Tagged: the new york times

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Get Your Students to Love the News, #6: The New York Times Upfront is awesome!

favicon Hey, this little series, “Get Your Students to Love the News,” is becoming a real thing! Today is the sixth installment. When you have time, be sure to check out the other posts, too.

A few posts ago, I emphasized that when it comes to reading the news, there’s nothing like the real thing: an old-fashioned newspaper or magazine, preferably in print (though that’s not a requirement).

But this is not exactly easy to make happen.

Reason #1: It’s expensive. Let’s say I get a class set of The New York Times in print, weekdays only, from September through May. That’s $3.50 a week, 35 weeks, 25 students, or $3,062.50. Impossible.

Reason #2: That’s a lot of paper to recycle! Unfortunately, most newspapers won’t deliver just once a week. A good alternative would be to try a weekly newsmagazine, like Time. But it’s still not cheap. Twenty-five copies at $35 a year runs you $875.

Reason #3: Newspapers and magazines might be too hard for struggling ninth graders to read. Sure, we should challenge them (with individual articles that we find), but it’s also a great feeling for students to be able to read on their own.

Despite all those reasons to give up on print periodicals, please don’t! I have a great solution for you. It’s called The New York Times Upfront.


A Scholastic publication, Upfront takes real articles from The New York Times, modifies them for middle- and high-school readers, and reassembles them in a tidy and colorful magazine format.

What’s also great is that Upfront comes out 14 times a year. That’s a good number of issues. Not too many, not too few.

The articles are done well. Let’s take a look! Here’s one from January after the death of Nelson Mandela.

NelsonMandela2 And here’s one about the anniversary of Tienanmen Square:

Tienanmen Square


Upfront does a good job adding key maps, timelines, and images to help students gain background knowledge, a crucial ingredient in nonfiction. (Kelly Gallagher says so, and so do I!)

Also, Upfront is affordable. A class set of 25 copies will cost you $275 for the year. That’s a doable price.

One of my esteemed colleagues in San Francisco, Marni Spitz, is using Upfront this year with her ninth graders. She’s an excellent Global Studies teacher who believes deeply in the power of reading. Marni loves Upfront!

To be sure, Upfront is not perfect. I want to get my students — even the really struggling ninth graders — to the real version of The New York Times as soon as possible. And I do! But until that happens, Upfront is an excellent scaffold, a great way for students to find success.

If you’ve used Upfront in your classroom, please let me know what you think! You know it’ll be enjoyable. favicon

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Iserotope Extra: “No Child Left Untableted”

favicon Big article this week by Carlo Rotella in The New York Times. Definitely think it’s worth your time. (And no, I don’t like tablets in the classroom. Chromebooks, yes, but tablets, not so much.)

Blurb: Sally Hurd Smith, a veteran teacher, held up her brand-new tablet computer and shook it as she said, “I don’t want this thing to take over my classroom.” It was late June, a month before the first day of school. In a sixth-grade classroom in Greensboro, N.C.

via Pocket http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/15/magazine/no-child-left-untableted.html favicon

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Background on the New York Times article

6a00d8341c6a7953ef014e8a0ca5c8970d-120wifavicon A few folks are asking how my recent article in The New York Times came to be. They want to know: Um, Mark, exactly how is it possible that the NYT deemed you a “knowledgeable outside contributor” qualified “to discuss news events and other timely issues?”

Well, I was definitely very, very lucky. Here is how it happened.

1. New York Times reporter Motoko Rich wrote “At Charter Schools, Short Careers by Choice,” in which she concluded that some charter networks are now comfortable hiring young teachers who plan to leave the profession for “bigger and better things” after just a few years in the classroom.

2. I was deeply disturbed by the article and wrote this post, “Are Charter Schools Youth Cults?” in Iserotope. It’s one thing to hire young teachers, work them senseless, churn them out, and know full well that they’ll leave quickly. It’s another thing — quite a pretentious, icky thing — to admit this publicly.

3. As I usually do, I shared my post on Twitter.

Up until now, everything was normal. After all, it’s not a strange thing for me to read something, have a reaction to it, and write about it (or put it up on Iserotope Extras). But then, a few hours later, things got interesting.

4. Ms. Rich tweeted me.

This might be silly to say, but that tweet made my day. A New York Times reporter thanked me for something I wrote and called my thoughts “nuanced?” Did that really happen? Yes, this was a Surreal Moment.

5. Loyal Iserotope readers offered excellent responses to the Iserotope post. Laura, Heidi, Angela, and Geoff pushed my thinking. In fact, some of their language appears in my article. (I am very grateful. They will receive royalties, for sure. 🙂 )

6. The New York Times’ Room for Debate editor Nick Fox emailed me, said he had read the post on Iserotope, and wondered if I would contribute a piece to an upcoming forum on whether teachers need experience to be effective. This was Surreal Moment No. 2.

I had to read the email three times to make sure I was understanding correctly. After I returned to my senses, I realized that this wasn’t just a general call for submissions. This was an editor asking me directly to write something for publication. It was to be 300-400 words, and it was due at 1 p.m. the next day.

7. I wrote a draft. As I wrote, there was joy, adrenaline, fear, and giddiness. The looming deadline got me a tad feverish. It reminded me of my time working on The Epitaph, my high school newspaper — an experience I’ll never forget. (Thanks, Nick!)

8. Not wanting to be fired by my new (and old — more about that in a later post) employer, I ran the article by the director of development to ensure I wasn’t saying anything inappropriate. Kate gave me the OK and even spent time tightening the piece, just minutes before deadline, via Google Docs.

9. I filed the article…and waited. And passed the time. And crossed my fingers. Until, that night, my article was published in Room for Debate. This was Surreal Moment No. 3. Jubilation ensued.

It’s a great feeling, to be sure, and it makes me want to write more — not just for my own personal goals, but also to make sure that teachers have a voice in this conversation. I might not be in the classroom anymore, but I hope that my perspective is one that respects and honors teachers and the work they do. It’s crucial that teachers get their words out there. I hope you enjoy the article! favicon

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Hi there! I’m in The New York Times!

nytimesfavicon I really can’t believe it’s true, but it is!

It’s really my name, and it’s really my words, and it’s all in The New York Times.

Ever since third grade, when my best friend and I founded the Mark Isero and Robbie Greene’s Chronicle, which covered, among other things, playground races and the annual school checkers tournament, I’ve always wanted to be published in a real newspaper.

Now it’s happened — and in The New York Times, no less, the newspaper I’ve admired since signing up for a subscription on my first day of college.

Can you tell I’m excited?

My piece is in The New York Times’ online forum, Room for Debate, which “invites knowledgeable outside contributors to discuss news events and other timely issues.”

Today’s topic was, “Do teachers need to have experience?” I suppose I’m a “knowledgeable outside contributor,” because here’s my article!

I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity, and particularly appreciative of Laura, Heidi, Angela, and Geoff, whose comments to my recent post helped shape my thoughts.

It’s all a dream come true.

Please let me know what you think — whether that’s here in the comments or on the Iserotope Facebook page. Stay posted for more info coming soon. favicon

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Beginning each class with The New York Times

Media_httpwwwascdorga_vvafkfavicon Teachers Sarah Gross and Jonathan Olsen are conducting an experiment: What if we begin each classroom with students reading The New York Times and writing about what they read?

It’s an amazing idea, especially if I teach social studies in the future. I can’t say it’s the best strategy for English-only teachers, though, because it might crowd out the independent reading of fiction (unless you go with little to no teacher instruction). (Ms. Gross writes here in her blog that it hasn’t, though Mr. Olsen says some of the newspaper reading happens in history class.)

Still, I’m really intrigued and impressed — and a bit jealous. Ms. Gross and Mr. Olsen are doing an excellent job encouraging the reading of current events and nonfiction. They’re also getting their students excited about the world and helping them build background knowledge. Their work with The Learning Network is also impressive. And they’re offering one strong model about how teachers can approach the new Common Core State Standards. I look forward to learning more about their journey.

Read the entire article here (or visit Iserotope Extras), and let me know what you think in the comments! favicon
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Dezmond enjoys his New York Times!

favicon A few months ago, I challenged loyal Iserotope readers to donate subscriptions to The New York Times to two lucky graduating seniors.

Within 24 hours, my wish was granted.

The subscriptions began on Oct. 1, and I am pleased to report that Dezmond, now a college student in Seattle,  is the first student to share his gratitude.

He is loving the newspaper. Here he is below on the left. And take a look at his papers on the right!


(I must say how much I like these photographs. Dezmond knows what he’s doing. I particularly appreciate how he’s reading the print version of the paper while his laptop sits nearby, beckoning.)

Today we texted a little back and forth, and I learned that Dezmond has read each of the nine newspapers he has received so far. (That’s better than my average!) He also reports that the Times helps him “get [his] reading in” and improves his vocabulary. (I’ve always liked the paper’s verbs.)

This is a great story, don’t you think? I’m happy, Dezmond’s happy, everybody’s happy.

It gets me thinking: What if schools gave all of its graduates a subscription to The New York Times? favicon

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Am I doing enough to prepare kids for AP?

 I’m doing a lot so far this year to give my students a shot to pass the AP English Literature exam in May.

Office hours twice a week. Reading and reviewing weekly essays. Getting each student an online writing mentor. Starting up Grammar Camp. Asking for computer donations.

I’m easily working 15 hours a week on this class alone. If I had a full schedule, I’m not sure I could keep this up.

But when I read an article like “Incentives for Advanced Work Let Pupils and Teachers Cash In,” recently in The New York Times, I question whether my effort will be enough.

Writer Sam Dillon focuses his piece on the National Math and Science Initiative, a program that gives money and resources to schools that increase the pass rates of students of color on AP exams. But for me, the heart of the article is teacher Joe Nystrom, whose skill and energy seem unparalleled.

We all know, after all, that while money and resources make a difference, the most important factor to student success is the quality of the teacher.

And so far this year, I’m finding out that I can be effective. But a lingering question remains: Is what I’m doing enough?

My quick answer is no. For example, Mr. Nystrom’s students attend Saturday classes. Mine don’t. He does lessons on YouTube. I don’t. His students get one-on-one tutoring. Mine don’t.

Although I understand that this is my first year teaching AP, and that I don’t have a partnership with a national nonprofit organization, and that it’s not sustainable to spend 20 hours a week on one class, I also realize that my students won’t pass unless I do more.

A good example is grammar. In my last post, I wrote that my students need individual help on their grammar if they’re going to improve. If I provided that help, it would increase my workload by at least seven hours a week. So my idea was to recruit people to come to the school one day a week to work with students.

So far, that project is very slow going. It’s hard to get strangers to devote two hours a week (1 hour with students, 1 hour traveling back and forth), particularly for no pay. Local writing centers and universities have also said no. It looks like this is going to be a one-by-one, word-of-mouth project that might take months to get off the ground.

Problem is, we don’t have months to spare. I believe strongly that my students have the work ethic to bridge the AP gap. They don’t need a financial reward to entice them. They need instruction and time with skilled coaches. I am hopeful that I’ll have the energy to pull this off.