I’ve taught multiple sections of composition over the years and without fail a majority (but not all) of my students have little interest in world news/events/culture. This lack of interest has made teaching Comp (or ENG) 102 difficult since the course focuses on researching and writing about world events (at least it has at the two institutions I’ve taught). When I assigned the first research paper, many students had trouble finding topics about issues that weren’t US-centric.
One semester I decided to reach back to a strategy many of my high school history teachers employed: the current events article. Back in high school, every week I had to select a newspaper article, summarize it and offer my opinion. I refurbished the assignment, making it more suitable to students in the 102 course. Every week my students had to select an article. I allowed them to choose from a wide variety of outlets (The New York Times, The Guardian, even Buzzfeed). The article could focus on politics, economics, or culture—so fashion trends, music, film, art, food, literature, religion. The only requirement: the article’s focus couldn’t be US-centric. Students wrote a one paragraph summary, a one paragraph analysis on the article’s content and one paragraph discussing potential biases.
Some questions I told students to ask themselves:
- Does the author’s biography reveal anything important to the article’s subject? Where did the author study? What’s the author’s primary field of expertise? Does the author work for any companies? If the author’s writing about conflict between multiple countries, does the author’s nationality affect his or her interpretation of events?
- Did the article leave out any big questions or skirt around complications?
- Did the article intrigue you enough to seek out more information on the subject?
Each week I selected a handful of students to discuss their articles with the class and allowed other students an opportunity to ask questions. This activity helped my students narrow down topics for their research papers and aided them in weeding out biased sources.