With my daughter Ellie fast approaching the age of four (when did that happen?), we watch a fair amount of Sesame Street these days and we are working on letter sounds (“N, nah, Narwhal” makes me smile every time), so at our house, C is for cookie. However in my classroom, with the start of the new semester, I’ve been telling my students that C is for Challenge.
Choice has been at the forefront for most of the year so far, and while it’s a workshop non-negotiable I have personally seen the power of, we need to step up the challenge portion of our programming.
For some, this means simply getting through a text. Yes, workshop breeds excitement around reading and an increase in the number of students consuming books is sure to follow, but there are always holdouts (Shana has a list of books to hook those holdouts, so have at it). I have several holdouts this year. Some are too busy, some are too easily distracted, and some are too downright stubborn. As a result, their reading has stalled.
Other students are entrenched:
Dystopian novels or bust.
Jodi Picoult or nothing.
Nicholas Sparks is the only one who can speak to my soul.
John Green is my God.
I’m allergic to nonfiction.
This book has more than 300 pages…so, yeah…that’s a no.
Now, don’t get me wrong. These kids are reading, but even though my book talks are riveting (I’m sure) and full of variety, and we explore countless texts together through mini lessons, and, and, and…they are still reading only what they know already. For this group, and for all, I’m going to try Amy’s Personal Reading Challenge.
However, if you are anything like me, sometimes the long game is…long. To maintain momentum for all, I am constantly on the lookout for pieces that will both interest and challenge each and every day. Sometimes the successes need to be a bit more bite sized. Thought provoking essays and articles, as opposed to entire novels.
Enter: Arts and Letters Daily.
My AP Literature colleague Kevin Nettesheim shared this resource with me a few weeks back and I love it, love him, love it all.
Much like Amy’s post about using The Skimm as an easy way for kids to stay informed about major current events (and as she puts it, to just be smarter), Arts and Letters Daily is a one stop shop for pieces from, as the website states, the “Chronicles of Higher Education.” Started in New Zealand in 1998 by Denis Dutton (university philosopher…sounds like a thought provoking post), the website was created as a place for people to go for a “daily for a dose of intellectual stimulation.”
A quick glance across the homepage, proves to be a feast for the intellectually curious (or those we hope will be). Articles, reviews, and essays from all over the web are organized by Articles of Note, New Books, and Essays & Opinions.
Beneath each of those three headings is an extensive collection of recently published works, each summed up in about 20 words meant to pique your interest:
- Fake news is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, fake news is older than real news. As facts recede, the power of concocted stories will only grow
- What’s to blame for the death of the Western artistic tradition and the beginning of something entirely new? The dangerous idea of creative genius
- How did Wallace Stevens, who lived an excruciatingly mundane and superficial life, write some of the most inventive poetry of the 20th century?
- Science’s biggest dilemma isn’t funding, replicability, or lack of public respect. It’s language. Science has an English problem, and that means a lot of lost knowledge
- The power of “yuck!” and “ew!”. Disgust, which comes from our evolutionary fear of germs, goes a surprisingly long way toward explaining our manners, morals, and religion
As for research opportunities, just glance down the lefthand side of the page. Links to:
- 26 world newspapers
- 16 television news websites
- 107 major magazines
- 52 book reviews
- 54 links to other collections of content specific media, blogs, and ideaspaces
So far this year, I have used ALDaily in several ways:
- Quick Write response – I asked my AP students to spend a few minutes searching the site for an article that intrigued them. I gave them several minutes to read the piece, reflect on it in their notebooks, talk at their tables about what they found, and then share out some of the interesting topics. We ended up talking briefly about procrastination, Arthur Miller, stem cell controversies, and Freud.
- One Pager – Students needed to chose an article from ALDaily, read it, select a quote that struck them, and write about their expanded thinking related to the selection.
- Article of the Week – I’m not as faithful to this practice as the name would indicate, or as Kelly Gallagher would likely advocate, but we do study information texts and practice skills involving main idea and word choice analysis, summary skills, and bias identification. My most recent article of study was with my sophomores. We read and discussed “Shame on You,” a piece with a hook that asked “What would Plato tweet?” We discussed the perceived freedom and catharsis of social media against the dangers it poses to honest reflection and conformity.
- Beefing up my own quippy wit – This week, I’ve already talked with various groups of kids about science, poetry, an obscure language of the Amazon, and Emily Dickinson. I’ve also been able to share with kids that I am practicing what I preach : “Spend some of your time reading what matters. What matters to you and what matters to those around you.”
The motto at Arts and Letters Daily is “Veritas odit moras.”
It means “Truth hates delay.”
Challenge your readers without delay, every day.
Arts and Letters Daily can be found at aldaily.com
Have you used Arts and Letters Daily? How might you use a collection of intriguing works to challenge your readers? Please comment below.
Lisa Dennis spends her school days teaching AP Language and Honors/Pre-AP Sophomores, while also leading the fearless English department at Franklin High School, just outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she lives with her husband Nick, daughter Ellie, and beagle Scout. She is a firm believer that a youthful spirit, a kind heart, a big smile, and a good book can ease most of life’s more troublesome quarrels. Follow Lisa on Twitter @LDennibaum.