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Scaffolds for Dominating the Article of the Week

By Dave Stuart Jr.

In my last post, I laid out the long, steamy romance that is my history with Kelly Gallagher’s article of the week assignment (disclaimer if you haven’t read it: it’s pretty much not romantic at all, or steamy — it’s just long).

In this post, I want to share some resources that come out of last post’s conclusion that, from now on, I’ll be posting Gallagher-style articles of the week and using many of the scaffolds I used last year on an as-needed basis. In other words, you might want to bookmark this post as it contains things I’ve used in my classroom and school to facilitate the ol’ AoW, and some of these may come in handy for you at some point in the future.

In particular, I’m hoping this post helps:

  • Those looking for scaffolds to use with Gallagher’s elegant, simple, and powerful article of the week format.
Here's an example of Gallagher's AoW format -- beautifully simple.

Here’s an example of Gallagher’s AoW format. Kids are expected to do three things with the text, and the purpose is to make them smarter about the world.

  • Those who liked the scaffolds I put in place last school year, including:
article of the week scaffold

Here’s what my typical article of the week contained last year: a rubric page, a reading for meaning page, the article itself, and a writing page.

But first! Guiding principles for implementing article of the week

Before I give you the pieces of Frankenstein that will enable you to put together mongo-sized article of the week packets each week, keep a few things in mind.

#1: Focus on your purpose: Why are you teaching and assigning the article of the week?

In a comment on last week’s post, Kelly Gallagher himself (*salutes in deference to The Gallagher*) articulated the following:

I have one simple goal for the AoW assignment—that my kids get smarter about the world. Because of time limitations—and because of all the other things I have to teach—I have not created rubrics or taken the AoW deeper.

Just as focusing on our ultimate goals as educators is critical to maximizing the impact of our careers, focusing on our goal(s) for the article of the week is critical if it’s to do the most good it can for our students.

#2: Avoid what Jerry Graff calls “courseocentrism”

At the end of the day, my job as a freshman world history and English teacher is to provide students with a quality course of study in what my district lays out as the English 9 and the world history curricula. I need to work with my colleagues in those courses to avoid what Jerry Graff calls “courseocentrism.”

What’s that, you ask?

Courseocentrism is

a kind of tunnel vision in which our little part of the world becomes the whole. We get so used to the restricted confines of our own courses that we became oblivious to the fact — or simply uninterested in it — that students are enrolled in other courses whose teachers at any moment may be undercutting our most cherished beliefs. As my retired colleague Larry Poston recently observed, there is something remarkable about the “almost entire lack of interest we manifest as a profession in what is going on in our colleagues’ classes.” –see Graff’s “It’s Time to End ‘Courseocentrism'”

Even though Graff is writing about postsecondary settings, I have seen this phenomenon clearly enough in every setting and grade level I’ve taught. Marzano’s research says this is bad — having a quality, guaranteed, viable curriculum is a powerful school-related factor in raising student achievement. But it’s not just about Marzano’s research — it’s also about making school more sensible for kids.

But Dave, my rant-prone friend, aren’t we talking about article of the week?

Yes, dear reader, we are. I’m simply saying this: resist the temptation to allow article of the week to take over huge swaths of your courses; resist the temptation to let students do the whole thing in class, every single week, if your curriculum doesn’t call for it.

It is worth time, even if it’s not covered in your curriculum — I’m just saying it’s not worth unlimited time.

If you’d like a percentage of instructional time to aim for, my goal is to spend ~15 minutes on Mondays and ~15 minutes on Fridays for article of the week, and that’s 10 percent of my weekly instructional time with world history students. 10 percent is significant but not curriculum-dominating.

I think Mr. Gallagher would agree with me that the last thing AoW should become is a curriculum nuking time-filler. My world history kids do need to learn and grapple with world history content. It’s my privilege and pleasure to wrestle with how to help them do that in the most productive, authentic, long-term-flourishing-promoting ways possible. My English 9 kids do need to read the texts Cedar Springs Public Schools have mandated for English 9.

I am not God in my classroom; it’s my job to take the curriculum and make it awesome with my kids, advocating as necessary when it’s just not improvable.

With that said, let’s move into some scaffolds I’ve put together for your use and modification. All of the scaffolds below are Google Docs; for a video of how to download or modify one of my Google Docs, watch the video below.

Rubrics for article of the week

These rubrics are most attributable to Doug Stark, a colleague, mentor, and friend of mine. I’ve modified them a bit for article of the week, so basically, if anything’s bad, don’t blame him.

For an article of the week rubric that includes reading for meaning language, click here.

For a more generic article of the week rubric that doesn’t include reading for meaning language, click here.

How I grade the article of the week

Since I’m just going to be printing the rubric once, I’ll print the one with reading for meaning statements and explain to kids that sometimes RFM statements will be a part of the assignment and sometimes they won’t be.

Then, on their actual assignment, they’ll see something like this for their grade:

The t-chart with an R and a W on the top is what I’m talking about.

This simply refers back to the rubric — they get a total possible of 5 points for the reading and 5 for the writing.

Reading for Meaning statement scaffolds

To read a more in-depth explanation of the Reading for Meaning strategy (which I gleaned from Perini, Silver, and Dewing’s The Core Six), click here for my take.

Here's what the Reading for Meaning page looked like on a recent article of the week.

Here’s what the Reading for Meaning page looked like on a recent article of the week.

For a blank Reading for Meaning page that you could copy, download, and/or modify for an article of the week, click here. 

When and why are Reading for Meaning statements appropriate?

(This section is dedicated to Lynsay from last week’s comments.)

I think the best way to figure out when and why you’d want to use RFM statements is through reading Perini, Silver, and Dewing’s short yet comprehensive chapter from The Core Six, which, awesomely enough, is available free of charge here.

Article of the week writing scaffolds

Finally, there are those writing scaffolds I borrowed from various sources, most notably Graff/Birkenstein’s They Say, I Say and Doug Stark (for the self-editing checklist).

You’ll find all of those writing scaffolds that I use with students on this document — feel free to download this and delete the scaffolds you don’t need.

I’d like to also recommend Erica Beaton’s post on demystifying academic writing — click here.

And that, my friends, is how the cookie crumbles

Want to share more article of the week scaffolds? It’s easy to do — just put them in a Google Doc, create a shareable link for the Doc, and share the link with us in the comments below!

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69 Responses to Scaffolds for Dominating the Article of the Week

  1. Carianna October 4, 2014 at 10:18 am #

    I started AoW this year with my 7th and 8th graders. I was all fired up about They Say/I Say and spent time teaching it, and then realized that I was going to have to use newsela.com for my articles due to the availability of lexiling the text. I have kids that need it to go as low as it can. I love that they’re getting the big jist at a more attainable reading level. BUT – TS/IS didn’t work because rarely are the articles on newsela opinion pieces. So I scrapped TS/IS and went with 5 different writing response options that they can choose from each week. One of the choices is “free response.” Last week one of my 7th graders responded to an article about what it would mean for Afghanistani women if the Taliban came back to power by writing diary entries from he perspective of a young girl in Afghanistan who was about to be married off to an older man. She introduced her character, and even included the fact that she had deliberately misspelled words because her character had not had much schooling. I was BLOWN away.

    • davestuartjr October 5, 2014 at 1:21 am #

      Carianna, that’s powerful — thank you for sharing that story as I’m sure it will benefit many folks in the Teaching the Core community. I like the 5 response options idea, too.

    • Melissa November 19, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

      What are the five different writing choices? I’d like to provide my students with some structured writing suggestions.

      • juliew May 16, 2015 at 10:11 pm #

        I would love to hear what the 5 responses are also!

    • Bridget September 20, 2015 at 8:09 am #

      Carianna,
      Thank you! Your problem and genius solution will help me figure out what to do about those newsela articles. I was also struggling to make Newsela into something that it is not. While it’s hard to pull opinions out of their articles, my 8th graders will still learn how to read informational text and respond to it. We already use Dave’s “Take a Stand” to discuss “debatable claims” before we read, so they get a lot of practice speaking and responding in an argumentative way.

      Bridget

  2. Kristy L October 4, 2014 at 10:20 am #

    Wow! Another awesome post! I just started AoW this year and it’s going well so far; however, I’m exicted to add to and improve the experience using your great ideas. And it’s even more perfect that you mentioned Core Six because I’m on the Literacy Team at my school and we’re using that book as our basis to share lit strategies. Perfection! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • davestuartjr October 5, 2014 at 1:30 am #

      Thank you, Kristy — I’m glad it helped and that it achieved perfection 🙂 Core Six’s authors did a great job on it — simple, powerful strategies explained with concision. Take care Kristy!

  3. Beth October 4, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

    There is such an ease to reading your writing and I’m learning SO much! You really have lightened the tone and made everything approachable and interesting. Thanks for making my life much easier!

    • davestuartjr October 5, 2014 at 1:30 am #

      Beth, comments like yours keep me going — thank you for sharing that, and be in touch if I can ever help out further! 🙂

  4. linda October 5, 2014 at 2:07 am #

    Dave, I am rewriting curriculum for an independent study program and you are helping me a lot!. Trying to put all of your AOW 4steps into one lesson, while teaching the skills you discuss, annotation, Reading for meaning, etc. But it might be too much to also do the reflection – that might be continued in a second lesson? I was going to try to extend the lesson on purposeful annotation. Have you ever found a good Youtube shortvideo that shows stra
    tegic annotation techniques. I’ve been looking , but most don’t seem to cover what you teach. How much do you think is too much for an entire week’s lesson? I am trying to cover the skills you discuss in steps 1-4, but don’t want to overkill. Do you have more extensive explanation for the reflection, what specific requirements you have? Want to do it right!

    • davestuartjr October 6, 2014 at 8:00 am #

      Linda, that’s so good to hear. Sometimes when I’m drafting these posts I have no idea if they’ll be very helpful. So thank you for your kind words.

      I’d like to make a good Youtube video on purposeful annotation, because I, with you, don’t know of one that really gets at the heart of what I’m talking about when I say that.

      When I’m starting out with AoW, I just tell the kids I want to see a page or more of written response. I then read their responses over and start to build on what I see, increasing requirements as we progress through the year.

      The key is not exploding the kids’ heads at the outset of AoW. 🙂

  5. Julie Parga October 6, 2014 at 2:46 am #

    Thank you, thank you. Why don’t our administrations help us like this?

  6. davestuartjr October 6, 2014 at 8:02 am #

    Julie, you are welcome! It’s unfortunate that administrators today tend to have insane constraints placed on their time — that could be one reason. But fear not — we’ve got the Teaching the Core community 🙂

  7. Mimi Arroyo-Magana October 6, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

    I have to share, I’ve used your Reading for Meaning scaffold for the second article this school year and am so proud of how well my students are doing! I teach English learners (mostly long-term English learners), and they are doing fantastic when I pair this up with text annotation. Thanks so much for all you share. I always look forward to your blog posts! Congratulations on the new book!

    • davestuartjr October 10, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

      Mimi, I’m glad you had to share — thank you for doing that 🙂 You are awesome — stay tuned for the latest post tomorrow morning!

  8. Shawn Bally November 2, 2014 at 8:34 am #

    I am on Year 3 of using Article of the Week in my 8th grade classroom. Basically, each Monday I give them the article and model close-reading strategies on the Smart Board. I typically require at least one annotation (comment, question, reaction, connection, definition using context clues) per paragraph/section. They then write a one page response due Friday at which we will either have a pop-up debate or basic discussion. Most of my articles either come from our monthly subscription of Scholastic Scope (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR OTHER MIDDLE SCHOOLS – I think it’s $8 per kid for the year) or Newsela. At the bottom of each article, I give response ideas and a rubric with 3 possible scores: 10, 8, 5. This makes weekly grading a tad bit easier for me as I can quickly scan their piece and give a score. On the rubric, I basically require 3 things:
    – 1 page in length
    – 3 C’s Format in every paragraph (Claim, Cite, Clarify – aligned to Common Core, practices in-text citations, but still gives freedom as to what they want to prove)
    – 1 writing skill that we are working on that week (transition words, comma usage, etc).
    Some kids like it. Some kids hate. I love it.
    My biggest challenge is keeping up with grading them each week, but I really locked on to Schmoker’s comment in FOCUS that as an English teacher, I can NOT let my inability to keep up with grading influence how much kids write. I also believe forcing them to write often will improve their writing far more than any mini-lesson that I can provide. Here is an example of one of my AoW with a little annotating that I did on the board:
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5p9ehvZa-7LSlVjYTY5U2pRZ2c/view?usp=sharing

    • davestuartjr November 4, 2014 at 10:06 am #

      Shawn, this is pretty phenomenal. I especially love your simplified grading method. Keep sharing your work — I’m highly impressed!

    • Tymesha December 6, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

      Shawn,
      I love your example! I use NewsELA also. Do you write specific questions for each article? I love your grading method!

    • juliew May 16, 2015 at 10:18 pm #

      That is very cool. I am looking into how I can incorporate this into my 8th, but also possibly 6th and 7th Writing class too. Thanks you!

  9. Jen L November 11, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    I just started using the AoW and have an issue. What if the writing shows that the student did not understand the reading at all? Do you grade the writing for what it is or ‘take off points’ for a clear lack of understanding? I should clarify, the first time we did this (and issue I am talking about relate to reading the Iron Curtain speech by Winston Churchill and Stalin’s reply) I want to grade this as an example of how the rest of the AoW are going to be graded, but am not sure what to do now. Any advice?

    • davestuartjr November 11, 2014 at 10:16 am #

      Hi Jen,
      In this case, I would give them credit for doing the work, perhaps taking off a point or two for the lack of understanding shown. The most important thing, though, is to determine how many kids didn’t “get it,” and then to try to figure out why not. If this was my class, I’d be asking things like:

      –Was the text simply too complex?
      –Did I underteach the text when introducing it on Monday?
      –How do I teach students to grapple with confusion rather than ignoring it?

      I have no easy answers to these questions; take them for what they are worth. And thanks for asking!

  10. Karrie November 15, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

    Just curious-what are the five writing options that you give your students? I’ve been using Newsela for my articles of the week in my special education reading class and would love some more ideas. Thanks!

    • Carianna November 15, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

      Karrie, I’d be happy to email you a copy on Monday if you want. Or – I can copy it in here as well. Need to wait til Monday though as I don’t have it on my home laptop.

      • Tymesha December 6, 2014 at 7:08 pm #

        Carianna,
        Would you please email a copy to me also? My email address is tymeshaw@gmail.com. Thanks!

      • Mica January 22, 2016 at 2:43 pm #

        Would you please email this to me as well? Great ideas! martinm@joshuaisd.org

  11. Karrie November 15, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

    Sorry- my previous question was in response to Carianna’s comment for 10/4.

  12. Tymesha December 6, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

    I’m going to start using AoW in my Intensive Reading classes. Thank you so much for all the resources!

  13. Kelsey January 9, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

    Would you please share the 5 response options that you give to your students?

  14. Beth February 4, 2015 at 10:08 am #

    I would love to also have a copy of the five responses! And anything else under the sun that works! This is, by far, my favorite place to go to for online collaboration. Thanks, all!

    • Carianna February 4, 2015 at 11:08 am #

      Beth, it’s a word doc, so if I can get your email I’ll send it to you. I don’t know an efficient way to post it here.

      • juliew May 16, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

        Is it possible to get a copy from you still? I know, end of the school year… Thank you, juliemikew@comcast.net

        • Carianna May 17, 2015 at 12:15 am #

          Will do first thing Monday morning! (no copy here at the house – need to fix that probably) 🙂

      • Lynn Messman August 23, 2016 at 5:32 pm #

        Carianna, I would love to receive a copy of the five responses. Please send them to lmessman@whittiertech.org. Thanks so much and have a great school year!

  15. Beth March 14, 2015 at 10:27 pm #

    I would love to have a copy of the five responses, also. Please send them to bennettb@unionpsd.org

    • Carianna March 14, 2015 at 10:32 pm #

      Will do Monday, first thing! 🙂

      • Holly July 22, 2015 at 9:59 pm #

        May I also request the five responses? hhodgson at yahoo –Thank you!

        • Carianna July 23, 2015 at 12:01 am #

          I need an email and a bit of time. You’d think by now I would’ve sent them to my home address to save, but no. It’s only on my school computer and I don’t have immediate access. But I can send them as soon as I get back!

          • Anne Williams August 9, 2015 at 9:37 pm #

            I was reading these posts, and I would love to have the questions as well.

          • dhillonkam October 17, 2016 at 10:06 pm #

            I m new to this and I was also reading the post is it too late to ask for the 5 response question.
            If Posiible email address is kjeet.dhillon@gmail.com

  16. Becca April 23, 2015 at 11:10 am #

    Dave and all, just finished a huge blog post about a beefed-up AoW assignment that I’m working on as part of my sabbatical work this year. Dave, I leaned heavily on your work———thanks for the thoroughness and thoughtfulness in your work. You can check out my AoW post and others on my blog: Gergelylearns.blogspot.com

  17. Anitre July 24, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

    I would like a copy do the five responses too? I am a developmental reading and reading and writing strategies professor and I would like to incorporate these into my classes. Does anyone have any suggestions? TIA

  18. Rebecca July 28, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

    I too would like to have a copy of Carianna’s five responses, if she’s willing to share. becka.hicks@ivschools.org

  19. Becky August 11, 2015 at 12:50 am #

    Hi I’m sorry to bother you but I’d like a copy of the five response questions too! 🙂 whenever you can, rkwinn@gmail.com

  20. New teacher August 11, 2015 at 12:59 am #

    Hi Dave, Thank you for this post!! I’ve been wanting to do an aow type assignment as a first year teacher and your scaffolds and the ones I have found in the comments are just the tools I need. I’d like to use sixty minute episodes, giving students the option to watch or listen to an article, while also having the transcript in hand. It would be for a 9th grade contemporary global issues class. Is that making it too complicated?

  21. Carianna August 11, 2015 at 10:12 am #

    For all of you that are still asking for my 5 response options – I haven’t forgotten. I’ve finally landed a continuing contract (after 9 years of leave replacements – don’t ask) and I’m switching schools again. I will go through and email to all who left an email address later this week when I’m moved into my classroom. If you asked and didn’t include an email, I need one. If someone knows a better way for me to share this, feel free to chime in.

    • Cindy September 7, 2015 at 9:40 pm #

      Could you add me to your list? I would love a copy as well. cynthia.reardon@lcps.org

      • Carianna September 7, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

        Yes – I will get it done this week! I will also see if I can get it onto a public google doc somehow. Google docs and I aren’t good friends, though.

    • Carianna September 17, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

      Okay, I think I figured it out. Let me know if this link works. Sorry it took so long, the district’s server deleted all the work I saved last year (!!!) and I had to wait for tech to get it from the back-up. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1d8-2BgBePLt32G1BVFnw4f_9G7LzLaZsygxZQasY5LQ/edit?usp=sharing

      • Jennifer September 1, 2016 at 6:38 pm #

        Carianna, I know it has been a while since you posted this. However, I’m wondering if you can send me a copy? The link you posted is not working. jrinkes@ccusd93.org

  22. J August 15, 2015 at 12:59 am #

    Can you copy and paste it here?

  23. Amy August 16, 2015 at 10:27 am #

    I would love a copy of the 5 responses also. amyboecker@gmail.com Thanks!

  24. Amanda August 16, 2015 at 6:08 pm #

    Carianna, I would really appreciate a copy of the 5 responses as well, please. acook85@gmail.com or ajcook@msddecatur.k12.in.us

  25. Sally Allen August 20, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

    I would appreciate a copy of the five responses as well. sallen@cedarcreekschool.org Thanks!

  26. talia davis August 25, 2015 at 8:21 am #

    I would like a copy of the 5 responses also. tdavis3@wcpss.net

  27. Monica Thomas September 17, 2015 at 3:07 am #

    Carianna, I would greatly appreciate a copy of the 5 responses as well. My e-mail address is mothomas@richlandone.org

    Thanks and have a greatly blessed day!

  28. Carianna September 17, 2015 at 10:37 pm #

    I put it in a public google doc and posted it up thread a bit. Hope this helps!

  29. Scherbie October 29, 2015 at 4:59 pm #

    Love all of the suggestions and comments here! I’m using AotW every week with my freshmen, and it’s going really well. However, I’m starting to drown under the grading, especially during weeks where they’re handing in essays or narratives. Any advice on how to score these quickly? Or, has anyone found that students still put effort into them if you simply spot-check them while they have group discussions? My kids have been doing so well with them, but I think that’s partly because they know I read, score, and respond to them each week.

    • davestuartjr October 30, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

      Hi Scherbie! I’d recommend doing a close grade every 4 weeks or so — make it random. Otherwise, spot check and/or collect and scan. I typically give 0-5 points for thoughtful annotations and 0-5 points for the writing.

  30. BIll October 8, 2016 at 10:39 pm #

    Hi Dave,

    I happened onto this looking for an already-built rubric, or set of them, for annotation and response that is already set for discreet skills by grade level for standards based grading.

    I think my trouble comes in 1) seeing the forest for the trees (breaking every skill down into a 1-4 rubric to report in my SBG grade book is nuts) and 2) confusing assignment and assessment- I want every assignment to come with a rubric that shows a student how to “move up.”

    In any case, has your district begun implementing standards based grading? If so, how do you “report” students completion of and progress on the skills in AOW and its related skills/tasks?

    If the thread’s dead, well– it only cost a few minutes. :/

    Cheers

    • davestuartjr October 9, 2016 at 6:00 pm #

      Hi Bill! Not a dead thread, but I’m a dead end on this inquiry because we *haven’t* gone to SBG and don’t seem to be headed that way any time soon. I do think SBG makes sense in a lot of cases, but based on what it sounds like you have to do for AoW, that makes me happy. Because of the purpose of AoW (increasing reading and writing volume and building background knowledge), I grade it very, very quickly, following the leading of the assignment’s creator, Kelly Gallagher. Read this post for details: http://www.davestuartjr.com/grading-articles-of-the-week/

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