By Christy Burke
As an English teacher to 7th to 12th graders, I understand the importance of giving your students a platform to use their voices in meaningful ways. A lot is going on in the world and your students have a lot to say about it all.
Allowing students to write about important issues and events allows them to learn more about what is in the headlines, but writing also gives them a chance to express their opinions. Sometimes we don’t give teenagers enough credit. They understand a lot more about what’s going on locally and globally than one might think.
Here’s a Guide To Help Your Students Find Their Voice Through Writing.
Should Students Write About Controversial Subjects?
Yes! Absolutely, yes! Adults often try to shield teens from controversial or unsettling news stories. Almost all teenagers have smartphones or some sort of tablet. With constant access to the internet and social media, they are bombarded with local and global news daily. They know what’s going on and they have opinions about it. Let them express their opinions through writing. You might be surprised at how much they know and how articulate they are at conveying their thoughts.
Teach Students How to Find Credible Sources
Students should understand that most news sources contain some sort of bias. Teach them that there is more than one side to a story and that they should research news stories from all angles. Because one source does not necessarily verify information, students should be taught to fact-check by cross-referencing everything. They should also have a clear understanding of how to properly cite their sources.
Students Should Know the Difference Between News Stories and Editorials
Once they are clear on the difference, encourage them to write both news and opinion pieces. Teach them how to present their views with ample evidence to make their opinions more credible. This is their chance to use their voice and shine. Controversial subjects should not be off-limits because teenagers are just as affected by what’s going on in the world as adults, and they have their thoughts and feelings about the news. Give them a chance to express their opinions. Validating how they are feeling by letting them write teaches them that what they think matters. It’s important.
So, don’t be afraid to let your students explore and write about current events. You are teaching them to become critical thinkers, which is very important in life. Allowing them to write about topics they feel strongly about gives them a voice. Teach them that their voices matter because they do!