George Lucas Educational Foundation
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The news out of Egypt this week has been gripping and fascinating, and made me really miss my days as a classroom teacher. All week I've been thinking: what would I do if I were in the classroom? How would I teach these events? These were the kinds of events that I jumped to incorporate into my curriculum and instruction.

I felt it was part of my job as an educator to help students understand, interpret, analyze, and connect with major world events. Even though I wasn't an expert on every world event, I tried to find ways to facilitate my students' learning, to guide them through complicated content.

I've been wondering this week how teachers are bringing the events in the Middle East into their classes. I found this article useful on ways to teach about the unrest in Egypt. They offer many interesting suggestions, mostly relevant to middle school and high school. But I also wondered about how an elementary teacher could share some of this fascinating news with students.

Appropriate for K-6?

My son, a first grader, has had no choice but to hear about Egypt all week from his parents who are glued to the news. We've engaged him in deep discussions about social change, how governments are formed, the power of language, and the use of violence. He's learned a dozen new words and has internalized them because they are part of our conversations. He also hears them on the news, and he's now using them. We put a map of the Middle East up on his wall and have talked about how geography has impacted politics. He's coming home from school asking, "What happened in Cairo today?" and, "Can we watch Al Jazeera?"

What I learned this week, through engaging him in these conversations, is that seven-year-olds are capable of getting deep into what's going on in the world. Okay, so many of you might already know that, but having never taught early elementary, I questioned how teachers could make Egypt relevant and understandable to young children. Not only was this possible, but my son was really excited and curious about what's going on. This, I remembered, was the thrill of teaching -- to see children become fascinated by the world, by their learning.

Higher Order Thinking

What an exciting time we are witnessing and what a fantastic opportunity to get kids of all ages thinking about these profound and pertinent questions. I guess if I was in the classroom now, in spite of being apprehensive because I don't know much about the Middle East except that it's really complicated, I'd just dive right in and be a learner along with my students -- an excited learner witnessing a major world event.

Here's things I know I would do:

  • Raise questions around freedom, around speech, and the role of a military
  • Create opportunities for students to relate and identify with the underlying feelings and issues that Egyptian, Tunisian, and Syrian people are dealing with
  • Make connections between what they already know (many are currently studying African American history and the Civil Rights Movement this month)
  • Evaluate the media's portrayal of these events (any biases? differing perspectives?)

What are you doing to teach about the events in the Middle East, or what would you like to do? We want to know! Please share ideas and resources on this topic.

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Shari Lapinsky's picture
Shari Lapinsky
Fourth grade teacher: reading, language arts, social studies

I have been unable to engage my students on this topic this week since we have had four snow days. Next, week I intend to bring these events into my teaching of current events as well as discussions on democracy, social and governmental change, and world geography. I believe my fourth graders are old enough to understand the events. These are historical events that I would like my students to remember.

Kathryn Bartee's picture
Kathryn Bartee
Special Education Teacher

Our fifth grade students have been studying the American Revolution. This week we began comparing events in Egypt with what we are learning about the American Revolution: protester demands, protester actions, government actions. Also tying into economic and media issues: effect on businesses and consumers, communication among the protesters. Scholastic News for Kids has a concise readable piece about the Egyptian conflict.

Kathy Jones's picture
Kathy Jones
Assistant Principal

I am writing this as a mother and have to say that I am so glad that teachers are using current events in the classroom as well as giving a hefty dose of them at home to their own children. (I always did that in all elementary settings when I was in the classroom. I was teaching first grade the year Krista McCauliff was on the shuttle.) My children always listened to the news with us and we had open and honest discussions with them about all kinds of topics. When they became eligible to vote, they registered as soon as possible and are still active voters that are well informed because we were not afraid to discuss issues they learned about in school or at home. Thanks teachers!

Malissa Sauciunas's picture

I teach one 6th grade social studies class where government is a key concept. With every country we study, we have to teach their government and economy of the region. I always try to incorporate current events into my classroom for the students to gain a better sense of the situation. We are currently studying the Middle East which goes hand in hand with the current issue. I have taught my students the fundamentals of Egypt's government. With the knowledge they know about government, I have my students to break into groups with a president and committee. They then make plans on how they can better their government and economy to satisfy the people of the region and to end the riots. This helps the students to evaluate the situation, practice leadership skills, and to use their knowledge to help solve the problem. After they come up with their plan, they will present it to the class and the class will vote on the better plan.

Jessica's picture

I teach resource for 5th grade students. Integrating Social Studies with my guided reading has been my main focus this year. As far as current events, I have not really integrated any aspects of the news with my reading groups, however after reading your blog I feel motivated to start using newspaper articles to help explain non-fiction text features, our current reading skill.

Frances Caole's picture

I also teach fifth grade, and we are also learning about the American Revolution. Do I need to subscribe to the Scholastic News for Kids, or is it on their web site?

Jeri Hyske's picture
Jeri Hyske
7th grade Math, Science, AVID teacher from California

I teach AVID and my 8th grade class was working on a unit having to do with the freedom and responsibilities it take for a democratic society to exist. As the events in Egypt are unfolding we are examining them in relation to the "Nine Challenges of Democracy" from the curriculum I am using. This has been an eye-opening experience for my students, we usually study events after the fact. It has helped them to realize that the world is still changing.
I am looking for a video/movie (realistic fiction or non-fiction) about life in Egypt today, or the recent past. Anyone have any suggestions?

While I'm on the subject of asking for help, I am looking for the same type of movie/video about the Hmong people of Vietnam. Any suggestions would be wonderful.

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