There is a comment section where students over 13 years old, (or teachers) may post their observations, questions, and extrapolations. A moderator from the American Statistical Association gives online feedback on the day the graphic is posted, and then the actual details are revealed at the end of the week.
The first “What’s Going on in this Graph?” was posted yesterday. According to the caption, it has some connection to Hurricane Harvey – but what, exactly? That is for your students to try to discern. From the comments I have read so far, there are some extremely perceptive students attempting to decipher the graph’s meaning; it will be fun to see the answer on Friday!
In yesterday’s blog post, I mentioned how our class has connected with experts through Skype in the Classroom. One of the experts was a science reporter named Erik Vance, who helped my 3rd graders really understand the impact overfishing has had on ocean ecosystems. (The students are working on a Genius Hour project about protecting the coral reefs.) Mr. Vance was matched with us after we scheduled a request for an interview on the topic on Skype in the Classroom. Our request went to the Pulitzer Center, and a member of their staff, Fareed Mostoufi, arranged for Mr. Vance to speak with the children at our requested date and time. You can read about the interview here.
The New York Times has many lesson plans and other resources for educators that can help with the integration of current events. One portion of the site that you may not know about is the page that offers, “Over 50 Reusable Activity Sheets to Teach any Day’s Times.” With downloadable PDF’s of graphic organizers, games, discussion starters, and other lesson ideas, this page should be bookmarked on the computer of any upper elementary – secondary educator. One of my recent discoveries was the, “Literature Quote Bingo” PDF, (which just happens to include one of my most favorite Harry Potter quotes of all time). The students must match famous quotes to news stories, which is a great way to demonstrate understanding of the quotes and make connections to real world events. This is an open-ended activity that could be used with any selection of quotes. If your students enjoy quotes as much as mine do, then they will find it engaging and you will get some valuable insight into their perspectives.
I think that my brain naturally looks for trends. Whether it’s on social media, in Flipboard magazine articles, or at education conferences, if I’ve heard about something more than a few times, my brain starts alerting me that I should try something new, already!
Newsela is one of those tools that kept turning up in educational discussions, and I finally decided to take the time to learn more about it.
One of the skills that needs some extra work at our school is summarizing non-fiction texts. Finding relevant non-fiction at an appropriate reading level for students can be difficult. This is where Newsela can be a huge help.
As a teacher, you can get a free account on Newsela, and set up an account with classes to which you can assign news articles for them to read. If you are an elementary teacher, you can choose the option for the elementary version of Newsela which filters out articles that might contain “mature content.”
Once you have a class, you can have your students sign up for Newsela using your class code. If your students have Google accounts, they can sign in using their Google credentials. (There is also a Chrome app for Newsela that you can add so students can access it more quickly.)
A teacher can find an article on Newsela, and then assign it to the class. You can search for it by grade level and/or reading standard, or just type in a topic and see what you get. Newsela also offers articles in Spanish.
After you select an article, you will see an option to assign it to a class at the top of the page. When the students of that class sign in, they will find that article has been assigned, and be able to access it.
Newsela allows students to read the articles at comfortable lexile levels. It also offers a writing activity for each article, as well as a quiz.
Another great feature of Newsela is its Text Sets. These are collections of several articles that support many well-known pieces of literature. For example, I found text sets for two books I read with my classes, Tuck Everlasting and The Giver. You can also create your own text sets by using a button at the top of each article.
The free version of Newsela is limited, as you can’t track your students’ progress on the quizzes, whether they’ve viewed the articles, or annotations they’ve made. Newsela Pro offers all of these options. You can view the comparisons of the free and pro versions here. It does not list the price of the Pro version, as you must request a quote from them. You can get a free trial for 30 days to try it out for yourself.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is coming up in the States next week. Sadly, so much has been in the news lately about civil rights violations all over the world that it’s difficult to comprehend that anything has improved since King’s legacy survives. As a teacher, I want to be sure that my students learn empathy and respect for others. But it’s hard to find lessons that hit the right chord with every grade level I teach.
For integration with current events, middle and high school teachers should definitely check out the multitude of lesson plans for civil rights on the New York Times’ Learning Network.
Do you teach Kindergarten? You can teach a lesson about civil rights, too! Check out this adorable idea from Joelle Trayers, where she assigned her students to imagine what rights snow people would demand!
I alluded to Poetry Pairing a long time ago when I posted about the New York Times Learning Network, but I think it is well-deserving of its very own post. Poetry Pairing is a collaborative effort between the New York Times and the Poetry Foundation. Each week, a poem and a current article are selected to pair together. Comparing the articles to the poems, which are all selected from the American Life in Poetry Project, can bring some very rich conversation into the classroom. By juxtaposing poetry, some of which was written centuries ago, with current events, readers (or listeners, if you use a text-t0-speech program) can examine the common themes and trends they might observe. They can debate the messages of each piece, and whether or not they complement each other or markedly contrast.
I selected this particular pairing because of its poem, written by an 8 year old, and its article, which spoke to my heart, about this process of creating that children so enjoy – and the process of sifting through these creations that parents must endure. It is a particularly poignant example of the interesting weekly combinations brought about on this site.
Even if your students are not quite old enough to appreciate the posts found on the New York Times site, I think that this is a lovely idea for a lesson that could be brought to younger students as well. Using shorter poems and current stories that are relevant to them, a teacher could integrate many higher order thinking skills using this framework.