This Just In

Tuesday, January 7, 2014
your curly comrade, Suzanne

Engaging, relevant reading.
Broadening students' horizons.
Practice in reading difficult texts.
Repetition in planning a logical essay.
No class time used.

Isn't your mouth watering at the idea?  These are all benefits of the Article of the Week assignment that has become a part of my classroom this year.  

The Article of the Week (hereby referred to as AoW) is a resource provided by Kelly Gallagher.  Each week he posts a brief, current article here that pertains to what's going on in the world around us.  Kelly writes, "Part of the reason my students have such a hard time reading is because they bring little prior knowledge and background to the written page...  To help build my students’ prior knowledge, I assign them an 'Article of the Week' every Monday morning."  I love it!  Besides, the articles are fascinating and heartfelt.  I knew nothing about the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, the Suni-Shiite conflict, or the effects of the new SAT test format until these weekly articles.  The pairing of a current article and one written 50 years ago about the blast that rocked a Birmingham church and took the lives of four innocent girls brought tears to my eyes.  

The AoW is one of the best things going on in my class this year.  In fact, it was featured in my classroom countdown.  

For us, it works best for students to turn in and get a new AoW at the end of the week (Thursday/Friday).  During the week, students are asked to read the article and map their thinking using Think Marks.  The symbols encourage active reading and monitoring of their comprehension.  They are adapted from the Think Marks presented by Harvey "Smokey" Daniels.  At the end of each article, Kelly has provides several questions for students to respond to.  I usually tweak the verbage to make it more STAAR-like, but the ideas are always great.  The instructions ask for a one-page written response, but my kids work better with a little more structure, so I whipped up this AoW activity page
Students start by writing a 25 (exactly 25) word Gist statement that tells what's most important in the article.  Then students kernel an expository essay in response to the question posed.  This is also why I format it a little more closely to the structure of our test.  To top is off, students read their Gist and four sentence essay to a parent and get their signature.  This requirement is two-fold: (1) parents are involved in the process and can extend student thinking through discussion and (2) it serves as proof-reading before it reaches me.  We spend a class period completely going through the AoW together, and from them on, they are to be completed outside of class.


It hasn't been all puppies, rainbows and cotton candy like I expected.  (My mental image of something is usually pretty idealistic...obviously.)  

Apparently some students (some of MY students, of all people!) don't do homework.  Isn't that a cute choice?!  "Yeah, I think not." "Thanks but no thanks." Seriously???!  So...I spent the semester weighting and re-weighting grades so that their zeros would hurt but not kill their averages.  Anyone feel my pain?  

There is a sweet lady that retired from our district that would ask, "Is that a hill your willing to die on?"  It's a question I ask myself to put things into perspective, and most of the time, my answer is no- it's not worth the struggle.  But I'm digging in my heels on this one!  I am not about to give up all those advantages listed above, so we continue on.  

Here's to semester two!


  1. I would love to get more detail on the question that you pose in order to generate the kernel essay. I have used AoW off and on for the past few years, but this year has been most successful. I use articles from newsela, and then create the AoW with a close reading guide at the top. Students, have a week to work the article, and then they log in and take the quiz on newsela. Scores are going up now that I print the article and have them chart the text with what the author is saying and doing. So, do you have some examples of how you pull in the writing prompt? We are working on forming good thesis statements in preparation for 7th STAAR, but I have really low kids and need something they can grasp. Love your blog!

    1. Teresa,
      Thanks so much for reading! I love the idea of a digital quiz.
      For the writing prompt, I will either adapt one the Gallagher has provided or write my own. This week, my students are reading the "The Limits of Lovocarism" article:
      Their writing prompt is: Explain whether locally grown food is worth the added cost (9th grade-expository). I used the same prompt but started with "State your position whether..." for 10th grade persuasive.

  2. How does the Article of the Week work? Do you need to subscribe to the Article of the Week and then you can receive it via email or if you go to the link each week will you see a new article posted?

    1. Hi Jenny!

      I check in on Kelly Gallagher's page every week or so for a new article. You can find it here:

      There is also a group that does middle school AoWs:

      I usually choose whichever article I like best and then adapt the reading question and writing prompt on the activity page to fit.