There and Back Again: My Journey with Gallagher’s Article of the Week Assignment



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Strengths:

  • The statements allow me to check specific comprehension points.

  • They can serve as a hook into the reading.

  • They lend themselves to Friday discussions/debates.

  • They reinforce the idea that we need textual evidence to prove or disprove text-based statements.

Weaknesses:

  • They add another page to the AoW, resulting in increased tree death and adding to the increasingly unwieldy feel of the assignment.

  • They add another task for kids if you’re still using Gallagher’s three tasks.

I added several scaffolds for the written portion, including a self-editing checklist and a Graff/Birkenstein They Say, I Say two-paragraph template.

And then we get to the written portion. I was seeing several consistent problems in my AoWs, and so I sought to add elements into the assignment to help students dominate those problems.

First, I was seeing work that reflected no care for detail. We’re talking about the lower-cased “i,” the uncapitalized proper nouns, the missing periods. I don’t expect grammatical flawlessness (nor do I produce it as a professional writer *scratches back of neck*), but I do expect a best effort at conventional writing, and I think a certain standard is helpful for even my most struggling writers. Thus was born the self-editing checklist (see image below).

But then I was also noticing kids spouting off their opinions in response to the articles without any connection to the articles themselves. Students would say that we should close our borders and keep everyone out without any acknowledgment of the complexities of the issue discussed by the article’s author.

This led me to pursue an argumentative bent to the article of the week, initially with the requirement that students use a two-paragraph They Say / I Say template a la Graff and Birkenstein, thus ensuring that kids would take the time to grapple with what an author actually says before joining the conversation.

All of this culminated with an additional page on the assignment and much, much more structure.



Here’s an example of the final page of my article of the week format — it has specific elements I want to see in each written response, a self-editing checklist, and a sample They Say, I Say two-paragraph template.



Strengths:

  • Students had a list to which they could refer for self-editing.

  • I was scaffolding argumentative responses for students with Graff/Birkenstein’s two-paragraph template.

Weaknesses:

  • I wasn’t able to hold them accountable to doing the self-editing (not enough time to closely grade them). As a result, most students didn’t use the checklist. It was there, it might have looked good, but it wasn’t really used.

  • The two-paragraph template isn’t meant as a lock-step scaffold, but rather as a guide. It’s meant to illustrate for students that we need to spend some time accurately representing the views put forth by a text’s author before we bring our own views into the conversation, and it’s meant to provide students with some sentence templates, some “moves,” that can get that done. Unfortunately, many of my students began getting “stuck” with the exact words and phrases of the template (Erica Beaton, who now teaches last year’s students, is working to unstick them now ).

Step 5: Moving forward and backward at the same time (boom)

And that, dear reader, brings us to today.

To sum Step 4 up, I took a smart, simple assignment and attempted to respond to the needs of my students and the pressures of my school by adding various scaffolds.

And don’t get me wrong: I still see value in every one of those scaffolds.



Reading for Meaning statements are still a great strategy for getting kids to do the before-, during-, and after-reading thinking that mature readers do. Rubrics, until I read Wilson’s book, still seem at least somewhat helpful for my students to know their way around an assignment. They Say, I Say is still a critical part of my composition instruction — that won’t change. I plan to use the two-paragraph TS/IS template with my students later this semester, and I know that the they say is still something far too few of my students are doing in both their written and spoken arguments. And yes, I still want kids proofreading their work for the conventions we learn during the year, because details do matter.

This is posted at the front of my room. Why? Because it’s true, baby!

What I don’t want to keep doing is including all these scaffolds with every single assignment. In doing this last year, I feel a bit as if I created a monster, and also as if I was working harder, not smarter (or at least I was making the copy machines work harder).

This year, I’m printing out the rubric once (and modifying the language — see next week’s post) and giving it to kids to keep in their binders. If I use reading for meaning statements for a given article of the week, I’ll do so on the article itself — but this won’t be an every time element of AoWs, just as Gallagher’s window quotes aren’t every time elements of his.

For the writing pieces, these are again things I’ll print out for students once. I’ll include Graff and Birkenstein’s two-paragraph template, as well as the more extended list of templates we use with kids.

So if you’re one of the teachers who uses my AoW list consistently, I guess this is a 3700-word note saying, “Be ready for more of the simple, elegantly formatted Gallagher-style articles of the week and less of the unwieldy, ‘Dave Stuart Jr. is a noob‘ packets.”

In next week’s post, I’ll provide some of those scaffolding documents I mentioned so that you can use them if you’d like.

In the meantime, thank Mr. Gallagher for the article of the week assignment. Let’s see if he’ll comment on this blog post and drop some knowledge for us.

Have a great day, Teaching the Core family.

-Dave


article of the week, close reading, common core, kelly gallagher, purposeful annotation, reading for meaning, rubric

A Non-Freaked Out Framework for Literacy Instruction Across the Content Areas, Common Core or Otherwise

Scaffolds for Dominating the Article of the Week

29 Responses to There and Back Again: My Journey with Gallagher’s Article of the Week Assignment



Karen September 27, 2014 at 8:47 am #

I am interested in how I might be able to use this in my 6th grade math classes. I found a couple of articles that I could possibly use; but, not really sure how to proceed. Is there a filter or filters that may allow me to search more effectively and efficiently? Thank you!



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Kelly Gallagher September 27, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

Hi Karen. Take a look at my friend Kelly Turner’s Graph of the Week, which she uses in her HS math classes: http://turnersgraphoftheweek.webs.com/



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davestuartjr September 28, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

Kelly, what a great resource — thank you for sharing this!



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davestuartjr September 28, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

Karen, I once worked with a math teacher on the east side of Michigan who would use articles from a publication put out by NCTM. I want to say that articles were from Mathematics Teacher or Mathematics Teaching in Middle School. Check out those resources, too.



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Sharon Ladner September 27, 2014 at 9:30 am #

Karen, just a note on finding articles… Have you tried the website Newsela.com? It is a pretty cool site for locating newsworthy articles. You can sort by subject/grade.



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whitney September 30, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

I love the articles of the week and newsela. Thanks for being my first year Godsend going from elementary to high school!



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Sharon Ladner September 30, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

Awesome, Whitney! I love the high school level and wish you well as you move forward!



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sherri September 27, 2014 at 10:36 am #

As I attempt my first go around on AOW I can say that slow is good! I first am creating the routine, then focused on the annotation, now working on the writing, later the discussion. I figure I should be ready to go full by second quarter. I do give “eye ball” credit weekly (10 pts) for completion…in their low percentage homework column. I plan to have them choose one that I grade each quarter as an assessment. So rubrics and check list (which I like better than rubrics any way) are so helpful. So with that said, your journey has helped me start and process my journey. I am excited to get this going…it will mature as my 8th graders mature…which is growth I would expect to see. By the way…I teach a world current issues class…no better place for AOW.



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Holly September 27, 2014 at 11:49 am #

Dave, you are a boss. Your “Frankenstein” version of AoW has my team really fired up and on the the same page for the first time in a long while. It was the RFM and the rubric that helped me pitch AOWs to my team! We are making RFMs for all of our articles and it’s helping me grade smarter not harder. Thank you for sharing all of your work, and your meta-work. I’ve been following since the beginning, and I finally made the leap! Power to the mitten!!



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davestuartjr September 28, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

Holly, power to the mighty mitten indeed. I’m glad to hear those pieces helped — in next week’s post I’ll dig into how they can still be a part of AoW without the “let’s print a book every week” business.

[Holds hand in the air in the shape of a mitten and points to where he’s from on his hand prior to hitting ‘Post Comment’]

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Ron September 27, 2014 at 2:37 pm #

Dave– what grade level did you originally design this for?



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davestuartjr September 28, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

Hi Ron,
I teach 9th graders, but I believe Mr. Gallagher teaches (or has taught) the entire 9-12 range with article of the week. I know there are many Teaching the Core readers who use the articles with younger grades as well.



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Julia September 27, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

As I am entering my second year of AOW, I made a big change: Thursday is our listening and speaking day where we discuss the article in a variety of formats from partner share to socratic seminar, from debate to putting an idea on trial. The kids love this and it gives them practice using academic language while helping those kids who “just don’t know what to write about” come up with ideas for the response due on Friday. Last year when we had discussions on Friday, some of my students wanted to re-write their response to take in to consideration things that came up in the discussion.

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