August 3, 2021

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Teaching With the ‘My Ten’ Column

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Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.

Featured Column: “My Ten

We’re trying something new: occasional lesson plans that feature a fun New York Times column that we invite students to read closely and emulate.

First up: “My Ten.” In this monthly feature for the Arts section, Times writers interview famous artists, musicians, actors, dancers, chefs, authors and others about their top 10 cultural must-haves — the books, movies, songs, hobbies, clothes, art, people, places or cherished objects that they can’t live without.

In this lesson, we invite you to read several of these lists, then create your own “My Ten” of the cultural necessities that enhance your life.

Ideas for Teachers

  • This might make a fun get-to-know-you or community-building activity. After students have created their “My Ten” lists, you can hang them around the classroom or post them to a virtual bulletin board, like Padlet. Invite students to pair off and read each other’s lists and then share one new thing they learned about their classmates.

What are some of the cultural items that you can’t live without? The people, places or things that entertain you, teach you, comfort you or inspire you? The things that might have helped you through this tumultuous past year or have always been your favorites?

Brainstorm a list of as many as you can think of. They can be general (for example, hip-hop music; Nikes; cooking) or they can be specific (the song “Life Is Good” by Future; Air Force One shoes; making sourdough bread).

Here are some examples of categories you might include in your list.

  • Entertainment: movies, TV shows, songs, podcasts, radio stations, games, art, YouTube videos, comic books, magazines, performances, plays, musicals.

  • Food: restaurants, recipes, meals, drinks, snacks.

  • Places: countries, cities, neighborhoods, buildings, stores, rooms.

  • People or groups: artists, social media accounts, athletes, teams.

  • Fashion: clothes, shoes, labels, designers, brands, hairstyles, accessories, makeup.

  • Events: festivals, holidays, special occasions.

  • Hobbies: sports, crafts, clubs, extracurricular activities.

  • Cherished objects: your phone, family memorabilia, collections.

First, choose at least TWO of the “My Ten” columns below to read.

If none of these inspire you, you can find many more here.

As you read, annotate and take notes about what you notice about the way these pieces are written. Here are some questions to consider:

1. How is this column structured and organized?

2. What do you think is the purpose of this feature? Who might be its audience?

3. What are some of the types of cultural must-haves these artists discuss in their interviews? How general or specific are their choices?

4. Focus on the explanations the speakers give for their choices. What kinds of information do they include? How long are their statements, generally?

5. How would you describe the tone of these articles? What are some words or lines from the pieces you read that demonstrate that tone?

6. Choose one of the cultural items that struck a chord with you. What did you find interesting, entertaining or memorable about this item and the speaker’s explanation of why it was important?

7. Take a close look at the headlines for the six articles above. What do they all have in common? How would you describe the “formula” for the headlines in this feature?

It’s your turn: Write your own “My Ten” list that imitates the structure, content and tone of the Times feature.

First, go back to the list of cultural must-haves you made in the warm-up. Are there any others you want to add? Do that now.

Then, choose 10 from your list that you would like to include in your piece. Make sure that your list is diverse and interesting and, most important, that it represents you.

Now, create your “My Ten” column. Your piece should include:

  • A list of 10 things that you can’t live without.

  • An explanation for each choice that shares why this item is important to you, what role it plays in your life and any relevant personal anecdotes.

  • A tone similar to that of the “My Ten” column.

  • A brief introduction that tells your audience a little about you.

  • A headline that follows the formula of the other “My Ten” columns.

  • Bonus: Photos, videos or GIFs that illustrate some of your choices.

When you’re done, share your “My Ten” with us in the comments, if you like. Our system allows for only about 250 words, so you can post your list of 10 cultural must-haves along with an explanation for one of your choices. We can’t wait to see what you picked!


About Lesson of the Day

Find all our Lessons of the Day in this column.
Teachers, watch our on-demand webinar to learn how to use this feature in your classroom.

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