Every student selects a USA TODAY article to focus on a significant event or individual. Having them read different articles makes them become aware of others. The students then justify what makes that article important. Because they all have different articles, they all get the main news every day so they are aware of what is going on.
Another important activity I have them do is read an article with a controversial issue. They use USA TODAYs view and the opposing view to do a position paper on the article. They must first clearly state the controversy. Then they summarize the arguments in favor of the controversy pro arguments and the arguments against the controversy con arguments.
Then they weigh the sides and take their position. It is their responsibility to choose a side based on supporting statements. They have to back up their decision using convincing facts from the article. When they are through with that, they are challenged to solve the controversy. Sometimes they share their solutions in class; other times, they submit them to me for a grade.