Quick background: Since about the start of this website, I've been using Kelly Gallagher's article of the week strategy and posting the articles on this page. If you've somehow not heard of Kelly Gallagher or his articles of the week, take a look at the following articles for background:
- Shallow swim: “The First Article of the Week of the School Year: Key Teaching Points”
- Deep dive: “There and Back Again: My Journey with Gallagher’s Article of the Week Assignment”
- Original Source: Pp. 46-47 in Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It
Caught up? Sweet. Let's get to it. -DSJR
Prior to COVID, I was a pretty low-tech teacher. Any time we could do something analog in my classroom, we did. It was just one less thing that could go awry in a lesson and one less source of distraction for my students.
Then COVID happened. Within months, my district was 1:1, and being tech-lite wasn't an option for me or my remote/quarantining students. Due to my background as a low-tech teacher, I didn't make many premeditated adjustments during Fall 2020. Instead, I lurchingly adapted on the fly, instinctively searching for the efficiencies I so value in my work as a teacher.
Why are you saying this, Dave?
Because I found myself making two changes to how I approached articles of the week with my students, and it's going to impact how I maintain the AOW page moving forward. This article will serve to explain those updates and allow conversation around them in the comments. And if you don't use article of the week, I hope this'll still serve as an example for the (super basic) decision-making processes that I use when making changes to my practice.
Change 1: No more PDFs or Docs
Since all my students had computers and some of them were remote or quarantining at any given time, I found the process of converting each week's article into a PDF or Google Doc needlessly cumbersome. Instead of doing that, I just started directly linking to articles within our learning management system's assignment function, and I started having students complete their written response within the LMS, too. (Screenshot below.)
This removed some steps for me.
Change 2: More frequent and flexible use of articles than the AOW format
Because I'm eager for my students to learn as much as they can — and because 1:1 decreased the friction of sharing articles with my students — I started using articles more than 1x/week. Most frequently, I did this during warm-ups. Like many of my colleagues around the world, I've long started my classes with some form of reading and/or writing and/or speaking/listening exercise. In years past, this looked like a slide projected to the front of the room with instructions and a prompt. But due to COVID, the simplest path for these warm-ups was to post them in our learning management system as a daily announcement. Students responded to the warm-up right there in the announcement, making it possible for students to participate whether in-person or remote.
Ultimately, this led to more opportunities for incidental knowledge-building in my classroom and increased efficiencies for me.
Analyzing the change
In reflecting on a year of applying these changes, I see the following pros and cons.
- When I found an interesting article that related to any of our burning questions of the year or current topics of interest in our curriculum, I could easily incorporate it into my lessons — no need to copy/paste/format/print/etc. As a result we did more knowledge-building (Ch 3 of These 6 Things) than we had in previous years, leading to occasional sparkles like an impromptu class discussion one day on the filibuster. (With 14 year olds. Who don't normally discuss things like the filibuster.)
- Some places were consistent sources of great mini-articles for the warm-ups purpose (e.g., Morning Brew newsletter, daily briefings at The Week) — I wasn't spending crazy time finding these. And since I was sharing links rather than copy/paste/formatting into PDFs, it was taking seconds, not minutes.
- Absent students knew what they missed and could even participate remotely, and this convenience cost me no extra labor.
- I still dislike the added distraction that a computer's web browser presents — for children and for adults. Reading articles on a news website inevitably means exposure to advertisements and temptations to Ctl+T your way into a (likely defocusing) new tab/game/experience.
- Some sites have limited-use paywalls (e.g., The Week tracks page visits, and after a certain number of views per month, it puts up a paywall.
So, like normal, ain't no silver bullets and no perfect scenarios. However, for me the life-enhancing, democratizing and emancipating power of a knowledge-rich curricula outweighs the drawbacks of added sources of distraction and periodically annoying paywalls. Like we do, I just turned the drawbacks into teachable moments — I showed my students how to reduce the power of distractions over daily life, and I got to teach them a bit about how Internet cookies work.
- For the coming school year, my articles of the week will be posted as links, not PDFs/Google Docs.
- If you end up creating AOWs that are PDFs or Google Docs, feel free to share your own links with me via Twitter. I'll happily post.
- I also happily take recommendations for articles via Twitter. (Sorry — email is too cumbersome for this kind of sharing. Twitter's frenetic environment is perfect for it. It's like a busy cafeteria.)
- As always, remember that we're each responsible for the articles we share with our students. Know your setting, know your community, know your administrators. Teach students how to read for nuance, bias, and perspective. When I post an article on my AOW page, it's not an endorsement — it's a, “I might use this with my students; just wanted to share in case it helps.”
- Efficiency matters and perfection is a mirage.
- Know what you're after: student long-term flourishing via optimized mastery outcomes without sacrificing your life on the altar of professional success. Pursue this doggedly.
Teaching right beside you,
PS But Dave, what about annotation?
When I first published this article, a couple rockstar colleagues reached out with this question. In response, I made this video: