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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Emily Jennings's picture

I think it is a great idea to share current events in the classroom, and this is very much a teachable moment. I have students look through the newspapers every Friday to find current events, they then read the article and write a summary to go with it. I have them share what they learned with the class, and add their own personal touches. I find that providing these resources to my students allows them to take home current event information and discuss it with their parents. It makes them more engaged and excited learners.

Joshua Bingham's picture
Joshua Bingham
Fifth grade science and social studies teacher from Carrollton, Georgia

My students have been enthralled with the events occurring over seas in Egypt. One class in particular always wants to know what is going on and why. This interest has me brushing up on my Middle East history as well. I teach fifth grade science and social studies and our curriculum is focused on U.S. History. I have used these events to draw similarities between how we gained our independence from England and what is going on now in Egypt. We have also had engaging conversations on the different rights we have in America that other countries may not. It has definitely been fun seeing these students excited about current events!

Joshua Bingham

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

I just received this email and thought this PBS NewsHour would be very beneficial for educators to attend:

Egypt and Democracy: A Teachers Guide to the Unrest in Egypt

Join PBS NewsHour and the Independent Television Service (ITVS) for a
live online discussion to provide background and context to the
current political situation in Egypt next Tuesday, February 15 at 2 PM
ET (11 AM PT) on

Moderated by PBS NewsHour Correspondent Hari Sreenivasan, the
discussion will be aimed at educators, offering media resources and
lesson plans for teachers to use in the classroom.

Find out about PBS NewsHour Extra's Student Voice
featuring first hand accounts from a teenage journalist living in
Alexandria, Egypt, as well as ongoing coverage of the
situation. Plus, watch
excerpts from the ITVS documentary which explores the
last round of elections in Egypt and the power of digital media.

The discussion will go live at 2 PM ET (11 AM PT) on Tuesday, February
15 on

jennifer garcia's picture

The kids are very excited about what is going on and have already formed their own opinions in many cases. I wanted them to be able to discuss the issue while understanding the different points of view involved.

I have put a small project together in which the students explore the issue using a Google Custom Search as their pathfinder. They then adopt one of the many stakeholders directly or indirectly involved in the crisis. They develop an argument for the personality they have adopted, and create a group Voicethread project in which each person has their say and can respond to the comments of others.

Stacey Goodman's picture
Stacey Goodman
Artist and educator from Oakland, California.

I am teaching a high school course focused on the role of media in society, and as you can imagine, this is an exciting time to be teaching this class! Examinig the role of social media and its impact in places with repressive regimes has been useful, specifically the facebook page We Are All Khaled Said, as well as Al Jazeera's role in providing comprehensive coverage. The students are surprrised to find that Al Jazeera televsion network has been made unavialble to tv audiences in the U.S., an example of censorship in our own country. Link tv has also proved to be a valueable resource in showing students how bias reveals itself in the media by comparing coverage of a single news story from a variety of different international news sources.

Judith's picture

[quote]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?[/quote]

Scholastic News Top Story is online
Feb. 11
A New Day for Egypt
Protests force the country's President to step down after 30 years of rule
They have a complete set of resources including a slide show, maps and background information.

Scholastic News Interactive is free with a class subscription.
It is a complete multi-media version of the print magazine with feature articles written at 2 reading levels (one below), videos and slide shows
audio read-alouds, interactive activities, quizzes, maps, skills sheets etc that are great on a white-board.

Nettie Barrow's picture

I am always facinated with the ways we can incorporate real world events into the classroom. Many years ago as a middle and high school student in my social studies and civic classes we had a "current" event day that we were required to bring in a newspaper or magazine article and discuss (in front of the class) the event. I remember this being sometimes the highlight of the week because then the class was engaging and allowed the student an opportunity to showcase his or her oratory skills. I feel that the recent news from Egypt and this world changing event would make a wonderful assignment for any subject matter. This event could be used to discuss the history of unrest in the Middle East as well as demonstrate an understanding of the political, cultural, geographic, and economic conditions of Eqypt. In addition with technology education and the use of such items as computers,teleconferencing and the internet the student will can receieve up to date information across the globe. These types of interactive teaching will make the classroom and learning come "alive" for the students.

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

I came across this great lesson plan that engages students to discuss and critically think about the recent events in Egypt as well as the entire history of the country.

Great stuff by Sean Banville (@seanbanville):

Mary Kate Land's picture
Mary Kate Land
Montessori 4-6th grade teacher

A student in my class introduced the topic during a class meeting about bullying. She was drawing parallels between the actions of the Egyptian people and the anti-bullying strategies used on our playground. It was priceless!


Sefora Wilson-King's picture

I am a great beliver of Karl Marx saying "History repeats itself". Students should be educated in what is going on in the world now in order to compare with events in the past. Students should understand the cause and effects of different events throughout history and be able to brain storm what methods were used in the past and think of methods that should be used in the present for change. I feel this new generation of students are stagnant and show no motivation to fight and challenge things that are unjustice in this current society. We as teachers must engage the students and bring back the passion in social studies classrooms. I hope to be part of this great movement.

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