12 Ways to Use The Learning Network Blog This School Year

By KATHERINE SCHULTEN

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Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times
The pencil bin at Carol’s School Supplies in Fresh Meadows, Queens. Go to related article »
Update | Oct. 22, 2012: We now have a 1-minute-48-second video that gives a big-picture overview of what we do. Our new weekly e-mail newsletter sign-up page is also live.

Happy academic year 2012-13! Here’s what we’ve got on our blog and how you can use it, whether you’re a teacher, a student (of any age) or a parent.

Next month, thanks to you, our blog celebrates its third birthday. We constantly refine our offerings based on reader feedback, so don’t be shy: join the conversation by commenting on any of our posts at any time.

And remember: The Learning Network and everything we publish, as well as all the Times content we link to, is free and accessible without a digital subscription.

1. Find a fresh Common Core-aligned lesson plan every weekday.

Our lessons resume on Monday, Sept. 10, and this year each lesson will be aligned to the Common Core Anchor Standards.

You can receive all five lessons plans each week via our new Thursday e-mail. Sign up here.

Here is our schedule (though please note that we occasionally divert from it to respond to breaking news or other needs):

* Monday – What’s Going On in This Picture? A new feature about visual literacy, critical thinking, and Times photojournalism.
* Tuesday – History and social studies
* Wednesday – Science and health
* Thursday – English language arts and fine arts
* Friday – Quick interdisciplinary tasks to help students practice Common Core skills

Note: Our definition of a “lesson” ranges from traditional lesson plans like this science post to quizzes, lists of ideas or collections of resources.

This year, we’ll also publish a monthly collection of lesson ideas for teachers of English language learners — or for students who find The Times difficult for any reason.

We also occasionally feature ideas from our audience in our “lesson plan” slot, including guest posts, reader ideas announcements of student contests — and publication for the winners of those contests.

2. Strengthen literacy, numeracy and critical thinking skills with our daily “Test Yourself” question.

We publish a new question based on Times content every weekday. Use them for test preparation or just for fun.

Mondays and Wednesdays: Math questions
Tuesdays and Thursdays: English language arts questions
Fridays: Critical thinking questions

3. Comment on our daily Student Opinion question.

Each week thousands of students from around the world post their thoughts to our student questions, and teachers tell us it’s a great place for them to engage with current events and practice good “Web citizen” skills.

Since we read every comment submitted, and won’t publish them unless they meet our standards, it’s also a safe place to post.

We choose our favorite comments every day to feature in our “Comments of the Moment” column on the right side of the blog.

Assign your students (13 and up, please) a particular question or have them scroll through all of our questions to find one that interests them. We keep most open for response indefinitely, including the 163 questions we asked during the 2011-12 school year.

This fall we’re adding something new. Because of the success of our Summer Reading Contest in which we asked “What Interested You Most in The Times This Week?” then chose our favorite answers as winners, we’ve decided to pose that same open-ended question every Friday this school year.

So if you’d like an easy way to add more “informational text” to your curriculum, invite your students to read The Times on a weekly basis, then post their thoughts on our blog.

4. Learn what happened On This Day in History

Visit On This Day every day to read an original Times article about an important event that took place on that day in history, or scroll through the archive to look up your birthday or another special day.

5. Keep up with the news of the day through quick activities.

Take our daily five-question News Quiz about the stories on that day’s front page, or use our 6 Q’s About the News to answer the basic news questions — Who, What, Where, When, Why and How — about an important or compelling recent story.

And don’t forget: as students scan The Times each week, they can post about what interested them the most that week in our Student Opinion question each Friday.

6. Enrich your vocabulary

Our Word of the Day includes a definition and an example in a recent Times context.

Our weekly Times Fill-In invites students to fill in blanks in a high-interest article using their own words, or choices from a word bank. Recent topics include TV for dogs, life-changing innovations, and the attempt by New York City’s mayor to ban enormous sugary drinks.

And, of course, we have an archive of over 100 Student Crosswords.

But reading just the front page of The Times every day can introduce readers to scores of SAT-level words in context. (On a recent front page story alone you could find the words “subsistence,” “notorious,” “porous,” “decimating,” “turbulent ,” “fief,” “stratospheric” and more.)

To keep track of new words, use our vocabulary log.

7. Teach any day’s Times with our activity sheets.

Graphic organizers, games, discussion starters, maps and more: Great Ways to Teach Any Day’s Times is one-stop shopping for reusable activity sheets like Times Bingo, a Connecting The Times to Your World reading log, a Cause and Effect organizer and a fun photo activity.

This fall, we’ve also introduced a flexible Election Unit with numerous graphic organizers that can be used to track the race for the White House (or any other political race), using any day’s Times.

8. Get published — or get your students published.

If you’d like to see your idea for teaching with The Times in print, send it in to us through our Great Ideas From Our Readers series.

To get your students published (beyond, of course, our daily Student Opinion question), have them submit work to our regular contests.

We’re always inventing new ones, like the Election Contest we’re currently running, so check back often.

In December, we plan to bring back our Year in Rap Contest, and in April we hope to reprise our popular found poetry challenge.

9.Find collections of high-interest articles about young people.

This summer we introduced “Teenagers in The Times,” a monthly post that recognizes newsworthy young people by regularly collecting all the Times stories about them in one place.

Use the feature to inspire student projects and goals, as models for journalistic writing, as nonfiction companion pieces to literature, or simply as a way to hook young people on reading the newspaper.

10. Quickly find Times resources for often-taught subjects.

Our Teaching Topics page is a living index to collections we’ve made on topics we know teachers teach often — from immigration to “To Kill a Mockingbird” to global warming to bullying to learning with infographics.

Check back frequently: we keep adding!

And to quickly scan all the lessons we’ve posted during the 2011-12 academic year, start here:

Year-End Roundup | Language Arts, Journalism, the Arts and Academic Skills

Year-End Roundup | Science, Health, Technology and Math

Year-End Roundup | Social Studies, History, Geography and Civics

11. Start academic research with Times Topics pages.

Times Topics pages collect recent and archival reporting and commentary on everything from the Libya to Lady Gaga, and they’re gold for student research.

We have so much to say about using The Times for research, that we wrote a separate post describing 10 ways to go about it.

12. Read and comment on a poem paired with a related Times article.

Each week we pair an accessible poem chosen by the Poetry Foundation with Times content that somehow echoes, extends or challenges the poem’s themes.

We generally alternate a classic poem, like Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” with a contemporary poem, like David Wagoner’s “For a Student Sleeping in a Poetry Workshop.”

How can you use it in the classroom? Here are some ideas.

Finally, two tips on finding what you need in our blog:

1. Always return to the right-hand column.

The right-hand column of our blog is the best place to navigate. Though we regularly change sections like “This Week on the Learning Network” and “Comments of the Moment,” you can always find permanent links to all the regular features we’ve described above. You can also find links to more information about us and our Twitter and Facebook pages.

2. Use “Search This Blog.”

Putting a word or phrase into this field (“Shakespeare,” “endangered species lesson,”) at the top of the right-hand column will surface every post that has ever included it in the history of the blog, including all 12 years of lesson plans we imported from the old site. Also try these search tips to find ways to narrow your search

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