring news to them on a daily basis, helping students become more aware in their sweet spot for learning on social media. Students can even text with a bot to get news these days!

Do a little research using our geopolitics news list, our Twitter news list, or our Facebook feed of news pages we like. Then, ask students about their favorite sources and make a classroom list together.

If you’re unsure about whether or not a source is legit, research it together and discuss. And feel free to use the phrase “That’s H.O.T.” (higher order thinking) throughout!

Then, ask questions like: “What’s the most interesting thing you saw on [insert news choice] this week?”

Plus, check out the Trends score via our FANpolitics game too!

HABIT 2: Improve your Classroom Routine

Students like to have fun at school, but they also appreciate routine and high expectations. Lots of good teachers incorporate something like “Current Events Fridays,” for instance.

These programs are great, but after a while your students might find them mundane. Try mixing it up by getting the bigger picture via our interactive Trends Map to dive into what’s happening and why:

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Check out these All-Star teacher routines for even more ideas about how to engage students quickly, efficiently, and formatively on a daily basis. We love @mrcaseyljhs’s “Daily Rumble,” which gets middle school students active in fun, current events challenges!

Get in the habit of asking questions like these with students too:
Where is conflict (or collaboration) happening?
Is there an election or big event coming up?
Where will the U.S. President be and why?
How do you know that’s true?

HABIT 3: Watch Your Language!

Do you ever hear students groan when you mention phrases like “quiz,” “current events,” or “here’s your assignment”? Students might just be getting a little tired of day-in, day-out words like “homework”.

Try replacing those words with better descriptions for a few weeks…

Instead of “assignment,” try “White House Brief”.
Instead of “homework,” try “challenge”.

And don’t shy away from using research terminology in normal conversations with students on a daily basis: The more we talk about and model “reliability,” “validity,” and “primary sources,” the better!

HABIT 4: Model your own good News Habits

We’re finding that one of the best uses of is efficient current events knowledge for teachers too: It certainly worked for us!

Our favorite method to personally keep up is still the email newsletter, especially alongside the FANschool leaderboards and trends. The New York Times’ “Morning Briefing” and The Council on Foreign Relations’ “The World this Week” are particularly helpful.

You might also like:
Fareed Zakaria’s Global Briefing
Inside Daily Brief

Lately, I’ve also been using Facebook’s “Save Link” for storing articles I want to come back to while I scan my highly-programmed News Feed there: It provides a nice morning or weekend reading list of scholarly stuff I care about.

Don’t let your feed (or your mind) get hijacked by the negative news bubble. Sometimes 24/7 cycles like CNN’s make us feel anxious as they attempt to turn politics into a sport.

Find more scholarly routines, turn off the news firehoses, and teach students to do the same by taking control of your attention span and giving it to things you want, that matter.

Your feed is not set in stone. It’s set by your behavior as we become what we like and who we follow.

As you play FANgeopolitics, students will start coming into class asking if you’ve heard about the news in one of their countries: This always encourages me to step up my knowledge-habits game too!

One of the most important things you can develop at school is daily learning habits: Keep students curious by meeting them where they are and inspire them to utilize existing resources in their sweet spot for learning to improve daily routines.

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Founded by teachers and technologists, we turn students into FANs of learning with fantasy sports-like games for school content + current events.

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