Lesson of the Day: ‘200 Dispatches: Odd Animals, Offbeat Childhoods, Celebrity Origins and Extreme Sports’

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Lesson of the Day: ‘200 Dispatches: Odd Animals, Offbeat Childhoods, Celebrity Origins and Extreme Sports’

Dispatches is a section of The New York Times that recently celebrated its first anniversary and its 200th story. (Many of the Learning Network’s Lessons of the Day, Student Opinions and Picture Prompts are drawn from this section.) To mark the milestone, Dispatch featured and celebrated some of its favorite, most-read and most distinctive work from the year.

First, read these opening paragraphs from two very different Dispatches:

AUSTERLITZ, the Netherlands — Shortly after 10 p.m. on a recent night, a car came to a stop at the edge of the woods. The door opened to release three children: towheaded boys of 12 and 15, and a 12-year-old girl with dark pigtails and an emoji-covered backpack. Then the driver threw the car into gear and sped away, gravel crunching under its tires.

And:

CHOLPON-ATA, Kyrgyzstan — The American team that played a brutal version of polo at the World Nomad Games does not expect the sport to get picked up by the Olympics any time soon.

Why not?

“We use a dead goat,” said Scott A. Zimmerman, a team co-captain.

The game of kok-boru, with its headless goat carcass, was the main attraction at the weeklong international sports competition held this month in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan.

Did these openings grab your attention? Even if you are not typically drawn to international stories, do they make you want to read further? If yes, can you describe why?

Next, to get a better sense of what this global section is all about, set a stopwatch for five minutes and scroll through “200 Dispatches: Odd Animals, Offbeat Childhoods, Celebrity Origins and Extreme Sports until the timer goes off. Click on at least three linked articles, read their opening two paragraphs and scroll through their photos.

Afterward, answer the following:

  • What kinds of subject matter, issues and themes does the section explore?

  • What did you learn about the world from the three articles you picked?

Choose one article included in “200 Dispatches: Odd Animals, Offbeat Childhoods, Celebrity Origins and Extreme Sports.” Read the full article, look closely at the photos featured and answer the following questions:

1. Why did you select the article you did? What did you find interesting about the headline, photos or topic?

2. How did your article’s opening paragraphs grab your attention and hook your interest in a little-known story from a distant country? What details or writerly techniques were most effective in engaging you as a reader?