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All the News That's Fit to Click On

March 29, 2001|SUSAN McLESTER | smclester@cmp.com

How do your kids get information about current events? Do they read the newspaper, watch television news, have family discussions at the dinner table or do activities in class each day? If so, they are lucky.

Chances are, your elementary school-age child gathers news in bits and pieces from friends, bold headlines or listening in on conversations between adults.

So it's often only the most alarmist or sensational messages that they receive--about incidents of school violence, sex scandals and natural disasters.

Teaching kids to be thoughtful consumers of news can be an essential ingredient in turning out a well-adjusted, responsible adult who can make at least some sense of the world.

Enter the Web. Plenty of great sites cater to kids. Important features to look for include:

* Timelines, including daily news updates.

* Coverage of important events with analysis of what they mean.

* Easy navigation and appealing graphics.

* Interactive elements, including learning games, search features and homework help.

* Age-appropriate language and reporting.

* Polls and other places where kids can voice their opinions.

* Areas that profile kids or celebrate their accomplishments.

* High-quality lesson plans for teachers.

* Archived news stories where users can research topics.

* Sets of useful tools, such as an atlas, encyclopedia or filtered Web search area.

Timeforkids.com and Scholastic News Zone include good current events resources for the younger crowd.

Teachers will find them useful for classroom or homework lessons, and parents might log on with their kids.

Timeforkids.com, at http://www.timeforkids.com, is the online sibling of Time for Kids magazine. Elementary school-age youngsters find a very friendly setting for learning about news stories of the day. The site features a colorful, slick and uncluttered home page with large fonts and clearly labeled areas that include games, research tools and explorations.

The scaled-down news area zeros in on an important headline and offers age-appropriate information along with a helpful basic analysis.

A teachers section offers fairly basic lessons and quizzes. And a slim parent page provides tips, links and information on particular topics.

Scholastic News Zone, at http://www.scholasticnews.com, targets kids in fourth through eighth grades and offers a busy newspaper-like home page with lots of story teasers. Although this resource touts its news coverage, it tends to eschew the hard stories for softer fare, concentrating on sports and music rather than, say, the stock market drop or fossil discoveries of recent weeks.

Still, there is plenty for kids to learn here, with more in-depth coverage of topics than Timeforkids.com offers.

For teachers, there is a wide range of resources, including lesson plans by grade level, links to Web-based learning activities and professional development resources. Also packed with helpful information is the parents section.

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Susan McLester is editor of Technology & Learning magazine.

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