ST teachers' session shows news can be a teaching tool

The Straits Times Schools teaching specialist Debra Ann Francisco showing 80 teachers from 58 primary and secondary schools how to incorporate the news in their teaching to spice up their class and engage students in discussions about current affairs
The Straits Times Schools teaching specialist Debra Ann Francisco showing 80 teachers from 58 primary and secondary schools how to incorporate the news in their teaching to spice up their class and engage students in discussions about current affairs and contemporary issues on Thursday.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Should 19-year-old Shamima Begum, the teenager who travelled from England to Syria to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group, be allowed to return home?

The Straits Times Schools editor Serene Luo straw polled some 80 teachers from 58 primary and secondary schools, and found they were divided on the issue.

Ms Luo gave an overview of contemporary issues as part of this year's ST teachers' session, titled Get Current: Using News In Your Classroom, organised by The Straits Times Schools department (ST Schools) on Thursday at the library@harbourfront in VivoCity.

The session, helmed by Ms Luo and teaching specialist Debra Ann Francisco, provided tips on how teachers could incorporate current affairs across different subjects, such as English or Character and Citizenship Education.

On how teachers should decide what kind of topics to discuss with their class, Ms Luo, referring to the ability of students, said: "It's important to figure out where on that continuum your class is."

As for those who found it hard to use the news as a teaching tool due to the lack of student interest, Ms Francisco said a good way to ease into the topic would be to start with the visuals.

"You don't even need them to read articles, because you turn non-readers off when you get them to do that," she said.

"Give options, pick anything from the newspaper, it could be an ad, it could be an infographic, it could have fewer than 20 words," she added. "There's nothing wrong, because they're merely consuming a different form of literacy."

ST Schools also gave the participants a new guidebook, Using the News In Your Classroom, which gave teachers sample activities, ideas and tips, and demonstrated its digital educational tools Digital IN and NewsEd.

NewsEd, a news learning portal, allows teachers to customise and deploy learning activities based on the news, while students can respond through short videos, audio files or text - helping them improve a variety of skills, such as oral communication or comprehension.

Teachers also learnt about the line-up of ST resources, engagement and outreach activities that would be progressively rolled out.

Of the session, teachers said it was beneficial in allowing them to understand how to utilise available resources to create a platform for discussion among their students.

Ms Sarah Poon, a language arts teacher from Methodist Girls' School, said: "I think this really gave me an idea of the wealth of resources readily available, that I don't need to scour for, to make lessons more interesting and engaging."

Another teacher, Ms Abirami Archunan from CHIJ (Kellock), said: "(The session for me) was more of using contemporary issues and how they can be delivered, how we can use the ideas to come up with debates and perspective thinking."

She added that these would help get students interested in the topics and encourage more independent thinking.


 • To find out more about ST Schools' resources for teachers, send an e-mail to cirschool@sph.com.sg

Correction note: The article has been edited to reflect the correct subject Ms Sarah Poon teaches. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2019, with the headline 'ST teachers' session shows news can be a teaching tool'. Print Edition | Subscribe