News events as 'teachable moments' in classrooms

Teaching specialist Debra Ann Francisco introduced ways to get students interested in the news.
Teaching specialist Debra Ann Francisco introduced ways to get students interested in the news.ST PHOTO: ALVIN HO

To give teachers more ammunition to facilitate discussion about contemporary issues, from climate change to population problems, The Straits Times IN, this paper's publication for secondary schools, will create four special issues centred on such themes.

Teachers at yesterday's Coffee and Current Affairs session hosted by ST Schools also got to vote on the topics they wanted to see in these issues.

The session was organised for secondary school teachers who wanted to use current affairs to enhance their lessons.

Teaching specialist Debra Ann Francisco, who led the first half of the session, said news events were full of "teachable moments" that teachers could seize to make a connection with their students.

To combat the shorter attention spans of youth today, she introduced ways to get them interested in the news, such as by playing scavenger hunt - looking for news articles on a certain topic, for instance, one that demonstrated someone giving back to society.

"It's a dance in the classroom because students don't always want to sit down and read," she added.

Mr David Tay, a teaching specialist with ST Schools, demonstrated the use of Digital IN and NewsEd - digital platforms that teachers can tap for their own classes.

With Digital IN, articles come in the form of an app for easy access, while NewsEd - for both Web and mobile - features curated articles, many of them with preloaded learning activities.

Teachers at the session welcomed these electronic platforms.

Ms Mary Rose Gonsalvez, 55, an English and literature teacher at Manjusri Secondary School, said: "We have e-learning too, and this makes the process more efficient, as opposed to us looking for the resources ourselves."

Mr Gabriel Sim Kim Hoe, 44, said teachers had to demonstrate how current affairs were relevant to students' lives or they would not care much about them.

The head of department of character and citizenship education at Dunman Secondary School added: "My students think they know about the world, but they don't know enough."

All participants received a set of teaching resources, including a free trial account of Digital IN, valid until the end of this year.

A session for primary school teachers, utilising Little Red Dot and The Straits Times, will be held today.

Schools interested in finding out more about IN, Digital IN, NewsEd or Little Red Dot, which is for primary schools, can send an e-mail to

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2018, with the headline 'News events as 'teachable moments' in classrooms'. Subscribe