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Global Education

Teaching Media Literacy and Current Events: War in Ukraine

Since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, people around the world have been watching this conflict unfold in real time. Your students are probably learning about the news through social media, videos, and television. As a global educator, you can create connections to the broader world through current events like these in your classroom. Help students process their questions and emotions, and enable them to make real-world parallels to their learning with these resources, ideas, and classroom activities.

Media literacy: Help students understand and analyze news media

Like adults, students are probably bombarded with information about the war in Ukraine on many different media platforms. It’s called “the first TikTok War” because millions of people are getting their news from TikTok and other social media outlets. With so much false information circulating, you can teach your students to think critically about what they are seeing and consuming.

These news literacy resources from Common Sense Education offer videos, activities, and lesson plans. Help students spot fake news, learn how to fact-check, and find credible sources.

You can also use this Key Questions to Ask When Analyzing Media Messages handout. Students can pick a news article or video, and then use the handout as a basis for discussion as a class or in smaller groups.

This is also a good opportunity to help students understand why the war in Ukraine is being portrayed differently on state-controlled Russian media. Russians often have a very different understanding of the conflict than the rest of the world. You can explore this with your students by asking them questions such as:

  • What does it mean to have a free press? Why would Russia want to control the media?
  • What are Vladimir Putin’s motivations for controlling the flow of information to Russians? What does he stand to gain or lose?
  • How could control of the press in Russia possibly affect the outcome of the war in Ukraine?

Global connections: Why the war in Ukraine affects the rest of the world

Your students are probably noticing higher gas prices and other changes to the U.S. economy. Help them gain understanding about why a conflict far away is directly impacting the U.S. and the rest of the world.

For example, the U.S. has banned Russian oil imports, leading to higher fuel prices, but the European Union has not done the same. Ask students to explore why. You can also ask them to research how the U.S. ban is expected to impact Russia’s economy.

A brief timeline of events leading up to the invasion may also be a helpful frame of reference for your students. If you have time, you can go deeper on several topics the timeline brings up, such as the fall of the Soviet Union and Ukraine’s petition to become part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

This map graphic gives students important context about Ukraine’s borders, economy, and population. This may help students better understand how industries in Ukraine, such as agriculture and natural gas, impact the rest of the world.

Help students contextualize the number of refugees fleeing Ukraine, and how this affects the rest of Europe, with these graphics and related discussion questions.

Look for the helpers: How you and your students can help the people of Ukraine

Your students may be feeling sad, helpless, or confused by the war in Ukraine. Images of suffering and destruction can be overwhelming. Helping students be mindful of how our brains process anxiety and stress is a good starting point. This comic explains that, and it offers helpful coping strategies for when we feel like we’re spiraling.

Another important avenue to combating fear and stress is to look for ways to help other people, and to find those who are already doing so. As Mister Rogers said in this famous quote:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.

You could ask students to research people and organizations who are helping Ukrainian refugees and have them share their findings. This could inspire your class to start their own project or help in different ways.

Your classroom and school can also fundraise for organizations that are providing medical treatment, safe water, and hygiene supplies for families and children in Ukraine. As a starting point, National Public Radio (NPR) has a helpful list of organizations to donate to, such as UNICEF, Save the Children, and Doctors Without Borders.

Please let us know how you and your students are responding to this crisis, and how you are approaching it in your classroom. You can use #UnitingOurWorld to share your thoughts and experiences.

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