After reading Kelly Gallagher's Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It, I was struck by his Article of the Week (AoW) assignment. It reminded me of the Current Events articles assigned by my history teachers in high school, which helped spark my interest about the world beyond "my world".
In Readicide, Gallagher discusses his "students lack of background knowledge of the world." He uses the Article of the Week assignment to build their background knowledge, improve their reading skills, and help students tackle the challenging texts they often face on standardized tests.
The idea to use current articles to teach students how to do a Close Reading was something I'd overlooked. With the Nebraska standards heavy emphasis on nonfiction text, I realized this was one area of my practice I needed to improve in.
Equally important factors in my decision:
- In previous years, I didn't expose my students to nonfiction as often as I would have liked to.
- My students have limited experiences in reading nonfiction.
- My students struggle when reading texts written above their reading level.
- My students don't have the skills required to read such challenging texts.
Read. Question. Comment.
As Gallagher notes, the idea behind the Article of the Week (AoW) is to give students an article on Monday and have them read it by Friday. They must show proof that they've done a Close Reading of this text and answered the 2 focus questions at the end of the article.
When I first introduced my students to the AoW, we read the article together as a class. Then, I modeled how to do a Close Reading for them in a Think-Aloud by:
- highlighting my confusion
- writing questions about the text
- writing comments about the text
Naturally, this required me to go back and re-read the article a few times. As I did, I highlighted words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs that confused me. In the margins of the article, I asked What, Why, and How questions so that my students would see how questioning the text allows me to have a deeper understanding of that text. My comments focused on:
- parts where I agreed/disagreed with something the author said.
- places where I had strong feelings about certain parts of the article.
- parts of the articles where I made connections (text-to-self, text-to-world, text-to-text).
After modeling these steps for my students, I asked them to do the same with their copy of the article. These questions and comments show me students are reading their articles more closely, which is evidenced by the increased amount (and depth) of the questions and comments written on their articles.
In reading student reflections, I've noticed that students are beginning to add in details from the article as support for their ideas. This is not something I've modeled for them or requested from them, it is the natural consequence that results from becoming a skilled reader.
I take articles from Gallager's site and also a myriad of other news sources (to try to avoid the bias that might happen if only using one news outlet).I encourage you to check out the articles I assign each week to see what your child is reading and to engage in a good, hearty discussion with them on the topic!
*note: The files at the beginning of this article are the examples I have given to your child. I urge you to ask to see those so you can have a hard copy in front of you to see exactly what kind of interaction with the text is expected and understood by the students. The rubric I use each week to grade them is just below. The rubric is the same for Junior High Reading and Practical English because the goals of the AoW are the same. AOW Rubric PR ENG Sheet1.pdf