Article of the Week with Middle Schoolers

Last year, after reading Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It, I was inspired to start using an Article of the Week with my 6th graders.  Like Gallagher, I see a distinctive lack of background knowledge with my students which makes it hard for them to read at times.  Gallagher uses his Article of the Week with high schoolers but I figured I could do the same with my 6th graders if I tweaked the assignment just a bit.

Each Friday I hand out a new article.  Most of the time they are related to current events, but they can also be editorials, opinions, information nonfiction, and even reviews.  I try to focus on topics they might not otherwise learn about, though for the past two weeks we have been reading in depth about the earthquake in Haiti.  Each week they are responsible for a close reading that shows evidence of reading the text- highlighting, writing in the margins, underlining, or otherwise marking up the article.  Then, they respond to a critical thinking/opinion question with at least one paragraph.  Next week, as we move into the 3rd marking period, I plan to up the ante a bit and require at least half a page for their answers.

Every Friday at the beginning of class a volunteer summarizes the article and a few volunteers share their answers.  Sometimes we get into debates, sometimes we learn from each other, and we always learn something new from the article.  These past two weeks the articles have focused on Haiti and my students really *got* it.  It was much better than a quick chat about the earthquake and now they are raising money through donations of their change and leftover lunch money.  I’m so proud of them!

The AOW has been the best decision I made this year.  I love that my students are broadening their horizons and expanding their schema.  I also love that it doesn’t require me to grade anything or add to my never-ending pile of papers.  I walk around and check for completion, glancing to make sure that the question was answered.  I don’t assess grammar or spelling- as I explain to the parents, this is an exercise in critical thinking.  We cover the grammar and spelling at other points during the workshop.

As far as assessment, each AOW is worth ten points.  I grade using a point system, so each marking period my students start with a perfect score on the AOW.  This marking period we had 8 weeks where I planned to use an AOW so each student received an 80/80.  If a student didn’t complete an AOW they lost 10 points.  An incomplete AOW loses 5 points.  As I tell my students, they have a perfect score and it’s their responsibility to keep it that way!  :)

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16 Responses

  1. I also teach middle school English and literacy. AOW sounds like a fabulous idea and I try to share current events as much as possible as well. Thank you for the Gallagher book recommendation. I need to check that one out.

  2. I like how you’ve set up Article of the Week. I really want to do it this year, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. I might have to ‘steal’ your idea :)

  3. After reading Kelly Gallagher’s book, I too felt that I wanted to implement AOW with my middle schoolers. I haven’t yet because I want to do it well and I have SO much on my plate. I think I’m going to try to incorporate it into my classes next year. What source are you using for your articles? I want to do this well and I want to have good articles.

  4. I’m going to share this with both the social studies and the language arts teachers in my school. You are so right about the lack of background knowledge. Often times, when I booktalk anything that isn’t contemporary fictions set in the U.S., I spend a ton of my time simply giving the students background information so that they’ll have some idea what I’m talking about. I also need to read the Gallagher book — my to-read list is absurdly long!

  5. [...] of the Week Sources Posted on January 26, 2010 by thereadingzone After my last post, a few people asked me where I get my articles for the weekly Article of the Week.  Honestly, I [...]

  6. Have you read Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller? If not I highly recommend it. It’s also reviewed on my site if you just search for book whisperer it should come up. I think you would enjoy the book. It’s all about getting kids to read in school using a different type of reading instruction and is written by a 6th grade teacher.

  7. I love your blog! Thanks for ideas and inspiration.
    I’m struggling to engage middle years boys in reading. Your blog helps.

  8. [...] -The Reading Zone’s post about using The Article of the Week in a middle school classroom [...]

  9. I have been doing this with my 8th graders and I love it! I set it up the same way you did. My EOG scores prove that this works because my Nonfiction Reading scores are way above the state average.

  10. I have been reading posts about the Article of the Week. This is something I would love to use in my classroom. I see some of the sources that you are using for the AOW, but what is the process of the lesson? What types of activities are done with the article? Thanks!

  11. This sounds like a great idea! What is the process during the lesson?

  12. I want to incorporate this into my classroom but I want some type of template to give them of their expectation. I have found a lot of them but I want something that is at a 7th grade level vs. 9th grade. Is there a template for this in place already?

  13. This last summer, I attended a dynamite 3 day workshop with Kelly Gallagher. As a reult, I’m another one who has begun using A o the Week with middle schoolers. I use it with my 8th grade LA class for students with dyslexia. Every week, we read an interesting article together. Discussion is a large part of this activity, often followed by a personal reflection about both the article and the discussion. I also use it with my 7th graders in an IEP-driven class called guidance. This has been less successful, but I am continuing it because we still have good discussions and some writing.

  14. What is(are) your resource(s) for Articles of the Week? Do you retype artciles(which I am certain takes much time)…when I look online, often articles are plastered with advertisements.

    • My students currently have a class subscription to the NYTimes, but I also use articles copied from the internet. I don’t retype them, but I do use copy/paste a lot!

  15. […] Article of the Week with Middle Schoolers | The Reading Zone – … How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It, I was inspired to start using an Article of the Week with my 6th graders. … Every week, we read an interesting article together. Discussion is a large part of this activity, … […]

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