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.
“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.