Common Sense Review
Updated September 2013

PBS Newshour Extra

Accessible, interactive site for news that piques teens' interest
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Common Sense Rating 3
Pros
The discussion questions after each article and the exceptional lesson plans really add value.
Cons
A more visually appealing site might have an easier time attracting teens and holding their attention.
Bottom Line
PBS Newshour Extra isn't necessarily exciting, but it does an excellent job of presenting the news in a way that's accessible (and, more important, interesting) to teens.
Polly Conway
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

Stories and videos are created and presented with kids' attention spans in mind. Content is accessible, even when it deals with complex news topics. The content isn't fun, but then news rarely is. The design is clean and well-organized.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

With discussion questions after each article, the site gives kids a chance to form their own opinions and to delve into the material. It really encourages kids to develop a deeper understanding of big issues.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

The site is part of the PBS community, meaning there are numerous links and places to learn more on the site. An FAQ list answers most questions, and the combination of text and video content heightens accessibility.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Its lesson plans (aligned with Common Core Standards!) are outstanding and clever. For example, a lesson on unions asks kids to watch a few short videos and then get into teams to resolve an imaginary labor dispute based on what they've learned about negotiation. For each lesson plan, the standards appear in a sidebar, so you know exactly what you're teaching. Beyond the provided lesson plans, there are many videos with built-in discussion questions that get the conversation started.

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What's It Like?

PBS Newshour Extra is a website that provides news for students and resources for teachers. An offshoot of the daily TV program PBS Newshour, its mission is "to help high school students understand world events and national issues and answer the question 'why should I care?' about the news." The site is broken down into sections: Lesson Plans, Articles, Student Voices, Video, and Subject Areas. Click the "i" next to any heading, and a little window with more information pops up.

The Student Reporting Labs contain student-generated news reports about how national and global issues affect local communities. Journalism training curricula are available for teachers to use (including Jim Lehrer's 10 Rules of Journalism, which includes tenets such as, "Assume the viewer is as smart and as caring and as good a person as I am"). Kids can also suggest ideas or send their own content by filling out and submitting a form, although it's unclear what they must do next to complete the process.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Students can learn about current events, social issues, and current hot topics on PBS Newshour Extra. The site covers a wide range of content, from biodiversity in Ecuador to hate speech on Facebook. Students will learn how to form opinions on controversial subjects and examine how news stories develop. They can also learn the basics of journalism from the Student Reporting Labs and see how other kids are using those tools to share their opinions and ideas. Newshour Extra isn't particularly exciting, but it does an excellent job of presenting the news in a way that's accessible (and, more important, engaging) to teens.

Students will learn by reading and watching news that's written in a voice they can understand and respond to. By answering the questions at the end of each article, they'll test their reading comprehension and consider how they feel about global issues. In the Student Reporting Labs, they'll hear from a diverse group of kids reporting on all kinds of topics, which helps them gain perspective on the world and its many problems.

Students who might find the regular PBS Newshour boring will be pleasantly surprised by PBS Newshour Extra. It covers the same issues, but it makes the content livelier and provides extra context. Without oversimplifying content, the site shares news in a straightforward manner and takes kids' perspectives into consideration. It also organizes content into special lesson plans tailored to kids' particular interests. For example, a feature on "Neuroscience and Zombies" includes materials explaining how zombies' brain chemistry differs from humans'. The site isn't flashy, but it has a clean interface that's easy for kids to navigate without getting overwhelmed. 

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See how teachers are using PBS Newshour Extra

Lesson Plans