Kelly Gallagher is my hero.
Author of Readicide, Gallagher champions a hybrid approach to reading instruction. Make sure the kids read a lot on their own, but don’t forget to teach the classics, too.
Part of Gallagher’s curriculum is the “Article of the Week,” designed to build students’ schema and understanding of the world. Each Monday, he passes out an article and a brief assignment, which students complete before Friday. Gallagher came up with AoW after a lesson in which several of his students thought Al-Qaeda was a person.
I decided to try AoW this year with my ninth graders for three reasons:
- I wasn’t teaching enough non-fiction in English 9.
- It seemed like a great way to teach reading strategies.
- I wanted students to realize there’s a big world out there.
Instead of assigning the article for homework, which at my school would mean varying completion rates, I decided to incorporate AoW in my daily routine. It’s the first thing students do every day when they enter class.
On Monday, students get a new AoW. Here’s an example. On the front side is the article, sometimes abridged but never altered otherwise. On the back are four quick assignments that students complete in five minutes each. (Our class meets four times a week.) After the five minutes, we talk about our responses for no more than five more minutes. Then we make a transition to our next activity. Simple and quick.
Although the daily questions vary, I’m settling in on four basic strands:
- Block 1: Main Idea / Author’s Purpose / Audience
- Block 2: Reading Comprehension / Analysis
- Block 3: Vocabulary
- Block 4: Making Connections / Response
Because the articles change but the questions stay mostly the same, students have improved their non-fiction reading skills significantly. With weekly practice, they can determine the author’s purpose, for example, much better than they could a few months ago. I’ve also noticed that they attack vocabulary with more confidence. It’s been fun to teach rhetorical devices as they appear in real, high-interest articles.
Article of the Week has been great not only because it offers a highly structured beginning-of-class activity that focuses on building reading skills. In addition, it expands students’ minds and experiences. Article of the Week has built my students’ empathy.
I try to choose articles that are about my students and completely not about them. For example, one was about street kids in India, while another was about toy guns in Iraq. Variety counts, too: This Monday, the article could be focusing on Proposition 19, while next Monday, it could be focusing on anti-gay bullying.
I’ve made a lot of changes to my English 9 curriculum this year, and Article of the Week has probably been the most successful one. It’s easy, it interests students, it builds their reading skills, and it makes their world bigger.
If you’d like more examples of my AoWs, just let me know.