Step 4: Adding onto the Gallagher model (and possibly over-complicating it)
As Teaching the Core readers began noticing last year, I made several tweaks to the Gallagher article of the week format based on several things I was learning in my teacher-book reading and through problems I was seeing in student performance on the article of the week assignment.
If Kelly Gallagher were to actually have visited my blog during this time period, he probably would have thought, “Oh good — this yahoo from Michigan has turned a one-page-front-and-back assignment into a several page packet. Awesome. The word ‘bastardization’ has a new mascot, and it is Dave Stuart Jr.’s insane Frankenstein of an AoW.”
So let’s look at how a simple assignment became a packet.
I want to explain the thinking behind each of the pages I added, and I’ll go in the order that the pages appeared in a typical article of the week. (Here’s a link to the article of the week I use for screenshots in the sections below.)
I added a rubric.
Before last year, I think there were only two teachers in my building using article of the week: my work sister Erica Beaton and me. But at the start of last school year, this expanded a bit, as several additional teachers decided to augment their curriculum with the assignment.
This was a net win for kids in our building, but it did create one concern amongst teachers, parents, and students: grading wasn’t standardized enough. One teacher was giving a 2/10 for articles of the week that were completed but had poorly written responses, whereas I was, in my head, giving up to 5 points for the reading and 5 points for the writing for a total of a 10 point assignment.
And I was just thinking, Oh crap — everyone’s going to find out that I just kind of go into a fugue state when I grade these things!
So I made the rubric, which you can see blown up if you click the image below.
Here’s the first page of my revised article of the week’s from last school year.
Strengths of this change:
Clearly communicates to students, parents, and teachers how points are allotted.
I’m not a rubric-guru. I got into teaching because I want to help kids flourish long-term, and mastering the art of writing rubrics hasn’t yet risen to the top of my personal PD list. All that is to say that my Aow rubric is by no means high-quality or guru-certified. That’s why I’m pumped to start reading Rethinking Rubricsby Maja Wilson soon; E-Cash recommended it to me, and it sounds like a non-technical, thoughtful look at rubrics and whether they are actually awesome or not. For now, I just think it’s worth stating that throwing a rubric on the front of an assignment doesn’t automatically make it better or worse — that’s where my head’s at on that.
At least 4 of the 300,000 people who marched in NYC last week were there in direct protest of my paper-heavy AoW format, and that paper-heaviness began with this rubricky cover page.
I added Reading for Meaning statements.
Last fall, I read Perini, Silver, and Dewing’s The Core Six, and, in it, the author’s explain a strategy that I found pretty intriguing. While I explain Reading for Meaning comprehensively here, the gist of it is that mature readers seamlessly engage in before-, during-, and after-reading thinking with every text they read, and, to help our struggling readers habituate this phases of reader thinking, we can use Reading for Meaning (RFM) statements. (Click on the image below to see a larger version of the example RFM page.)
This is an example of a Reading for Meaning statements page.