As educators wrestle to deal in their classrooms with the issues presented by the profoundly tragic attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, it is important to focus on methods to evaluate emotionally potent media sources effectively. At this point, it is clear that the media lessons to be gleaned from rapid, weakly substantiated early-developing news reports can provide solid lessons for teachers across the disciplines. In this case, the quick dissemination of information led to a disturbing level of misinformation regarding this assault, and as educators decide on strategies to process and understand this tragedy, one possible area of learning and higher order thinking skills that can be addressed is the examination of news media in the hours and days that followed the attack. One online source that can initiate classroom dialogue is CNN’s Students News, where they feature questions as part of their Daily Discussion page.
In the sensitive days, weeks, and months following any tragedy that affects school life, the most important resources for any educator are those that provide guidance for reasonable and compassionate dialogue with and between one’s students. Among those that have been provided recently, I would suggest the following links: Talking to Children about Violence; Emotional Reactions to Traumatic Events; and educational resources and lesson plans provided by the NCTE.