Making Curriculum Pop

Another great lesson plan from the New York Times Learning Network

April 8, 2010, 1:09 PM

Good Intentions: Taking a Cognitive Approach to Literature and Stories

Materials | Times photographs (one per student), copies of handouts, computers and Internet access (optional), copies of literary texts.

Overview | What perspective can cognitive science bring to the study of literature? What can science teach us about why we read fiction and what we can learn from it? In this lesson, students consider literary texts through the lens of cognitive science and reflect on the cognitive benefits of the study of literature.

Warm-up | Prior to students’ arrival, choose and print out several Times photographs that depict at least three people, so that students can consider multiple perspectives. You may wish to select photos that are related to a theme or subject under consideration in your course, or those from current news coverage. The Lens blog and the Multimedia/Photo archive offer treasure troves of photos useful for this exercise. You might try the reader-submitted Lens blog photos of families (here and here).

Give each student one photo along with the Saying What’s Unsaid (PDF) handout. Then ask students, working independently or in pairs, to create thought bubbles that indicate what they imagine the various people in the photograph are thinking. If they need further prompting, tell them to consider the context and setting along with each person’s apparent thoughts, feelings, motivations and intentions, along with the people’s relationships to one another. They should look at facial expression, body language and other cues to try to make such interpretations.

Read the complete lesson plan here.

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