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Rhetorical Choices: Using the New York Times “Annotated by the Author” in Class

Annotated by the Author is published weekly by the New York Times – it highlights one of the week’s articles and has the author explain their revision, editing, and rhetorical choices.  Everything from fixing grammatical errors to specific use of terms and names are explained.  These insights (we call them the ‘meta’ of writing) allow readers to better understand the choices that the author made in order to create an effective article that draws in the reader, keeps them engaged, and accomplishes the intended purpose(s) of their writing (inform/persuade/etc.).

This article series is part of the New York Times’ Learning  Section found at https://www.nytimes.com/section/learning.  The section is useful to both the K-12 and college learning environments.  Articles are posted up daily – and lesson plans are included for those who need additional supports on how to use the authentic materials and new articles supported in this section.  Overall, the NYT refers to this section as the Learning Network – it has been in existence since 1998 – and is updates with current news and events just as quickly as news events happen. More can be found about their efforts at: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/02/learning/current-events-teaching-resources.html

How I use this in my classroom:

In teaching writing, students have a difficult time explaining the ‘meta’ of their writing.  They simply explain that they write in a particular format because that’s what they were taught- a main idea goes first, then 3 supporting details, then a concluding sentence that says the same thing the first sentences said [if this sounds dreadfully painful to read… it is… I digress]…. Students don’t know why they do this…. it’s what they’ve been taught in high school.  They follow a formula.  They get a passing grade on whatever standardized test was judging their writing ability, and they move on while never really thinking about the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s of rhetorical choice.

The Annotated by the Author provides our students with another way to look at writing, editing, and the revision process.  Knowing that nationally renowned authors use this process and seeing HOW they use this process reinforces the editing process.  Prior to using these articles, I would get shrugs and “I don’t know”‘s when ask a student “why did you include this example?” or “what is it you’re trying to say here?”   Now my students seem to have a better insight as to why and how to incorporate words, ideas, and examples AND HOW to explain their own rhetorical examples.  In essence, showing someone else’s editing process helps them understand their own revision needs.

A selection of recent Annotated by the Author articles can be found here.

  • Nick Kristof – https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/12/learning/annotated-by-the-author-she-helped-a-customer-in-need-then-us-bank-fired-her.html

(the Kristof article is interesting, as he mentioned how he was getting ready to go on state at the City Opera House here in TC as he was getting calls and revising this very article)

  • Nicholas St. Fleur – https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/23/learning/annotated-by-the-author-tiny-tyrannosaur-hints-at-how-t-rex-became-king.html
  • Alan Blinder – https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/05/learning/annotated-by-the-author-college-football-prospects-actually-signing-on-signing-day-thats-so-2017.html

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