How and why to teach current events in a self-contained high school classroom


More and more special education teachers are being asked to address the same curriculum and issues being presented to typical peers. This is not too terribly challenging when you are in an elementary setting, but it can get REALLY tricky once you reach middle or high school. There is an almost complete absence of materials, and the subject matter seems really complex, abstract, and often riddled with controversy. So, what are teachers who teach the most significantly impacted students supposed to do? Well, I decided to jump in head first and try to figure it out. It took a few attempts before it felt “good” to me, but now I am confident that I have ironed out (most) of the wrinkles.

So, first let’s look at the question of WHY we should teach this, and then I will share with you the HOW to teach it. There are some great free resources to help you, I promise!!

My principal told me I have to.

This may seem like a ridiculous reason, but it is the reality many teachers face. Either administrators do not truly understand the challenges our students face, or there is someone above them demanding “results.” Either way, if your boss says do it, then you do it to the best of your ability.

It is in the standard curriculum

But I don’t teach the regular curriculum! I know, I didn’t either. My degree is in adapted curriculum. But guess what? That makes me more than qualified to take the standard curriculum and modify and adapt it so my students can benefit from it. Now, finding the time to do so is an entirely different matter.

It impacts the families of the kids we teach.

Many of our families today are impacted greatly by the happenings in the world around us. And, at least right now, a lot of what is happening brings uncertainty and often fear. The materials we use to teach our students about the most up to date current events may also ease some tension by increasing the understanding of these issues at home. That is an added benefit that is totally worth my time.

It is age appropriate.

Too often I have walked into middle and high school classrooms and seen materials that were either made for much younger students, or were never meant to be used in a classroom setting at all. My son, who is almost 22, loves Sesame Street and Barney more than most 2 year olds. I have NO issues with that at all. What does bother me, is when he is able to access that (almost unrestricted) in a school setting. I know some may disagree with me on this one, but I really believe it is our job to expose our students to as much age appropriate materials as possible while we have them. Leave the Wiggles and Thomas the Train for home.

You may open Pandora’s Box.

Individuals with special learning needs, especially autism, often have the quirkiest interests. We have all had that student who knew everything there was to know about a topic that most of us forgot about long ago. Some of students just have not had the right exposure yet to ignite this fire. I know I am not going to do any damage teaching about current events, and I may, indeed, open the door to a whole new, and exciting world, for one of my students.

So, now let’s talk about HOW to teach this content.

I spent much of 2018 asking the same question to any teacher I could, “How can I help?” There were two overwhelming answers:

  1. Provide me with easy to use, age appropriate materials my students will learn from.
  2. Provide me with some detailed lesson plans so I know HOW to teach this new content.

Done, and done!!

First, let’s talk about the lesson plans. And, here is the first of the great free resources you can grab. I realize that this new content that can be fairly challenging for even us to understand. I knew I needed to add some lesson plans. But, be patient with me. I am going back and creating these after the fact, so it may take me a while. They are really detailed and specific to the unit, so I think you will find them truly helpful. Click on the button below to get a FREE lesson plan to go with my Immigration Unit.

As you can imagine, I have worked really hard creating some units that cover some of the “hot topics” in the news today that promote global awareness and global citizenship. You can find them all in my store on TPT:

And, here is the second great FREE resource (in case you missed it a few weeks ago). In my free resource library, I have the complete book that goes with my Immigration Unit you can download for FREE. You can click here to get access (there are a ton of free resources in there you will LOVE) or click here to download the book right now!

So, I hope this will ease the anxiety many of us feel as the bar is rising on what our students are expected to learn. They will rise to the challenge if we just give them the tools to do so.

As always, “How can I help?” Feel free to let me know in the comments or email me at:





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