Several years ago, English teacher Kelly Gallagher noticed that his students didn’t know much about their world, so he began assigning the Article of the Week every Monday to build background knowledge.
A few years ago, I adopted Mr. Gallagher’s Article of the Week in my ninth grade English class. Instead of assigning the AoW for homework, as Mr. Gallagher does, I made it part of my daily do-now activity.
Instead of having students write a general one-page reflection, I chose to focus on more discrete reading skills, particularly of nonfiction texts, like identifying an author’s claim and figuring out vocabulary in context.
It was OK. My students appreciated many of the articles, but the exercise seemed disjointed. Even though Article of the Week was a daily routine in the class, I’m not sure it went anywhere. Sure, it bolstered students’ prior knowledge and nonfiction reading skills, but what was it really about?
I think part of the problem was that I approached Article of the Week as a teacher-centered activity. I chose the articles, and I wrote the questions. Students never became part of the process. To them, it was just another assignment that their teacher gave out.
Really, the point of Article of the Week is threefold:
1. To build students’ background knowledge,
2. To improve students’ reading skills of nonfiction texts,
3. To encourage students to be consistent and critical consumers of current events.
My previous version of AoW met my first goal and partly met my second goal but did nothing with the third. That’s why I’m thinking that when I teach again, I’d like to connect Article of the Week more closely with the notion of following current events.
I’m not sure yet what this means, but here are some of my ideas:
1. Make AoW more student-generated as the year goes on. The first quarter, I’d choose the articles. Then, we’d look at a newspaper together and choose an article for the entire class to read. Then maybe by second semester, groups or individual students could select their own.
2. Make AoW part of independent reading. Students should always be reading fiction, and fiction should be the center of independent reading. But that doesn’t mean students can’t read the newspaper, right? One idea I have is to begin each class with a newspaper or magazine and then finish each class with a book. That’s a ton of independent reading, I know, but if I find somewhere to teach with long blocks, maybe it’s possible.
In our complex world (and in the world of the Common Core State Standards), Article of the Week is crucial. Our students need to know about their world and be able to read about it. That’s why I think it’s important to think about ways to make AoW an even larger part of our curriculum.