Students Can Respond to Daily Writing Prompts, Inspired by The New York Times, at Home for Free


Schools around the country have closed their doors and switched to remote learning in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. If you are a teacher or parent looking for ways to keep your students reading, writing and thinking critically during these uncertain times, The Learning Network offers a dozen new writing prompts each week, all based on Times articles, photographs, illustrations, videos and graphs, about a wide array of issues, including internet memes, vegetarianism, the #MeToo movement, racism, slumber parties and good habits. All of these activities are completely free for everyone.

Here is how to get started.

Students can create a free account by pressing the “Log In” button on the top right-hand corner of the screen. They will be taken to a sign-in page that looks like this:

We request that students list their school, city and state as their location.

Please note: Students must be 13 years or older to use any part of in the United States and the United Kingdom, and 16 years or older anywhere else. For students who do not meet the minimum age criteria, parents can create their own account and supervise student use of the site.

While students don’t need to have a New York Times account to access the Learning Network’s many activities, they will need one if they want to submit a comment.

Students can comment via desktop, laptop, tablet or phone. To submit a comment, they should click on the comment bubble at the top of the article or the comment button at the bottom. Either way will bring them to a box where they can share their thoughts, as well as reply to other student commenters from across their school or around the world.

Here is an example of what the comment box — with a student comment below it — looks like for our recent prompt, “Should Parents Track Their Children?”

Many teachers use our prompts as a standing homework assignment every night or each week. Other teachers use the prompts as a class activity to complete together. For example, in the tweet below, Adriana Diaz shares images of her class doing a What’s Going On in This Picture? activity.

Since we offer so many ways for students to read, write and think, teachers can differentiate as they see fit. They might ask some students to get started with our image-based prompts, while suggesting others comment on our Student Opinion questions.

And, while we appreciate when teachers assign students to comment directly on The Learning Network, we also understand that many teachers prefer to have their students respond to our prompts in a classroom space like Google Classroom or Schoology. We want teachers to have the freedom to use our resources in the way that works best for them.

Not only do we moderate comments, but we also select comments to spotlight in a weekly roundup from our two daily writing prompts: Student Opinion questions and Picture Prompts. Teachers tell us they and their students get excited when they see their classmates’ names published in The New York Times.

Teachers naturally want to know what their students are saying in our online forums. The easiest way to hold students accountable is to instruct them to forward the confirmation emails they automatically receive. To do this, students need to make sure that the box “Email me when my comment is published” is checked underneath the comment box. (The check appears when students begin typing.)

For our contests, students also receive confirmation emails, which they can easily forward to teachers. And, since we celebrate many winners, runners-up and honorable mentions with each of our contests, teachers get to send out their own emails, tweets and messages when one or more of their students are selected as finalists.

At The Learning Network, we want students to have a civil discussion about the issues of our day. We want them to have an authentic audience for their writing and ideas. We believe student voice matters. Our comment section and regular contests are our way to make this happen. We hope you’ll invite your students to join our community of learners.

If you have any questions about how to get your class started using The Learning Network, please use the comment section or email us at

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