When the school year started, I focused on the important issues — racial justice, the pandemic, the election — yet I couldn’t stop thinking about how I could share with students the Weird Al profile that made me laugh and cry, the article about sheep shearing off the coast of Maine, the photo tour of the chalk factory that built a cult following among mathematicians, the bizarre story of the prank-commissioned Soviet-style mural of Cookie Monster, and the multimedia article that brought me 12,000 feet up the Grand Traverse in the Teton Mountain Range.
Finally, I realized that these articles weren’t extraneous. They were a model of the lifelong reading habits that I wanted my students to develop. I shared all those articles as a text set and used one to demonstrate the summary and reflection I would have them compose for the articles they would find. My students were familiar with the concept of texts as mirrors and windows, so I asked them to look for one of each. I showed them how to use the search bar to find a topic they were already interested in, as well as how to browse the many, many sections of the New York Times website in order to discover something unexpected.
They found a trove of articles, Opinion pieces, videos and photojournalism that I had not encountered on my own. When they shared with one another in class, all of our worlds widened with new understanding. Many students revealed personal connections in their written reflections that taught me more about them, revelations that were profound, touching, fun and surprising. Ultimately, everyone gained something from the experience, including me, and I feel hopeful that they will take this with them on their journey as lifelong readers.
Some of Ms. Butterfield’s students, first on articles they chose as “mirrors,” then on the articles that became “windows”:
The day “Drivers License” was released it completely blew up on TikTok, and my For You page was filled with videos of people listening and reacting to it. While I was reading the article, I knew this song was breaking records left and right, but I had no idea it had gone worldwide.
Ever since I’ve been a kid, whenever I watched a movie or documentary about past civilizations the hunters were always depicted as male and the gatherers, female. I just really appreciate the fact there is more information to be uncovered that could prove women and men had somewhat equal roles.
I appreciate this article a great deal as someone who is not only Black but cares deeply about making people aware of the racism that still occurs today. The main question was why did it take the N.F.L. so long to say that Black lives matter, when according to the article, “N.F.L. rosters are 70 percent African-American”?
I have never had a pet before, not even something as small as a hamster, so to me this was very informative in that I don’t necessarily have to worry about my nonexistent pet being attacked by my neighbor’s unleashed dog. Now, though, from looking through this “window,” I can understand the importance of leashing your animals for their safety as well as others’.