Providing effective instructional support for teachers requires a plethora of resources that provide lesson plans, project ideas, and information on a variety of topics. One such resource is The New York Times Learning Network. Designed for middle school and high school teachers, this free website uses content from The New York Times to to create teaching resources that teachers and librarians can use as is or adapt to fit their needs. All of these resources, approximately 1000 per year, are free!
My co-librarian, Greg, and I have used The Learning Network quite a bit over the past year and a half. At the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, we decided to focus on media literacy, so we looked for interesting and relevant materials that could be used in a variety of subject areas. The Learning Network provides that what we were looking for and much more.
A few of the features Greg and I use and/or promote regularly include:
What’s Going On In This Graph?
“What’s Going On In This Graph (WGOITG)” is a weekly feature that showcases a graph, chart, or map from The New York Times. Greg and I use this feature with Environmental Science classes and an A.P. Human Geography class. The activity provides the opportunity for students analyze and discuss data. It also allows students to make connections between current events and the concepts they are learning in class. For example, we used this graph on water stress levels in a unit to urbanization and population. Because The New York Times Learning Network has been offering this feature for about five years, the collection of graphs is extensive, supplying materials for almost any subject area. Here’s a link to a short video overview of WGOITG.
Lesson of the Day
The “Lesson of the Day” is a feature that uses articles from The New York Times to help students make connections between current events, their own lives, and/or topics they are studying in school. The lesson design format includes a warm up, questions for writing or discussion, and ideas for extending the lesson. Greg and I frequently email teachers links to lessons we think would be of interest to them. This practice has led to some successful collaborations, including one with history classes on “COVID as an Era,” which combined history, art, and current events. After an engaging discussion about the current pandemic, we asked each student to create and share a drawing that depicts our current era and were impressed with their creations. (See below.)
The New York Times Learning Network also sponsors a variety of contests that make good assignments or that students might choose to enter on their own. For example, the site is currently running a “STEM Writing Contest” and an “Editorial Contest.” The “Podcast Contest” starts in April and the Summer Reading Contest begins in June. These contests provide students with a purpose for their work and an authentic audience.
Greg and I share this contest information with educators all the time. I know at least two Language Arts teachers have incorporated a contest into a class assignment.
Webinars and Professional Development
If you are interested in learning more, check out some of the free webinars and professional development The Learning Network offers. For example, this short video provides an overview of what The Learning Network offers. There are also longer, subject-specific webinars such as “Teaching Science With The New York Times.” and “Teaching With Our Mentor Texts.”
Current Events: More Important Than Ever
Due to the current climate of book challenges and attacks on educators and public schools, many teachers and school librarians are reluctant to address current events or news of any kind with students. However, we do our learners a disservice by not incorporating news into our lessons. Learners need to make connections between their lives and the world in which we live. Moreover, they need to be informed in order to become engaged and responsible citizens. The New York Times Learning Network offers educators a vast collection materials, lessons, ideas, and strategies for meaningful learning. This resource is especially valuable for secondary librarians because the materials lend themselves to teaching media literacy along with curricular content.
Author: Margaret Sullivan
Margaret Sullivan is a librarian at Rockwood Summit High School and also serves as the Lead Librarian for the Rockwood School District. A past president of the Missouri Association of School Librarians, Margaret’s professional interests include advocacy, teacher collaboration, professional development, equity, and YA literature. You can connect with her on Twitter @mm_sullivan.