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Blog with resources and lesson plans for teachers. Site is supported by the New York Times.
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The original Learning Network was created in 1998, and offered lesson plans, news quizzes, crosswords, and other materials every weekday. That platform was technologically inflexible since the ability to feature new student-friendly innovations like Times video, interactive graphics, podcasts and slideshows was extremely limited. As a result, The Learning Network was re-launched as a blog in October 2009. Basically, a blog is an Internet publishing platform that is distinguished by several features: frequent updates, reverse-chronological display of entries, combinations of text and multimedia, and interactivity, in the form of reader comments appended to specific entries.
The Learning Network Blog is an online current and special events news site for grades 3-12 that provides teaching and learning materials and ideas based on New York Times content. Every weekday they offer new educational resources based on the articles, photographs, videos, illustrations, podcasts and graphics published in the New York Times.
There are many ways you can use this site. For starters, lessons plans are posted daily based on New York Times content. The site also has a Word of the Day to strengthen students’ vocabulary. Students learn not only spelling and meaning of words, but develop skills to understand context of words used in news articles. Students can also answer questions in the “Test Yourself” section to strengthen literacy and numeracy skills. The site also contains “6 Q’s About the News”- an activity in which students answer basic questions (Who, What, Where, When, Why and How) about an article. In addition, the site provides daily interactive news quizzes, a listing of historical events that occurred in the “On This Day in History” section, and student crossword puzzles. Moreover, the “Historic Headlines” feature highlights and important event from a day in history and provides questions for students to make connections to current events. This feature is something that would definitely be beneficial to a Social Studies teacher specifically in a course like Civics or Government.
To get started with The Learning Network simply click on this hyperlink http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/ or search any search engine for The Learning Network NY Times. You can also access this site from the NY Times home page. There are more than 3,000 lesson plans posted on the blog. You can search them by keywords or browse them by category. Here are some search tips for finding lesson plans:
Use the bar labeled “Search This Blog” in the right-hand column to search the lessons – and everything else in the blog – using any terms that you like. In general, the more specific you can be, the better. For example, if you are interested in a geography lesson in which students use maps, entering “geography” and “maps” will turn up several hundred entries. If you would also like to have them use G.P.S. technology, however, you might add “G.P.S.” to further narrow the search so that only a handful of entries are returned. It is also useful to put phrases in quotation marks. You can also click on the tags that appear at the end of the lesson plan posts, or on the tag list in the right-hand column, to immediately see all lesson plans that are tagged with the same term. You can also click on an academic subject area to browse lesson plans in that subject; the most recent will appear first, then the others in backwards chronological order.
Sammie Marshall developed an Algebra I lesson around world hunger awareness using information and ideas from the Learning Network. Using the information adapted from one of the lessons from the Learning Network, Ms. Marshall had her students use various math skills to figure how many children die for month, per day, per hour, etc. Her students determined scope as well as plotted the information using graphs.
Ms. Marshall used the Learning Network to create a powerful lesson her students are sure to remember. As teachers, our job is prepare students to become better global citizens, resources like the Learning Network make our jobs easier.
In the teacher’s words:
“I wrote the number 1,250,000 on the board, and asked them what they thought that number meant. After a few guesses I told them it was the number of children who die per year of hunger related causes… At the end, we figured how many had died while doing this problem. I told them for every A & B on tomorrow’s test, I’d donate $2 to UNHCR.”
Samantha Western, high school teacher at Livingston High School, Livingston, N.J. incorporated a lesson from The Learning Network about the anniversary of the Triangle Shirt Factory Fire to teach about current-day sweatshops to make the topic of work conditions during the Industrial Revolution more relevant for students. Ms. Western’s strategy of teaching about the past by making connections to the present is why I found this particular example to be particularly interesting and poignant to the kind of teacher I want to be in the classroom. I too want to bring “history to life” and make my content as engaging as possible just like Ms. Western describes below.
“Kids were not connecting to the topic of the Lowell Mills in my United States history class. After searching, I decided to include articles on current-day sweatshops that have working conditions similar to those at the 19th-century mills in terms of hours worked, use of labor and danger to the workers…it was a huge success. Students were able to examine working conditions in other countries and relate this new knowledge to events in American history. Instead of just knowing the basic facts, they identified with the struggle and had an understanding of why it was acceptable to have people working under these conditions during the Industrial Revolution. But they also saw ways that they could get involved to change the future. Knowing that students want to have a positive influence on the future is simply the best it gets for a teacher!”
Jon Schulman, Civics Teacher at Roland Hayes Intermediate School 291, in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, New York. With the Learning Network resources as inspiration, this teacher created a semester-long, student-run anti-bullying curriculum. Bullying is a hot topic in schools right now, so this is a wonderful example of how the Learning Network is useful in tackling tough issues like bullying. In this example, Mr. Schulman used articles and lesson plans from the Learning Network to help students gain a broad picture of the bullying problems in schools around the country and encouraged them to come up with possible solutions to the problem.
Debbie Hoeflinger?Butler High School?Butler, N.J. uses The Learning Network to learn about current events in her AP United States History classes. She has her students read at least two articles a week and gives current events quizzes on every Friday. As a Social Studies teacher, I plan on having current events day on Fridays. I believe it is important that students learn about not just the past, but what is going on in their world currently. I feel that we are living in a world that is becoming more and more global and that to be competitive, our students must be knowledgeable about their world. I feel like The Learning Network affords a tremendous opportunity to reach that goal as Ms. Hoeflinger demonstrates in this example.
The Learning Network affords many benefits to the classroom as evident from the examples of teachers such as Sammie Marshall, Mr. Schulman, Ms. Hoeflinger, and Samantha Western. Articles and lessons from the blog can be used to enhance vocabulary, improve reading comprehension and writing skills, foster critical thinking skills, as well as spark student interest and stimulate discussion in the classrooms. Since the blog pulls its resources from content from the NY Times, many students of varying ability levels could easily read many of the articles. Also the site presents information in a wide variety of ways, from traditional articles and opinion pieces to narrated slide shows, videos, podcasts and interactive graphics. Best of all, the site is totally free for parents, teachers, and students.
Another great reason to use The Learning Network from The New York Times is that newspaper is the most widely used of the media as a teaching instrument in the classroom. According to Nola Kortner Alex, author of Using Newspapers as Effective Teaching Tools, newspapers are used throughout the school year in every area of the curriculum. Newspapers make learning fun, are extremely flexible to all curriculum areas and grade levels, are cost-effective, contain practical vocabulary, etc.
One of the cons that I see is that sometimes you might click on a lesson plan and it will not be there. They admit this was a glitch that occurred when they re-launched the site as a blog and are working to remedy the problem. Also another potential problem is that if you were looking to for a Social Studies lesson to teach, they only post one subject specific lesson plan a week, e.g. a new Social Studies would only be posted every Tuesday. A different or additional SS lesson would not be posted until the following week. The only other thing I could really see as a con is that lesson plans are not grade specific but more broad themed so teachers would definitely have to adapt or modify the lesson to fit their grade level or students’ ability. For that reason, few lessons plans could be downloaded or printed off and put into use without the necessary changes.
1. I loved the On This Day feature of the site and can definitely see myself using this in my classrooms. By clicking on this feature, you can browse important events in history and see a featured archival NY Times front page as well as a list of other notable events that occurred in history. You also find a list of famous people that celebrate a birthday on that date. I will have my students use their birth dates to see what happened in history on that date. I think this will spark an interest in history. You could also have them do some type of research on one of the famous people that they share a birthday. When I entered my birthdate, I found out I shared a birthday with William Faulkner, Mark Rothko, and former Secretary of Defense and now newly appointed Chancellor of my alma mater, Robert Gates- who knew?
2. I also found the Word of the Day section to be a valuable resource for the classroom. Each day, a new word is given, its definition, and an example of its usage in a recent Times article. I could definitely see this as a great way to build vocabulary as well as prepare students for SATs.
3. Despite the multitude of ways teachers can use the site, teachers should keep in mind that this is not a site they can turn to every day for a specific content related lesson plan. New lessons are posted each weekday, but the content area changes each day as well. For 2011-12 the schedule is as follows:
Monday – Multimedia Interdisciplinary Lesson of the Week
Tuesday – History and Social Studies
Wednesday – Science and Health
Thursday – Language and Fine Arts
Friday – Ideas From Our Audience and Guest Posts
4. Moreover, teachers should keep in mind that lesson plans are not designed with a specific grade level in mind. As a result, teachers will need to differentiate and make adaptations to lesson plans they choose to meet the needs of their specific learners.