We kept a bulletin board on the wall to display the articles and students would summarize, ask questions, speculate and draw conclusions. I facilitated small group discussions and occasionally asked students to write down their thoughts. Feedback came from peers and myself verbally. I didn't rank their performance. I didn't assign a grade based on a rubric. I didn't record anything about it.
The annual New York State Regents Examination in Earth Sciences did not assess or measure critical thinking skills. Or summarizing skills. Or questioning skills. Or listening skills. But I felt that these things were important so I made sure to spend time on them. If a hurricane occurred while we were in the middle of the rock cycle unit, then I would still spend time in class that day discussing hurricanes. Later in the year, when we were in the weather unit, I would refer back to that hurricane. But it never concerned me that we "lost" a day during the rock cycle unit. In fact, I found that about 3 weeks of test prep in late May/early June was sufficient to achieve the highest results in my district.
Thought experiment: What if the entire schooling experience were built from provocations that came from news or observations? Instead of organizing the content into different classes, taught in different rooms, by different teachers, at different times students and teachers might be organized differently. Perhaps the role of a teacher would be more like an advisor.
Here's one scenario...
A student would choose the provocation. The teacher would orchestrate activities that would build skills like communication, reading, speaking, summarizing, reflection and critical thinking. Content would be dictated by the information that is necessary to understand the provocation. If students needed additional explanations of concepts or required additional facts, then the teacher (or other students, or media specialist, or librarian, or principal, or community member, or parent, or the teacher next door...) might provide that explanation or that fact or the resources to find them. Students might produce a multimedia product to share their learning. They might be inspired to organize and complete a service project or task related to the news item they chose. All along they would receive feedback from all those people listed previously. No need to assess or rank or grade or describe.
Would students get better at communication, reading, speaking, summarizing, reflection and critical thinking? Depends on the frequency and quality of the feedback and then how the students apply that feedback. That part of learning won't change.
Would students find relevance and motivation and interest and engagement? Probably.