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Ripping Gifted Curriculum from the Headlines

One of the most important goals of gifted and talented curriculum is that of presenting g/t students with content that is both authentic and personal. What could be more real, meaningful, and personal than what is happening in our daily lives? In our interconnected world, we are truly global citizens and are affected either imminently or eventually by major world events. Gifted students need opportunity to deal with critical issues in their present and future lives. Dealing with such content encourages them to increase knowledge and apply it, to think analytically and creatively in projecting solutions to problems, and to build ownership and empowerment over issues that concern them.

As such, each day provides a plethora of headlines in our constantly streaming media sources. News stories surround us with situations that range from devastating to frightening to uplifting. Gifted youth are interested and aware of news and events that have relevance to their lives and are capable of intuiting worldwide connections among peoples and nations. Parents and educators can help source articles currently in the news that are of interest to and appropriate for young people. Adults should facilitate discussions of news topics through a series of questions and steps in helping students personalize issues that are happening in the rest of the world. This type of facilitation is important as students may have minimal knowledge of current events, geopolitics, and international relations.

An increased understanding of geopolitics will aid students in learning how to see and interpret biases that exist within the news, including various individuals, groups, governments, etc. that are involved with an event. Current events education can also help students acquire, use, and master critical thinking skills, as well as become informed, engaged, and inquisitive students. An inquiry process in current events encourages students to ask questions, generate and interpret the meaning of data, and form conclusions about what they read in the news. Here’s a process to help you get started.

1. “How and What Happened?”

Students read, analyze, and work independently or in pairs with the articles or news stories selected. They then collect basic information. The basic facts that students initially collect include: “who” is involved and “when” and “where‟ did the events covered in the news occur. It is important to stress that students organize events in chronological order.

Students then work on their comprehension and application of the data they collected. They use the basic data collected to write out three-sentence summaries of the events in the article. As they write these summaries, students gain an understanding of the roles that various actors played in the described events. They begin to develop relationships among the data collected, such as temporal-causal, spatial, and part-whole relationships.

For example, if students were examining a natural disaster, such as the recent brushfires in Australia, the who, what, and where are easy to pinpoint. It is a more complex process to connect the current situation to climate change factors and future impact on animals and the eco-system in the area. There are further inter-relationships to explore regarding effects on tourism, energy policy, climate change laws, disaster preparation and relief, long-term effects on the communities and economies of the burned regions, and so on.

2. The “Why?” Stage

The next step in the news analysis process is to analyze the actions of the various individuals, groups, states, or international organizations involved. Through this process, the individuals, groups, states, or international organizations have discernible goals that can be analyzed. While actions may seem irrational to us as readers, if we view the situation from the goals or perspectives of the actor, actions can be understood to be rational from another point of view. An example could be that a political leader chooses a course of action that divides the country into two or more factions. One side of the debate might see the action as rational and needed and the opposing viewpoint might see the action as irrational and reckless.

Students then analyze the actions of all the additional actors in a situation to determine their goals and the purposes of the actions they took. They begin their analysis with the aid of the adult and will likely need to research additional resources. Adults may also fill in some gaps in knowledge the students need to conduct their analysis. In our political leader scenario, analysis might look at ripple effects of the action and unintended consequences, as well as historical information leading up to the action.

After a specified period, students can present their analysis to an audience. The audience can be friends, family, peers, or outside agencies, or government entities. The audience members would consider whether the theory was valid, provide additional information from their analysis or prior knowledge, and eventually decide whether to accept or discard the theories or solutions presented by the student.

Adults should help students focus on:

  • diligent data collection,
  • noting important relationships among the facts presented,
  • accurate and complete summarization,
  • logic of the theories they present to others, and
  • their ability to evaluate their own/or others’ opinions critically.

After, discuss with students if this activity changed the way they will approach or think about news in the future. What did they learn about news analysis? As students get older and potentially become more involved and engaged in issues and problems around the globe, such training in analysis will be essential in helping them determine what their potential roles might be in inserting their personal action into current issues.


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