Can a longer weekend increase learning?

Can a longer weekend increase learning?

Some school districts across the world find that one day less of classes per week can produce more effective learning. But not everyone is convinced. Girls in school uniforms head to classes. A calendar column shows that Mondays are off. (Illustration by Kaja Andrić)...

In an excellent piece written by high schooler Devon Chipman of News Decoder partner The Tatnall School, we consider the pros and cons of a four-day school week. Develop students’ critical thinking and evidence-based reasoning skills using this youth voice story.

Exercise: Before reading the article, ask your students whether or not they support a four-day school week. Then, read the article together and see if opinions have changed. After this initial discussion, facilitate a class debate on whether or not to implement a four-day school week at your school. Students should take on different personas in the debate to argue a perspective they may not personally agree with — school administrators, teachers, parents/guardians, students, college admission officers, etc. Each student contribution during the debate should incorporate evidence from the article.

Should finders remain keepers when it comes to looted stones?

Should finders remain keepers when it comes to looted stones?

For two centuries Great Britain and Greece have fought over artifacts taken from the Acropolis. In Athens, the matter of the Elgin Marbles is complicated. Ancient stones at the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. (Credit: tilialucida) We climbed to the top...

News Decoder editorial intern Kaja Andrić covers the contested rights to the Greek Elgin Marbles in this text. In our present day, should the Elgin Marbles be returned from England to their historical home in Greece? Help students learn to suspend biases and adopt multiple perspectives in this accompanying classroom activity.

Exercise: Read the article as a class, instructing students to make two lists: (1) why the Elgin Marbles should remain in England and (2) why the Elgin Marbles should be returned to Greece. Then, have students draft a resolution to this dispute. If one country gives up the rights to the sculptures, what stipulations should be in place to ensure both sides are satisfied?

When the Earth erupts, what can you do?

When the Earth erupts, what can you do?

There are active volcanoes across the globe. When they erupt people can die and whole communities vanish. Scientists of the University of Iceland take measurements and samples standing on the ridge in front of the active part of the eruptive fissure of an active...

Living near an active volcano can be scary. Even scarier is living near an active volcano without an adequate emergency plan in place. With extreme weather events and natural disasters on the rise in recent years, help your students develop an emergency preparedness plan for their community in this piece from correspondent Tira Shubart.

Exercise: Read the article as a class and discuss why emergency preparedness plans are not equitable around the world. Then, evaluate your school and community’s level of emergency preparedness. What makes for an effective plan? Are there any weaknesses to your community’s existing emergency preparedness efforts? What could be improved?

Decoder Replay: Measles spread. Let’s revisit vaccine myths.

Decoder Replay: Measles spread. Let’s revisit vaccine myths.

Some think there is a global conspiracy to promote harmful vaccines. But doctors and health experts agree: Vaccines are safe and they save lives. Measles vaccine, conceptual image (Photo by: SCIENCE PHOTO via AP Images.) Editor’s note: On 24 January 2024, the...

In recent years, the rise of measles reported by the World Health Organization is cause for concern. It doesn’t help that vaccine misinformation keeps many parents from immunizing their children against the disease. Get the facts straight and debunk vaccine myths in this piece by health and science correspondent Maggie Fox. 

Exercise: After students read the article, divide them into groups of three. Each group should select a vaccine myth presented in the article and create a public service announcement (PSA) debunking the myth. The PSA should be short and catchy, and may be presented through any format of choice: text, images, video, multimedia, etc. The class will vote on the best PSA.

Social media for combating hate and disinformation

Social media for combating hate and disinformation

From Gaza to Israel to the United States some people are turning to social media for civil discussion. Can we stop disinformation about the Middle East? Posts on an imaginary social media page calling for civil dialogue about the Middle East. (Illustration by News...

Social media can be a double-edged sword — with the power to unite and to divide. How can students differentiate between disinformation and credible content? Journalism undergraduate student Ella Gorodetsky from the University of Wisconsin-Madison looks at social media posts about the Israel-Hamas war to investigate.

Exercise: After reading the article together, have students come up with a social media campaign to stop the spread of disinformation. In 160 characters or less, students should invent a catchy slogan to help others distinguish between credible and fake content. This activity should be done in groups of 2-3.

Decoder Replay: Is there a role for a monarch in a democracy?

Decoder Replay: Is there a role for a monarch in a democracy?

King Charles III now sits on the British throne. In Denmark, Crown Prince Frederik is expected to ascend. What role do these royals have in the modern world? Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary at Christiansborg Castle in Copenhagen, Denmark,...

With the ascension of King Frederik X to the Danish throne in January 2024, we reconsider the role of monarchs in a modern world. Using this republished piece from correspondent Harvey Morris, help students develop evidence-based reasoning skills with an accompanying classroom debate activity. 

Exercise: Read the article with your class, then divide students into two debate groups. One group will represent a pro-monarchy opinion, and the other group will represent an anti-monarchy opinion. Students will answer the following debate question: Should monarchies around the world be abolished? To answer the question, students should prepare an argument using the Claim-Evidence-Reasoning framework. The claim answers the question. The evidence should be collected from the article or another reputable source. The reasoning should explain why the evidence supports the claim.

To wean the toy industry off plastic is no easy game

To wean the toy industry off plastic is no easy game

The global toy industry has a plastics predicament: How to feed children’s appetite for new toys, keep prices low and not harm the Earth in the process. A pile of plastic toys at a toy landfill. (Illustration by News Decoder) Plastic is omnipresent in our lives...

90% of the world’s new toys feature some form of plastic. As the industry continues to grow, especially in places like North America, how can we ensure toy makers are thinking of the environment — and not just profit? University of Toronto Journalism Fellow Preety Sharma covers potential solutions.

Exercise: Sharma’s article suggests that pro-environmental behavior is most commonly adopted when it is a default option. That means it is the easiest or cheapest option. In pairs, have students think about the default options in their lives. Are these the most environmentally-friendly options, or is there room for improvement? For example: students may think about the accessibility of recycling/compost bins in their local community, the types of food packaging they see in the grocery store, etc.

Podcasting where the press is under pressure

Podcasting where the press is under pressure

Ljudmila Janković is a journalist in the Balkans, where speech isn’t quite free. But podcasting there might help foster a more independent media. Ljudmila Janković. (Photo courtesy Press Freedom Foundation) In the Western Balkans, journalists operate within a...

A free press is a central component of a democratic society. But press freedom worldwide is far from guaranteed. In this article, News Decoder Communications Specialist Andrea Knezevic interviews Ljudmila Janković of Press Freedom Foundation Serbia to uncover the challenges journalists face in the Balkans.

Exercise: As students dive into the world of journalism, help them explore the many ways to tell stories — audio, visual, text. After reading the article, students should listen to the text’s accompanying podcast episode. What are the nuances of audio versus text storytelling? Which types of stories lend themselves to audio best? You may consider following up with a podcast interviewing assignment for students. 

Decoder Replay: Caught in the valley of two nuclear powers

Decoder Replay: Caught in the valley of two nuclear powers

India and Pakistan — both nuclear powers — have fought three wars over Kashmir. But neither will yield in one of the world’s intractable conflicts. Zero Bridge in Srinagar Kashmir. (Credit: P. Kijsanayothin for Getty Images Signature) Editor’s note: On 11...

This Decoder Replay by Ammar Nainar is an excellent complement to history lesson plans about decolonization and the Partition of India in 1947. How does the past continue to inform the present in ways that matter?

Exercise: Read the article with your history class after students learn about the Partition of India in 1947. Discuss how decisions made in the 1940s continue to affect people living in India and Pakistan to this day. What throughlines can students draw between past and present? Then, divide students into groups of 3-4. Each group will come up with a resolution to the dispute in Kashmir. Resolutions should consider: Who gets control of Kashmir? Which countries should be involved in negotiations? How feasible is Kashmiri independence?

Mining nickel comes with big costs

Mining nickel comes with big costs

Massive industrial complexes for nickel mining have transformed an Indonesian island long home to fishing villages and school children. Workers walk near excavators to gather soil containing nickel ore at PT Virtue Dragon Nickel Industry, a nickel processing complex...

Understanding nuance and context is a critical skill to develop in young people. In this photo essay from guest writer Garry Lotulung, students learn about the impact of the green transition on local communities in Indonesia, where nickel is mined to produce batteries for electric cars. Globally, transitioning to renewable energy is a positive — what’s the impact for Indonesians on the ground? 

Exercise: In groups of 2-3, students will engage in a See-Think-Wonder activity with the photos in the article’s gallery. Each group will focus on a different photo, logging first what they see in the image, what they think is happening and what they wonder about after examining the image. The see stage develops students’ observation skills and focuses on gathering information without making interpretations. The think stage helps students develop critical thinking by interpreting and coming to conclusions using visual evidence in the photo. The wonder stage prompts inquiry and intellectual curiosity. After the See-Think-Wonder activity, read the article as a class.

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