Informational Texts to Help Students Build Background Knowledge Around Current Events (And Support Reading Comprehension Skills!)
Student curiosity can lead them to explore all kinds of things - even current events! That’s why we created a round-up of current event articles from our digital literacy platform to help build student background knowledge around popular events, topics, and stories. From COVID-19 to cybersecurity to technological advancements, we have plenty of current event articles to help build excitement and knowledge around newsworthy topics.
Whether you’re new to CommonLit or deeply familiar with our digital literacy platform, you’re sure to find a useful and engaging informational text with current events lesson plans to help your students make sense of this news’ biggest topics and develop stronger reading comprehension skills.
For Elementary Teachers
Highlight Changes in the Technology Industry
Provide students insight on how technology continues to innovate by focusing on many students’ favorite aspect of technology: video games. Read Melissa Hart’s interview, “Courtney Craven: Gamer and Disability Activist” (5th grade), and examine Craven’s work to make video games more accessible for those who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
After reading this news interview, discuss the importances of representation with Discussion Question 3, “Why do you think it is important for people to be able to see themselves in public figures?” Then, use the question to launch an extended writing response, “Describe someone famous that you look up to and relate to. Why do you like them and how does it make you feel to have something in common with them?”
Build Background Knowledge about Voting
Every year is a big year for the polls. Engage students around current elections with these informational texts that will build background knowledge about the democratic process:
- “Voting” by Brittanica Kids (3rd grade)
- “Democracy” by Brittanica Kids (4th grade)
- “Voting Around The World” by Marcia Amidon Lusted (5th grade)
Make sure you explore the Related Media tab for great resources like “Keke Palmer Explains the History of Voting”. Each resource comes with discussion questions to connect what students see with the text. This video asks students, “Based on the video and the text, what are some ways the United States could make voting even more fair?”
Discuss Innovations in Epidemiology as a Result of COVID-19
Read the informational text “Disease Detectives” by Jacqueline Pratt-Tuke (5th grade). Not only is this news article great for teaching students about the work of epidemiologists and how their roles have changed over the past three years, it’s also a great text for teaching about key details and main ideas!
For Middle School Teachers
Highlight Sports’ Biggest Headline Makers
Whether your students are sports fanatics or casual viewers, they’ve probably heard of the one and only Tom Brady. “Training The GOAT” by Jacqueline Pratt-Tuke” (6th grade) details the training methods used by Brady that have spurred both praise and critique.
After reading this current event story, invite students to think of their own creative solutions with Discussion Question 2, “How can ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions help to solve difficult problems? Think of an ‘out-of-the-box’ solution that you have thought of for a tricky problem. Describe the problem and solution. How was your solution ‘out-of-the-box’? Did it work?”
Bonus! This text is also featured in a Target Lesson format with a focus of finding the meaning of unknown words. Assign it as a Target Lesson for even more strategic skills practice.
Explore Climate Change’s Impact on The Future of Food
Current event article, “Farms of the Future” by Tracy Vonder Brink (6th grade), discusses the way in which farming may need to innovate to remain effective. Students will be entranced while learning about the different ways food production may change - vertical greenhouses, anyone?
Searching for more great informational articles related to current events? Check out Tracy Vonder Brink’s additional texts on our site.
For High School Teachers
Highlight Climate Change’s Impact on the Environment
Protecting the environment for years to come is top of mind for many high schoolers and young adults. “The African Swamp Protecting Earth’s Environment” by Vera Songwe (9th grade) allows students to gain insight about what is currently being done to preserve ecosystems around the world and brainstorm creative ways to help lead conservation efforts.
After reading this news article, assign the Paired Text “Letter to Someone Living Fifty Years from Now” by Matthew Olzmann. Ask students to compare the state of the environment in this poem with the speech from Vera Songwe: “In the letter, who is responsible for destroying the environment? In the speech, who contributes the most to climate change?”
Analyze the Spread of Misinformation on the Internet
“How Search Engines Spread Misinformation” by Chirag Shah (10th grade) will be sure to engage high schoolers. The current event article examines how algorithms and human nature can lead to the spread of misinformation.
After reading the text, invite students to share their thoughts on Discussion Question 1, “Do you think that our age and the time period of our upbringing affects the way we make sense of the world? Who do you think is more likely to fall for ‘fake news’ online - older or younger people? Why?” This question also doubles as an argumentative writing prompt!
Debate Loan Cancellation and Push Students to Look to the Future: College and Loans
What’s more current for high school students than planning for their future? Help students look past college applications and gain insight into the financial decisions needed to make college accessible and affordable.
- “Making College More Affordable: The Importance of Pre-Collegiate Preparation” by Reynold Verrett (11th grade)
- “Avoid High Student Debt and Dropping Out By Asking these 4 questions about Any College” by Jake Murray (11th grade)
- “Making College More Affordable: What Needs Discussing is the Total Cost of a Degree” by Eric Barron (11th grade)
- “Making College More Affordable: More Than One Funder Has to Step Up” by Jill Tiefenthaler (11th grade)
Looking for more college-ready content? Check out our CommonLit 360 Units! 12th Grade, Unit 1 focuses on memoir and features great examples of both application and college-essay writing.
Searching for additional relevant, seasonal text selections? Check out our upcoming webinars!