Two teachers have teamed up to provide students with kid-friendly access to global events.
by Kim Pallozzi, OCT
Teaching kids news
Husband-and-wife team Jonathan Ophek, OCT, and Kathleen Tilly, OCT, elementary school teachers in the Toronto DSB, have taken world news to a new – much shorter and surprisingly kid-friendly – level. The Teaching Kids News web site (teachkidsnews.com) aims to make the complicated subject of global events accessible to young students and their families.
Current and relevant, the web site takes the top stories of the day and writes them in an accessible and interesting format for students from Grades 2 to 8. At the end of each article is a Curriculum Connections section with writing/discussion, grammar and reading prompts that are in line with the Ontario Ministry of Education curriculum.
Ophek, a Grade 5 teacher, and Tilly, who teaches Grade 3, came up with the concept for Teaching Kids News when freelance journalist Joyce Grant started visiting Ophek's classroom to share and discuss newspaper articles. The weekly current events session became so popular with the students that Ophek was motivated to take the lessons one step further.
Ophek, who always knew that kids would enjoy current events, says, "There's simply not enough time to bring in articles and create lessons for the class because the nature of news is that it's changing constantly. I said to Joyce that in a dream world there'd be a web site."
That got the ball rolling. Ophek, Tilly and Grant started a blog in May 2010, which by January 2011 had become the web site Teaching Kids News (TKN).
Jamie Morneau, parent and Learning Support Services teacher at St. Anne French Immersion Catholic Elementary School in Windsor, remarks, "I find the articles short and of significance for kids today. I particularly like the grade level/interest tags. They help make navigation of the site very easy. They also help kids find stories that are age appropriate and of interest to them."
Perry Bergamo, OCT, a Grade 5 teacher at Notre Dame Catholic Elementary School in Windsor says that the web site makes it easy for teachers to spend 15 minutes a day – or even just once a week – discussing what the class feels is the most exciting news story. He finds benefits for students learning geography as well as understanding other cultures and religions around the world.
Ophek suggests that TKN covers all the bases when it comes to Ontario's reading curriculum, saying it can be used for independent, guided or shared reading activities.
The web site is not only advantageous to elementary school students; in an unexpected turn it has become an important asset for aspiring journalists. "Joyce Grant has created a community of journalism students to write for us. As a mentor, she regularly provides them with feedback on their writing, and it gives them valuable experience," says Tilly. "It's been really positive, and we want to expand on that aspect of the web site in the future."
In fact – though it addresses Ontario curriculum and is highly Canadian in content – the site is popular with parents and teachers from across Canada and from the US and even Asia. As well, Ontario teachers working abroad enjoy using TKN in their classrooms.
When it comes to future plans for the site, items on the current wish list include:
- daily French articles
- items relating to every subject in the curriculum
- news that pertains to specific regions.
"Sometimes we get feedback from teachers saying that we should consider doing this or that, and it goes a long way with us. We take that information and use it as the next thing we need to do," says Ophek.
Ophek and Tilly will be speaking at the upcoming 2012 Reading for the Love of It conference in Toronto. They find that conferences are great platforms.
"That's where we really want to connect with teachers and have that conversation about what's useful and how we can further improve the site," says Tilly.
"As long as teachers and kids are finding our site a powerful resource, we're thrilled," says Ophek.