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Got five minutes? Start your library time with current events…

I am so excited to share this idea today! If you are looking to spice up your library lesson routine, this idea is a must-try! It will work with upper-elementary, middle school, and even high school. And like most of my library ideas, it works in classrooms as well. What a fun way to get students’ attention at the beginning of class!

So what’s the great idea? Well, I recently added current events videos to my daily library lessons, and over the past couple of weeks, the videos have contributed so much depth and value to what I do with my classes. We’ve had some interesting discussions, and it’s awesome to see my students so interested in world news.

Prep for the videos takes only a few minutes, it’s super-easy, and it’s totally FREE. Seriously, all the work is practically done for you; you just have to download it and hit play.

In this post, I explain where I get the videos, how I use them, what prep is involved, and the value that’s been added to Library Hour.



Many of my blog posts are activities I do with middle schoolers in my library. I currently see my middle schoolers for Library Hour every two weeks through their English classes. Our classes are 60 minutes long, so I have them for an entire hour. Sometimes, yes, that is difficult to fill. An hour is a very long time!

Library Hour always starts with what I am currently reading. I put up a PowerPoint slide of the book I am reading and talk about how it’s going. I then move to library announcements, upcoming events, and reminders. After that, I move into our news video, trivia, and discussion. All of this takes only about 10-15 minutes, but it could go longer if our news discussion gets students fired up. And sometimes, it does!

Just as an FYI, after the news video, we do our main activity. This could be a booktalk, fun writing/art activity, reading strategies, a game, or any one of a wide variety of things. I try to keep these different, light, and fun. As much as possible, I integrate the activity with classroom topics, but that does vary from teacher to teacher.


After the announcements, I play the daily FirstNews Live video. Our school does have an online subscription to FirstNews (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!), but the video site is free for anyone to access. To streamline our presentations and to avoid video buffering during class, I download the new video every morning using Video Download Helper, a free add-on for Mozilla. There is also a free version for Chrome.

What I love about the FirstNews videos:

  • The videos are free.
  • The videos and the FirstNews newspaper are both targeted to Key Stage 2&3 students, which in the USA is upper-elementary and middle school. I personally think it’s best for grades 5-8, but I’ve used these videos all the way through Year11 (10th grade).
  • Students can watch news videos anytime they want to (I linked it on our library page).
  • The videos are only about two minutes long.
  • The videos always feature four stories.
  • There is a new video each weekday.
  • There are NO commercials.
  • The news stories are global, not just from the USA or UK.
  • Every story is also highlighted with text at the top of the video. This is great because the British accent of the speaker can be difficult for our many ESL students. It also helps to emphasize main points.
  • In-depth videos are also available on the FirstNews Live home page. Today, there is 4-minute video about a 9-year old girl who is a Syrian refugee. Other child refugees are also spotlighted in their own videos on the same page. LOVE THIS!
  • Also, check out their Advent Calendar videos! Here is a link to Day 8: Mince Pies.

Before I play the daily video, I ask a few questions that I want students to look for as they watch. Usually, no one knows the answer to any of the questions, though some will make guesses based on what they already know. After I show the video, we talk about the questions for a few minutes.


Here are some of this week’s questions. Can you answer them?

  • Last week, a plane crashed in Columbia, killing 71 passengers including 19 soccer players. This week, the owner of the airline was arrested. Why?
  • When does Donald Trump take the presidential oath?
  • What common drink will be taxed in the UK starting in April 2018?
  • Time has announced four candidates for Person of the Year. Who are the four candidates?
  • What country’s prime minister just resigned?
  • What city is warning its citizens to stay indoors this week to avoid high pollution levels? (HINT: It’s not in China!)

Our most interesting discussion this week came from the story about the UK’s 2018 sugar tax on soft drinks. We talked about whether or not a sugar tax would really keep anyone from buying soft drinks, and the consensus from my students is that no, a sugar tax really would not affect whether or not they buy soft drinks. We talked about whether or not the government knows this, and if so, what is their real purpose for the sugar tax? We talked about government’s role in taxing certain food choices, and what happens when people do not speak up about the things they disagree with. A very interesting discussion, especially considering our international community.


I show a PowerPoint every single library lesson. I know some people think PowerPoint is tired, and I’m not here to argue that. If you don’t like PowerPoint, you could use Prezi or EMaze or whatever program you love. The PowerPoint helps keep me focused and in a logical order, and it gives the students something to focus on during our discussions. When I don’t use it, I feel unprepared and may leave out important parts of my lesson.

I download the FirstNews videos and add them to the beginning on my PowerPoint lesson. Before and after the video, I ask the students four questions (one per video). They usually do not know the answers to the questions before I show the video, but they all know the answers afterwards. Showing the questions before I play the video gives students something to listen for in the videos and helps them pay closer attention.


PBS NewsHour Extra–This site posts daily news videos for use in middle and high school classrooms. Each video is individual, so it isn’t a series of news stories like FirstNews or CNN10. Each video has a download option (right under the video), which is helpful if your district blocks YouTube. BONUS: All of the videos include discussion questions, but some also include lesson plans with vocabulary, detailed activities, and discussion questions.

CNN 10–Also free and without commercials, and they can also be downloaded using Video Download Helper. These videos are 10 minutes long and feature an in-depth look at 3-4 news stories. Great for middle or high school. Featured stories are global, but the 10-minute length is just too long for my use. I do recommend it if you are looking for a longer newscast that gives more detail.


NBC Learn–This site is designed for K-12 school subscriptions. If your school doesn’t subscribe, there are still lots of free videos (with transcripts!) in the FREE RESOURCES tab at the top of the home page. Like PBS NewsHour, this is not a news show; it is previously-recorded news video you can search by school subject.


So that’s my great idea! Easy-peasy and a fabulous discussion starter! You could do lots more with these videos if you wanted to. Students could research news sites to find the answers to the trivia questions. They could pick a story and write their opinion or discuss the story in small groups. The stories make a great springboard for booktalks about issues like refugees, water shortages, world leaders, biographies, pollution, global warming, ongoing wars, historical context, or whatever else might be in the news. The possibilities are endless!

Do you use current events in your library or classroom? How does it work for you?

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