Tagged: aow

 /  By  / comments Please comment!

Using Diigo to expand Article of the Week

favicon One of my favorite ways to improve students’ reading skills, to expand their background knowledge, and to teach current events is through Kelly Gallagher’s Article of the Week.

In Mr. Gallagher’s assignment, students get one article each Monday to read, annotate, and respond to.

But what happens if your students ask for more articles to read (or you want them to read more)?

One idea is to provide your students with newspapers and magazines in the classroom. This is wonderful but expensive. Another option is to introduce your students to Google Reader. This takes a significant investment in technology.

But if you keep a class website or blog, an easy way to increase your students’ access to high-quality articles is by adding a Diigo Enhanced Linkroll on your sidebar as a widget.

If you haven’t used Diigo before, you should check it out. It’s a wonderful social bookmarking and research tool that lets you save articles, annotate them, and share them with groups.

To the left is a screenshot of part of my current Diigo linkroll on iseroma.com, my class blog. I call it “Read This Now!”

You’ll see that there’s a link to an article and a short description, which I’ve written to spark student interest.

This makes sharing interesting articles easy. All I need to do is read like normal. (I read a lot online.) When I find an article that I think students would like, I add a little blurb and make sure to tag it correctly so that it appears automatically in my class blog.

Now if you don’t use Diigo, or you think it’s too complicated, you can always do something similar by adding an RSS feed into your class blog’s sidebar. Some people use Evernote, while others prefer Google Reader (or a read-it-later service, or even ifttt.com). But the problem with RSS feeds, especially on WordPress blogs, is that you can’t (as far as I know) add text to items. That’s why I prefer Diigo.

This is a new feature on iseroma.com, so I don’t know if students will like it or how exactly how I’ll use it. But I believe deeply that students need tons of high-quality text around them to read, and “Read This Now!” is just another idea to get good reading material to them.

If you’d like more details about how to use Diigo, let me know, or check out this how-to videofavicon

 /  By  / comments Please comment!

Some sample Articles of the Week

Kelly Gallagher’s Article of the Week is becoming more popular. I’m happy about that. After all, it was one of the most successful parts of my English 9 class last year.

Several people have asked me for more examples of my AoWs. So here are most of the ones I used last year. There are about 30 of them:


Feel free to use them, modify them, get ideas from them, discard them.

You’ll see that some are “once-onlys,” like the article on Osama bin Laden’s death. Others are local to San Francisco or California. But in general, many are still usable this year.

Let me know what you think!

Also, I’m interested in finding out how you use AoWs in your class. I use AoWs as warm-ups, while Mr. Gallagher uses his for homework. How do you use yours? 

 /  By  / comments Please comment!

Students like reading the news. Too bad it’s so expensive.

 I’m a big reader of the news and a big believer of teaching current events.

Despite what some adults say, students really like reading about what’s going on in the world.

Last year, I had my ninth graders read an Article of the Week. According to course evaluations, the AoW was the second most popular activity — after The 1,000,000 Word Challenge.

But the AoW was the only news my students read in class. Independent reading focused exclusively on fiction. In other words, my students didn’t have the opportunity to choose news for themselves. And that’s crucial.

As Kelly Gallagher argues, students need more exposure to the news so they can participate more actively in their communities. Though Gallagher and other teachers inundate their students with newspapers and magazines, I’ve not been able to find a workable solution.

The news in print is expensive. Time quoted me 59 cents a copy, which comes to about $600 for a class set per year. The New York Times Upfront is more affordable but comes out only once a month.

The best scenario would involve buying several newspapers and magazines so there would be a good variety. But this idea would be even more expensive.

With the tough economy, I haven’t been able to find a news organization willing to donate free copies of their product to my classroom. “We used to do that” was the reply from several representatives.

I suppose I shouldn’t be annoyed about raising funds to purchase periodicals. After all, much of my time last year involved building my classroom library through DonorsChoose. Something feels weird, though, about asking for big money for newspapers and magazines, which quickly get tossed in the recycling. I care about the news, but a book has a much longer shelf life. My dream is to find a news junkie willing to donate $1,000 a year so I won’t have to worry. (All teachers should have personal perpetual donors.)

Another option is to go electronic. Students could follow several news sources on their Google Reader or follow current events in some other techy way. Problem is, our school is far away from a 1:1 environment, which I find crucial for the kind of voluminous reading I’m suggesting. (My dream is that every student has a Kindle, and we use Calibre to fetch the news and send it, free, to their e-reader every morning.)

With school coming up soon, I’m a little lost about how to figure this out. Maybe this year my focus should be on access, to make sure my classroom has at least one copy of every major (serious) periodical. Classrooms should be places of ideas, and just as books should abound, so should the news. 

 /  By  / comments 6 comments. Add yours!

Article of the Week: a huge success

readicideKelly 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.

Thank you, Mr. Gallagher!