May 4, 2010

New York Times Learning


I want to rave RIGHT now about the NYtimes. The Banks School of Education tag teams with the newspaper to make some impressive, timely lesson plans for teachers struggling to find meaning in their instruction


The New York Times Learning Network is chock full of informative, engaging lesson plans for K-12 teachers. 

The above graphic is from the New York Times lesson on getting students to write complaint style essays.


In class we wrote complaint essays on a variety of topics; some people wrote about personal space, sexual discrimination, disturbing others in class, chalk boards (how much they disdain them), and starting a story without finishing. What I liked about the lesson is how the lesson plan stressed teaching how you say something is sometimes just as important as what you say. Teaching etiquette in this lesson when you are annoyed by something in society is crucial. And teaching that what annoys us should not just be wrapped around ourselves, but we should try to find a solution within society itself is a valuable life lesson. For example, as the above graphic about grooming in public shows -- maybe the reason people brush their teeth on subways - an act repulsive to many - is because the same people are used to seeing similar displays of private moments in public spaces on reality TV so they internally figure it is okay to do it on trams and at stop signs in their car. The article in the lesson plan prompted good discussion.

  I  have used dozens of New York Times learning lesson plans. They range from discussing mobile technology in the classroom, to talking about the sex abuse scandal in the church, to prepping students to analyze film as literature, and engaging students in conversation about cognitive science and literary analysis.


When I have designed my own lessons from scratch, I use their template of warm-up, article, activity and writing exercise to be effective.

I  think the best feature of the learning network is PROMOTING INTELLECTUAL CURIOSITY among young people. As an intellectually curious person myself, I find it difficult to impart big ideas to my students. With this resource, my job is made a little easier.



More Pros
  • Lesson plans are easy to implement
  • Built-in vocabulary 
  • Articles are informative and well written.

  • Lesson plans are engaging
  • Wow, relevancy!
  • Lessons promote information literacy
  •  I  find myself learning
  •  Internet Friendly
  • Ample ideas for taking lesson further 


Cons
  • Students may complain about the sophistication of the articles
  • Don't expect the Times do all the work. You should really plan the lesson ahead of time.
  • Presuposes all kids are voracious readers and love to learn
  • The onus is on the student to perform for the lesson to run smoothly
  • The time suggestions are not always accurate
  • The intellectual rigor may shut down some lower order thinking students
  • Some allusions to popular culture, literature, etc., may be lost on less well-read kids
  • Some lessons are better suited if every student had a laptop in class with connection to the Internet

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