The NYTimes.com launched a daily Student Opinion feature last October. It is a “safe space” on NYTimes.com – and on the Internet overall – for students 13 and older to voice their views on the news. This blog format contains postings on topics that will provoke student opinions. Students have the ability to leave comments on each of the postings. The postings are moderated before they appear live on the site.
Having students participate in online discussions on events and issues in the news will provide students with a forum to voice opinions. This type of activity will assist in developing critical thinking, writing and literacy skills. Most importantly it allows for students to write for a global audience. The result will be a forum of global responses. This will allow students to read perspectives and views from around the world. That is a key 21st century skill.
"In a piece for the National Writing Project, Anne Rodier argues that students “have to believe that what they have to say is important enough to bother writing. They have to experience writing for real audiences before they will know that writing can bring them power.”" (www.nytimes.com)
The NY Times Listed some Ideas for Integrating this new site into the classroom. They also recommend that you review the commenting guidelines for The Learning Network.
Some Key Commenting Guidelines
1. student comments must be signed with a first name (and ONLY a first name), but we cannot post the full name and location of your school, due to privacy concerns. You might give students a code, such as your classroom number or section, (for example, Rachel221 or Simon3B) so your students, and you, can tell which posts are written by class members.
2. You can easily find any weekday’s Student Opinion question by visiting the blog, or you can scroll through past posts by clicking on the Student Opinion category.
3. In addition to serving as writing prompts, Student Opinion posts can also serve as critical reading material. Students can also read past comments for comprehension, synthesis and analysis.
Classroom Integration Ideas -
These ideas are taken directly from The NY Times. You can read the full posting here. I have taken excerpts from it in this posting.
Debating Controversial Issues – We often pose provocative questions, and responding to them can be a good warm-up activity before organizing and holding a classroom debate on a relevant, current topic. Examples include Where Do You Stand on Unconcealed Handguns?, Should the Military End ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’? and Is Tackle Football Too Dangerous for Kids to Play?. After reading the related article and responding to a controversial question, students choose sides and then research and craft their arguments.
Practicing Internet Etiquette – Develop computer savvy. Start with our lesson plan Care to Comment? Considering Internet Protocol, then practice good Internet citizenship on Student Opinion, where all comments are moderated. They might enter a discussion about digital life, such as What Can Strangers Learn About You Online?, or simply join any Student Opinion conversation and then reflect on the experience and the related issues of Internet safety, privacy and etiquette and Web citizenship, particularly in the area of user comments.
Developing Surveys – Students browse Student Opinion posts to select a topic that would make a good survey to administer in school. Questions that lend themselves to surveys include Should Kids Head to College Early?, Do You Get Enough Sleep? and What Are the Attitudes Toward ‘Cheating’ and Plagiarism Among Your Peers?. If students choose an “open” Student Opinion page entry on which to base a survey, they can use other commenters’ posts for survey questions, and later share their findings with a wider audience.
Generating Creative and Personal Writing – Students write short stories, poetry or other creative pieces inspired by Student Opinion questions, like What’s the Most Amazing Thing You’ve Ever Seen in the Natural World?, What Are Your Favorite Keepsakes From Childhood? and Can You Write a Tweet Story?. And we offer many personal writing prompts, ranging from the likes of What Do You Know About Teen Depression? and How Has the Recession Affected You? to
Have You Had ‘Helper’s High’? and How Polite Are You? Students can even share short pieces in the commenting area of the related post.
Supporting Reluctant Readers and Writers – Posting comments on serious issues might seem daunting to students who struggle with reading and writing. But many will feel comfortable responding to accessible questions on topics they can relate to, such as What Are Your Beliefs About Marriage?, Do You Spend Too Much Time on Facebook?, What Are the Hot Fashion Trends in Your School Right Now? and How Involved Are Your Parents in Your Life?.
Reviewing Arts and Entertainment – Young culture vultures can use an entertainment, arts or lifestyle question to craft and share their own reviews, perhaps modeled on Times book, movie or other reviews. Sample past questions in this vein include What Are Your Favorite Books and Authors?, Are You Watching American Idol This Season? and What Are Your Favorite Video Games?.
Reflecting on Education – In advisory or homeroom, in preparation for applying to college or just simply as a reflective exercise, students consider their experience in school. Generative questions about education include How Would you Grade your School?, Class Time + Substitute = Waste?, What Do Good Teachers Need to Know? and How Would You Sell Your School to Potential Students?. Encourage students to analyze their textbooks in the context of the recent change to curriculum in Texas by considering the question What Values are Apparent in Your School Textbooks?.
Setting Goals and Making Plans – Student Opinion questions can help students focus their thinking about the future. Examples include What Do You Want to Do With Your Life?, What’s Your Personal Learning Plan? and How Can You Best Present Yourself on College Applications?.
Thinking Deeply – How often do your students have intellectually satisfying “deep discussions”? In Student Opinion, they can reflect on and converse about such philosophical questions as How Important Is Your Spiritual Life?,
Are You Happy?, What Could You Live Without? and When Is Looting Morally Okay?.
Letting Imaginations Run Wild – How often do students get to just … dream? Pose questions like Where Would You Most Like to Go in the World?, What Would You Create if You Had Funding? or What Can Our Dreams Tell Us?, and dream they will.