After some reflection this fall, I decided that I should bring back class days that are specifically devoted to contemporary issues. The mastery model takes a breather for this day so that all students can dive into conversations that are specifically relevant to the happenings of today's world.
I also streamlined students' preparation for these days with this assignment (also embedded below) to help students locate, evaluate, and take positions on these issues. Their Google Form submissions also help manage our discussion as each student's response and live link to their current event resource is easily available in the responses spreadsheet. So whether students commented on an article, video, political cartoon, etc., it is easy to project it for the rest of the class to view as we engage in discussion. (See Screenshot Below)
The first couple "Current Events Days" have gone very well, and this assignment format is preferable for myself, and more importantly, the students. Although we need to work on effective debate/dialogue techniques during these discussions, students' interest, passion and enthusiasm are palpable. I couldn't ask for a better starting point for the year....
Assignment form embedded below, feel free to modify and use as you wish. Feedback also greatly appreciated!