How can we help children understand what they see and hear on the news?
From the television at home to the increasing time children spend online, young people are increasingly exposed to news and current affairs. In light of this, it is important to ensure that pupils are provided with a space where they can constructively discuss the issues they hear about.
Indeed, scheduling time to discuss current affairs also has a strong impact on educational attainment and wellbeing. Recent research conducted by leading child development expert, Dr Jacqueline Harding, in partnership with The Week Junior magazine, has found that encouraging engagement with real-world news amongst primary school pupils can support the development of crucial skills such as resilience, intellectual curiosity and critical thinking.
So, at a time when media platforms are regularly filled with complex news from across the world, how do teachers talk to their pupils about current affairs? Here are 4 top tips:
1. Present the facts
Share information in a clear and concise format. Take time to think about how you can present the facts of a story in simple language. Providing some background information not only puts the story into context, but significantly helps children to understand difficult issues. If the story is upsetting, it is important to provide reassurance. For example, reminding children that in the case of a terrorist attack, multiple efforts are being made to keep the public safe will ensure that they understand they are being protected.
2. Honesty is important
With the rise of “fake news”, giving children accurate information when discussing current affairs stories has never been more important. Answer pupil’s questions honestly but avoid going into too much detail. Remind pupils to make sure that the news they read is from a reliable, well-informed source. We need to build children’s trust and not shy away from the real issues.
- School children reading The Week Junior.
3. Organise peer-to-peer discussions and debates
Encouraging discussion and debate by selecting a contentious news story and dividing the class into ‘for and against’ groups will allow pupils to form, engage with and challenge ideas with their peers. Every week, The Week Junior publishes the big debate – a feature which helps pupils explore reasons why people might agree and disagree with a contentious topic.
4. Share good news stories too
With so much doom and gloom, it’s easy to forget that there are plenty of good news stories to share every day. From good deeds, to new scientific inventions or the success of our favourite athletes, there are many stories with positive messages that are also worth discussing.
- The Big Debate – Download in full here!
The Week Junior
The Week Junior provides support for teachers who wish to discuss current affairs with their pupils. The magazine is aimed at curious 8-14-year-olds who want to make sense of the world around them. It explains news and events and encourages readers to form and share their own ideas and opinions. Teacher Toolkit readers can download a back issue of the Big Debate free today. Get your students debating:
From news to nature, science to geography, and film to coding, it covers a huge range of exciting topics, and gives children the information they need, the way they want it: concise, colourful, immediate, exciting.
The Week Junior is published every Friday. School term time subscriptions are available from £53.33 for 40 issues per year. Click here for more information.