Introduction Getting Ready
Learning Circles Teachers' Guide
Open Circle Plan Projects Share Work Publish
Close Circle Overview


Take a Position!

Many of the issues reported in the news have at least two opposing viewpoints. For example, the question might be whether schools should be allowed to enforce separate dress codes for boys and girls. Sometimes the question might be posed in a way that requires students to make a choice among a set of alternatives. For example, a news program might describe health care programs in different countries. The discussion question might ask students to take a position on which, if any, of these programs would be effective in the United States.

Sponsoring Take a Position!

The sponsoring class identifies a feature program, a discussion question and indicates how they would like the others in the Learning Circle to participate.

One way would be to ask students from participating classes to submit position papers on the identified topic. The sponsors would select the best arguments for each of the positions or alternatives to include in this section of the news magazine. They might draw on the remainder of the papers to create a list of arguments for and against each position.

Another strategy would be to ask students in each of the classes to take a quick poll of student attitudes on the issue directly following the broadcast of the feature story. They could then ask each partner class to complete a "pre-writing" activity to help generate a list of arguments for and against the proposition or a list of the pros and cons for each alternative. The sponsoring class could be divided into groups which use the pre-writing suggestions from other classes to compose a small number of position papers. When all of the position papers are completed, they can be sent to the Learning Circle. After reading the position papers, students in the Learning Circle can again be polled to see if their attitudes have changed as a result of thinking and reading more about the different positions.

The writer of a position paper tries to accomplish three things:

1. Demonstrate a good understanding of the topic.

2. Present a persuasive set of arguments to support the position taken.

3. Explain why other positions are not as reasonable or desirable.

Publishing Take a Position

The sponsoring class will be responsible for reporting any "pro and con" polling information the collected from their partner schools on issues. They will also be the editors of a section of the news magazine that contains the position papers composed by students in any of the classrooms.

Newsmakers: Local Faces and Places in the News

One aspect of understanding the news is learning about people who make the news, around the world, as well as within your region and community. As you watch your local news, you will see many of the people who are making the news on the national and international stage. But there are many people each day in all of our communities making news.

Sponsoring Newsmakers

This project is designed to help students focus on the newsmakers in their local community. The sponsoring class describes some of the newsmakers on a national or global context and then asks each of the schools to send an item about a local newsmaker that is related to the national figure. For example, the story may be about Hillary Rodham Clinton and her role in working on a health care plan for the nation. Students in one of more of the schools may know about a local person who has been a strong advocate for health care reform in their community. They could write a short biography of this person and how his or her accomplishments have resulted in better health care in their community.

The sponsoring class may also want to create a glossary of people in the international and national spotlight with a brief biographical sketch. They could ask students to write down names of important people as they watch the evening local news programs. Then students could use information from the program and library research to compose paragraph descriptions of these people.

The sponsoring class might want to specify a category of newsmakers. Perhaps, for example, the section could be about newsmakers who acted in a courageous way or newsmakers in the field of education.

One of the ways others can learn
about a region or community is
through the people who contribute to it.

Publishing Newsmakers

The sponsoring class will be publishing a section on Newsmakers for the news magazine. It might be in the form a glossary of newsmakers or it could be a set of essays about local newsmakers.

The News in Poetry

From the sonnets of Shakespeare to Hip Hop Rap, poetry is a way for the writer to communicate the strong emotive feelings that he or she associates with an idea, event, or concept. For this project, students might want to look for stories about issues that have a special impact on young people. Some of these stories may inspire students to express their ideas in poetry.

Sponsoring The News in Poetry

The students in the sponsoring classroom ask their partners in other classrooms to watch the programs for ideas that could be expressed in poetry. Students might be touched by the civil unrest in Bosnia and connections that were made to concentration camps of the past. Poetry can be a powerful tool for expressing the feelings that students have about the hopelessness of war or terror of confinement. Racial conflict might highlight a student's personal experience with racism and these feelings could be expressed in poetry.

The sponsoring classroom might want to identify a few topics that they feel strongly about and request poetry dealing with these issues. Or the sponsors may leave the choice open to the students in other classrooms to write about any issue that was covered in the current news.

Publishing The News in Poetry

The Sponsoring classroom collects and reviews all of the poems that were received and decides which ones to include in the news magazine. They might want to write short summaries of some of the news stories that inspired the poets. The poems could be arranged by topic or illustrated by graphics.


Velma Mulindi
Age 14

Tala Girls Secondary School
Eastern Province, Kenya

Wooh! Wooh!
The heavy cold wind blows over my skinny thin body
As I lay on my fiber sack in the cold floor
Shrrr! Shrrr! I shiver like a new born lamb

Yet I’m in what is so called a house
Mum! I cry out but all she can say is sleep my dear and wait for tomorrow for there is nothing
All I can do. Grrr! Grrr! My stomach roars like an
Angry lion for I am hungry.

Everyday it’s the same routine,
I sleep on an empty stomach
Knowing that tomorrow
There will be nothing to eat
Oh! How I wish
We were rich like the others I see around me

I wake up from my sack and fold it
Then store for the next night
I wear my torn dress and head for school
Only to be chased back home
I go home only to find that there is nothing
Not even a piece of paper

Where is my father? I ask
Only to be answered in tears of sorrow
I cry! Why! Why! Why!
This is too much
How I wish we were rich
Like the others I see around me!
And to be saved from this life in poverty
All because of Climate Change that leads to extreme hunger and poverty

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Copyright © 1997, 2002, Margaret Riel