My child loves reading the news. How can I get him motivated to write about important news events?
Current events make for an ideal writing subject for children of any age. In the first place, these events are immediate for them—that is, current events are happening now, perhaps even close to home. Children can experience these events directly and not feel distanced from them by the passage of time.
This is not to say that the study or experience of historical events is not a special or enlightening activity. Certainly, hiking through Valley Forge National Park where General Washington camped with the Continental Army in 1777 is informative. I have enjoyed numerous visits to this park, notwithstanding the last one during which my daughter boldly protested the length of our hike, and a loose dog stole my lunch. Clambering over the old embankments, it is hard not to feel a connection to the events that transpired there, knowing that the very earth beneath me had been moved by the cold hands of volunteer soldiers during our War of Independence. Yet, the current events of my life hold so much more meaning and directly impact the way I live my life and the world I will leave to my children.
But there is more to current event writing tasks than the immediacy of their subject matter. In other words, they are not simply "easy access busy work." These writing tasks are versatile, legitimate academic pursuits, enabling children to write across various curricula and utilize various methods of analysis. Consider these three potential writing assignments that take advantage of the current events that swirl around your children every day.
React to an Event
Level of Analysis: Elementary, Personal Reaction
One of the best ways to encourage students to react to current events is to have them keep a MY Access!® journal. This type of writing is less formal than most assignments and is usually completed in a narrative or "story-telling" format. Children can be asked to complete a journal entry once a week, say each Friday, and share it with their parents or teachers for scoring and commentary. It is not common, however, for journal entries to be revised or redrafted. You can think of these one-time writing assignments as similar to the informal question—So, what did you think about . . . .
Task: Think about the news events that have happened this week. Choose the one event that you think is important, and write a multi-paragraph journal entry about it. What happened? Why do you think it is important?
Describe an Event
Level of Analysis: Middle School, Description
An assignment like this engages a child's ability to observe, interpret, and describe an important current event. More than just reporting his or her feelings as with a journal task, this task asks the child to go into the community to experience the event directly, observe it, and describe it to the reader. These events may be local (a new display at a museum) or national (the Presidential Inauguration). Parents may choose different kinds of events to make this writing assignment cross-curricular and assign it at the appropriate time in the course of study. For example, a child may be asked to attend a local church meeting (civics), a sporting event (athletics), a business opening (economics), or an agricultural fair (science).
Task: After speaking with your parent or teacher, choose an important local event to attend. During this event, take careful notes on what you observe. You may also want to interview participants in the event. Then, write a multi-paragraph essay in which you describe the event. Be sure to answer the questions Who, What, Where, and When in your description. Don't forget the Why—why is this event important to the community?
Evaluate an Event
Level of Analysis: High School, Compare/Contrast
This final task will challenge more advanced writers to research and analyze a current event in greater detail. While we are repeatedly told that there are at least two "sides" to every story, we don't always find news reports presenting a balanced view of current events in all their complexity. In this exercise, rather than observing an event or reacting to it, children will research an event to discover its many facets. Because of the level of analysis involved, these tasks are ideal for cross-curricular assignments and may be local, national, or international in scope. Writers may approach this task by identifying "pro/con" positions or two different explanations of the cause of an event.
Task: After speaking with your parent or teacher, select an important news event to research. Using resources from the library or Internet, read about this event to identify at least two different perspectives on it. Then, write a multi-paragraph essay in which you describe the event and fairly present the two different positions you have researched. Finally, present your position on the event. Be sure to support your analysis with references to your research.
We hope that you find these suggestions useful. As always, please send along any comments or suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community Author Series:
Award-Winning Author Aaron Shepard is next up in the Community Author Series!
This installment in our Author Series comes from Aaron Shepard, the award-winning author of One-Eye! Two-Eyes! Three-Eyes!, The Sea King's Daughter, The Baker's Dozen, The Legend of Lightning Larry, and many more children's books from publishers large and small. His stories have also appeared often in Cricket magazine.
Check out Aaron's tips for what makes a good story on our community blog.
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| Did You Know?
Within each child's Assignment Center, you'll find a package called Bonus Writing Prompts. This is a package that allows us to quickly pass new writing tasks along to you. Later this month, we plan to make new writing tasks available to you, including the three current events tasks in this newsletter. Be sure to check back in the Bonus Writing Prompts Package frequently!