This past Monday I found myself once again starting kids on the journey that is Kelly Gallagher's article of the week assignment. I wish I had taken a video of myself teaching (primarily to illustrate that the start, at least in my classroom, is far from the stuff of movies). But since I didn't, I thought it was worth sharing with you what teaching points I found myself emphasizing as I introduced my ninth grades to articles of the week.
Smarter about the world
“This year in world history, it's important that we study not just our world in the past, but our world in the present as well. You and I are the kinds of people who push ourselves to grow in our knowledge of the world around us; after all, if we're going to live in this thing, we may as well be students of it.
“Toward that end, we'll read an article every single week — you'll get it on Mondays or Tuesdays, and it will be due on Fridays.”
“We do hard things”
“The article of the week is also one more way that we will work hard this year toward a brighter future for ourselves. With every article, we gain knowledge, we gain reading experience, and we gain writing practice. The only cost for these gains is hard work — and that is fine, because working hard is something we accustom ourselves to doing.”
“There are two things I look for when grading articles of the week: 1-2 purposeful, thoughtful annotations per page (that's worth 5 points), and a 250+ word response to the article (that's worth 5 points, too). Today I'm going to read aloud a few paragraphs and show you what I mean by purposeful annotation. Next week we'll look at some writing exemplars to help you up your pen game.”
[Read aloud several paragraphs; model purposeful annotation, which you can read about here.]
“But Mr. Stuart! 250 words is a lot!”
“I agree — 250 words is a lot. However, by the end of the school year, it won't be. This week, use the possible response options at the end of the article to help you, and remember: those annotations you'll make are worthwhile writing starters, too.”
Getting it done
“Finally, let me just say this: even though completed AoWs are due on Fridays, that doesn't mean you can't take it home tonight, get it done, and turn it in tomorrow. Students with the most consistent completion rates are often those who don't wait until the last minute.”[hr]
And those are really the main things I said and taught this past Monday with our first AoW. I'm not putting them forth as any kind of exemplar; at the same time, I am confident that less is more, especially with assignments that last all year long like the article of the week. We want our students to master a bit at a time, slowly adding layers of mastery as they solidify basic skills. That's why, in the list above, you don't see me giving much instruction on the writing part of the assignment; instead, the key skills I want them to develop this week are purposeful annotation and simply getting it done.
Questions? Comments? Share below; thanks so much for reading![hr]
Thank you to Kelly Gallagher for his article of the week idea; it has impacted so many of my kids over the past few years, and I know that is the story for countless classrooms around the USA and, likely, the world. I first learned of Kelly's article of the week through his book Readicide; his most recent book, In the Best Interest of Students, also touches upon AoW. Kelly and his colleagues continue to share their weekly articles here, and you can find a list of my articles of the week here.
Jacquelyn Karney says
Just started this with my seventh-graders. However, I really modeled each part of the assignment. I also had them practice the written part of the assignment and share with me on a Google Doc. Then, as a class, we used a rubric to discuss and “grade” each one. I think with younger students it is very important to SHOW them what you are looking for. My students actually did a great job, and I am SO excited about this assignment. I love reading your blog and love Gallagher’s books. Thank you! I am trying so many new things this year and document many of them on my blog!
Susan Maurice says
I am going to start this in my seventh grade science class on Monday. I am wondering how the initial response was by students and parents.
It was fine, Susan — grades will go in today, so we will see how that goes. Article of the week is something I describe prominently in my syllabus as well.
Fatuma Hydara says
I took a quick look at your blog and notices you started with the index card idea as well! Wasn’t it incredibly inspiring what students write in response to fairly simple questions?!
(Also, reminded that I have a blog that I should update A LOT more frequently!)
Okay I’m new to being a regular social studies teacher but have been middle school teacher a long time (mostly math, but also ELA and science). Initially was in primary grades so very keen to the literacy development deal.
I’m teaching Math and SS to 4 grade levels and swamped. New position, new school.
Does anyone know of a good source of articles so that I won’t spend my weekend picking out article from the universe?
Dave, you are so freakin awesome. ????
@msdayvt When I did AoW last year, we used NewsELA. It’s free and great for regular news articles, but doesn’t have much in the way of editorials, which I think are what most teachers are going for when they do AoW.
Fatuma Hydara says
I took a similar approach of less is more with my 10th graders. Hiwever, I provided a bit more modeling and scaffolding.
For our first day of class (last Tuesday), I introduced AOW’s: what they ate, why we are doing them, benefits, schedule etc. (They were especially concerned/surprised by the fact there is a 4 grade level gap between 12th grade and 11st year of college reading.) I modeled my thoughtful annotating as well.
However, the next day I had them look at the possible options and breakdown each prompt and Think-Pair-Share, what needs to be done to earn full 5 points. In the end, I led them to a simplistic structure for the written response. Each one must include:
A. An objective summary of the writer’s atgument, claim etc.
B. Your response to the argument as a critical reader and thinker: agreement, disagreement, questioning, mixture of the three.
Then they had until Friday to finish. I’ll be grading the first set this weekend, so they can have feedback for AOW 2, assigned Wednesday, due Friday! (I’ve already had a few students who tried to turn it in, but decided to wait until I returned with feedback. So, they’re taking the advice of getting it done seriously. Yay!)
I’m so excited by how how much my students will potentially grow their knowledge this year and I wouldn’t have felt as confident implementing it if not for your willingness to share your trials, errors, and successes! 😀
Enjoy your weekend!
Do you account for differences in students’ reading levels? I have quite the range in my 8th grade classes. Newsela is a helpful site, but sometimes the articles don’t allow for much debate about a topic.
Any suggestions for how to incorporate AoW grading for those of us teaching the IB (in terms of grading). We don’t give points for things but assess against criteria…
I used AOW in my classes last year and it was not as successful as I would have liked. Most of the students did not do them. One of my classes even asked if they could submit them on Monday rather than Friday- to which I agreed. I even tried be
started the whole thing by assigning the AoW on the Saturday before the Friday it was due, and allowed the students to submit the AoW at anytime up to Friday, later Monday, on Google Classroom. Still, there was little buy-in. I will try it again this school year. I am sorry that I stopped it last year because I did see thtat it was making a difference in student’s writing as it came to responding to text.
I just need to know how to award students who complete the AoW’s without messing up those students who refuse to participate.
BTW. my school is going into competency grading rather than the regular grading. I don’t know what impact this might make, but if anyone who uses this does know, I would be willing to hear your input.
Kristal McCranie says
I know this comment is coming years after the questions were originally posted, but I had some thoughts that might be helpful for others who peruse these comments later–
I teach at a Title 1 high school where a “regular” English class will typically have everything from students who are reading above grade level all the way to students who legitimately read on a 4th or 5th grade level. And though my district does “traditional” grades, I have done Standards-Based Grading (or something like it) since my 2nd year teaching (a long time ago lol). I have done AoW for years, including through the pandemic, and this is how I (generally) typically do it:
I ALWAYS read the article to my students–always (whether in person or online). This allows my lower readers to keep up a little better. I also never assign any of this as homework unless it’s an AP class. It will usually take 2-3 days to do one article (50 min class periods). Because of this, I will usually do AoW every other week. I also make sure the articles are well aligned with the skills and concepts I’m already teaching so any days that are taken up by AoW are still working towards the standards I need to be teaching.
I model EVERYTHING–my thoughtful annotations, circling words/phrases I don’t understand, looking up those words, writing the 250 word response, etc.
I grade their responses as I would an argument essay and their essays (if we do one) as an analysis essay (using the same rubrics). I do not grade their annotations, but I do read them and give them immediate feedback during class (though I have graded their annotations as evidence of their reading ability–I stopped doing that, though, because it was too laborious). As they’re working and discussing in groups, I help them to go deeper into each topic. They are assessed on the listening and speaking standards during those discussions (I have a template I use that has the students listed and space for notes, scores, etc.). I grade their AoW Log on the reading standards because it literally is just them identifying if the author would agree, disagree, etc. with a “read for meaning” statement I give them and why.
Because I don’t make it homework, I have very few students (if any) who refuse to do the assignment. I also make sure the topic is high-interest and relevant to my students–that helps with motivation to participate. (Online is another beast–I needed to make discussions and the 250 word response look a little different with Jamboard and Google Docs so I could see students actually writing and working. It was the only way I could get them to do it. I would also give them immediate feedback through their Doc as they were working so they would stay on top of getting it done.)
A side note answering an earlier question: If you go to Kelly Gallagher’s website, he has a bunch of articles to choose from! Just make sure you read them and make sure they are appropriate for your students and unit.
I also love pulling different articles on the same issue from very different sources (Fox vs CNN vs MSNBC etc.) to show bias and perspective. Many times, I will just use the AoW assignment as a jumping off point for teaching other standards–it does a lot of heavy-lifting when it comes to skills.
Hopefully that gave someone some good ideas!