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The First Article of the Week of the School Year: Key Teaching Points

By Dave Stuart Jr.

This past Monday I found myself once again starting kids on the journey that is Kelly Gallagher’s article of the week assignment. I wish I had taken a video of myself teaching (primarily to illustrate that the start, at least in my classroom, is far from the stuff of movies). But since I didn’t, I thought it was worth sharing with you what teaching points I found myself emphasizing as I introduced my ninth grades to articles of the week.

Post Image- First AoWSmarter about the world

“This year in world history, it’s important that we study not just our world in the past, but our world in the present as well. You and I are the kinds of people who push ourselves to grow in our knowledge of the world around us; after all, if we’re going to live in this thing, we may as well be students of it.

“Toward that end, we’ll read an article every single week — you’ll get it on Mondays or Tuesdays, and it will be due on Fridays.”

“We do hard things”

“The article of the week is also one more way that we will work hard this year toward a brighter future for ourselves. With every article, we gain knowledge, we gain reading experience, and we gain writing practice. The only cost for these gains is hard work — and that is fine, because working hard is something we accustom ourselves to doing.”

Annotating purposefully

“There are two things I look for when grading articles of the week: 1-2 purposeful, thoughtful annotations per page (that’s worth 5 points), and a 250+ word response to the article (that’s worth 5 points, too). Today I’m going to read aloud a few paragraphs and show you what I mean by purposeful annotation. Next week we’ll look at some writing exemplars to help you up your pen game.”

[Read aloud several paragraphs; model purposeful annotation, which you can read about here.]

“But Mr. Stuart! 250 words is a lot!”

“I agree — 250 words is a lot. However, by the end of the school year, it won’t be. This week, use the possible response options at the end of the article to help you, and remember: those annotations you’ll make are worthwhile writing starters, too.”

Getting it done

“Finally, let me just say this: even though completed AoWs are due on Fridays, that doesn’t mean you can’t take it home tonight, get it done, and turn it in tomorrow. Students with the most consistent completion rates are often those who don’t wait until the last minute.”

Closing Thoughts

And those are really the main things I said and taught this past Monday with our first AoW. I’m not putting them forth as any kind of exemplar; at the same time, I am confident that less is more, especially with assignments that last all year long like the article of the week. We want our students to master a bit at a time, slowly adding layers of mastery as they solidify basic skills. That’s why, in the list above, you don’t see me giving much instruction on the writing part of the assignment; instead, the key skills I want them to develop this week are purposeful annotation and simply getting it done.

Questions? Comments? Share below; thanks so much for reading!

Thank you to Kelly Gallagher for his article of the week idea; it has impacted so many of my kids over the past few years, and I know that is the story for countless classrooms around the USA and, likely, the world. I first learned of Kelly’s article of the week through his book Readicide; his most recent book, In the Best Interest of Students, also touches upon AoW. Kelly and his colleagues continue to share their weekly articles here, and you can find a list of my articles of the week here.

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8 Responses to The First Article of the Week of the School Year: Key Teaching Points

  1. Jacquelyn Karney September 19, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

    Just started this with my seventh-graders. However, I really modeled each part of the assignment. I also had them practice the written part of the assignment and share with me on a Google Doc. Then, as a class, we used a rubric to discuss and “grade” each one. I think with younger students it is very important to SHOW them what you are looking for. My students actually did a great job, and I am SO excited about this assignment. I love reading your blog and love Gallagher’s books. Thank you! I am trying so many new things this year and document many of them on my blog!

    • Susan Maurice September 19, 2015 at 2:12 pm #

      I am going to start this in my seventh grade science class on Monday. I am wondering how the initial response was by students and parents.

      • davestuartjr September 20, 2015 at 8:08 am #

        It was fine, Susan — grades will go in today, so we will see how that goes. Article of the week is something I describe prominently in my syllabus as well.

    • Fatuma Hydara September 19, 2015 at 2:39 pm #

      Hi,

      I took a quick look at your blog and notices you started with the index card idea as well! Wasn’t it incredibly inspiring what students write in response to fairly simple questions?!

      (Also, reminded that I have a blog that I should update A LOT more frequently!)

    • msdayvt September 20, 2015 at 8:32 am #

      Okay I’m new to being a regular social studies teacher but have been middle school teacher a long time (mostly math, but also ELA and science). Initially was in primary grades so very keen to the literacy development deal.
      I’m teaching Math and SS to 4 grade levels and swamped. New position, new school.
      Does anyone know of a good source of articles so that I won’t spend my weekend picking out article from the universe?
      Dave, you are so freakin awesome. 😋

      • Holly September 21, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

        @msdayvt When I did AoW last year, we used NewsELA. It’s free and great for regular news articles, but doesn’t have much in the way of editorials, which I think are what most teachers are going for when they do AoW.

  2. Fatuma Hydara September 19, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

    I took a similar approach of less is more with my 10th graders. Hiwever, I provided a bit more modeling and scaffolding.

    For our first day of class (last Tuesday), I introduced AOW’s: what they ate, why we are doing them, benefits, schedule etc. (They were especially concerned/surprised by the fact there is a 4 grade level gap between 12th grade and 11st year of college reading.) I modeled my thoughtful annotating as well.

    However, the next day I had them look at the possible options and breakdown each prompt and Think-Pair-Share, what needs to be done to earn full 5 points. In the end, I led them to a simplistic structure for the written response. Each one must include:
    A. An objective summary of the writer’s atgument, claim etc.
    B. Your response to the argument as a critical reader and thinker: agreement, disagreement, questioning, mixture of the three.

    Then they had until Friday to finish. I’ll be grading the first set this weekend, so they can have feedback for AOW 2, assigned Wednesday, due Friday! (I’ve already had a few students who tried to turn it in, but decided to wait until I returned with feedback. So, they’re taking the advice of getting it done seriously. Yay!)

    I’m so excited by how how much my students will potentially grow their knowledge this year and I wouldn’t have felt as confident implementing it if not for your willingness to share your trials, errors, and successes! 😀

    Enjoy your weekend!
    -Fatuma

  3. Bridget September 20, 2015 at 7:47 am #

    Dave,
    Do you account for differences in students’ reading levels? I have quite the range in my 8th grade classes. Newsela is a helpful site, but sometimes the articles don’t allow for much debate about a topic.

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