I will often give a children’s book I love to a friend’s child and say, “Someday, you are going to need to write a report on (fill in the blank), and you will find this book really helpful.” I guess I have too many children’s books. Or my own kids did. Today, I would like to direct you to a resource that might be as good as having your own library of fascinating, informative, insightful books for students. Maybe better.
It is The Learning Network, a blog published by The New York Times. It provides great resources for kids and parents and teachers, “based on the articles, photographs, videos, illustrations, podcasts and graphics published in The New York Times – all for free.” Let’s look at what The Learning Network offers that would be useful for parents, either when working with their kids on a project or when encouraging their kids to do an activity on their own:
Student Opinion — News-related questions that invite response from students age 13 and older.
Word of the Day — Vocabulary words in the context of recent Times articles.
Test Yourself — Questions based on Times content that aim to strengthen academic skills.
6 Q’s About the News — An activity in which students answer basic questions (Who, What, Where, When, Why and How) about an article.
News Quiz — Interactive daily and weekly news quizzes on current top stories.
On This Day in History — Listings of historical events and more for each day of the year.
Student Crosswords — Topical puzzles geared toward teens.
Teenagers in The Times — Monthly collections of the latest Times news, features and multimedia about young people.
What’s Going On in This Picture? — A weekly feature done in collaboration with Visual Thinking Strategies in which we publish a Times image without a caption or any other clues about its origins, then invite students to write in to discuss what they see in it. Full information about the image is posted 24 hours later.
Poetry Pairings — A weekly collaboration with the Poetry Foundation in which we feature a work from its American Life in Poetry project alongside content from The Times that somehow echoes, extends or challenges the poem’s themes.
While any of these could prove truly educational, I love Poetry Pairings. As I might say, “Someday, your kid is going to need to write something about a poem, maybe linking it to another text or to something in real life.” Well, here is your answer.
My favorite entry is a Poetry Pairing from September, 2015 (I have saved it for a year, waiting to have an opportunity to praise it). It is a pairing of William Wordsworth’s “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802” and the article “My London, and Welcome to It” by A. A. Gill. It is perfect for anyone who loves poetry, especially Wordsworth (and who doesn’t?), and for anyone who loves London (and who doesn’t?). But, in fact, this pairing is also perfect for people who are not too crazy about poetry. The poem and the article are suitable for high school students and interested middle school students, too. Fortunately, the poem and the article do not need over-interpretation; they are evocative, lyrical, and straightforward (in the best possible way).
Parents of middle school and high school students, do this now: Check out The Learning Network to see what online resources it has to offer. Someday, your kid will need to write about a great English poem…or something else.