Each week Simon Collier and I collaborate on an email newsletter for teachers called Tech Tools for Teachers. Click here to find an archive of past newsletters and to subscribe.
This week we review the website Behind the News (BTN)
Behind the News (BTN) is a fantastic Australian site by the ABC that helps students learn about current issues and events around the world. Each Tuesday a new episode of BTN is released online comprising of about 5 different stories that are each under 5 minutes long. The stories can be watched individually on the BTN website and also screen on ABC1 television (currently Tuesdays at 10am and Wednesdays at 10.30am).
Apart from the videos, the BTN website also contains activity sheets, links, quizzes, polls etc for follow up work. After you watch an episode you can visit the Guestbook on the BTN site to leave a comment.
While BTN is promoted for students in upper primary and secondary school, I have had great success using it with my Grade Two students. I incorporate a weekly BTN session into my curriculum. There are always a range of stories, many of which are less complex and can be understood by younger students. My class has had many rich discussions and experiences based on BTN stories and it is a fantastic way for students to learn about the world in which they live!
On the Teachers Page of the BTN website you will find a list of topics which you can go to to find archived BTN stories around a particular subject. Each topic collection contains a teacher resource pack with focus questions, activities and additional links. There are currently 15 topics with archived stories ranging from Water, to Natural Disasters to Space and Astronomy. Hopefully this section will continue to expand.
Tip: go to the Teachers Page and sign up to be on the mailing list. You will receive an email each Friday telling you what stories are coming out on the following Tuesday. If you are a Twitter user you can also follow BTN on Twitter for story updates.
We like BTN because it:
• is free
• is Australian
• is not geo restricted which means the videos can be streamed outside of Australia
• is presented in “plain language”
• doesn’t require a sign-up or login
• is suitable for all year levels from Grade Two to secondary school
• covers a huge range of current affairs and news topics
• can be used as a whole class on the IWB, or individually on student notebooks or classroom computers
• can be integrated into many subject areas
• can be used as a quick ten minute activity (5 minute video and 5 minute discussion) or as part of a more lengthy session with follow up activities.
How have you used BTN in your classroom?