One of my goals this year, besides more consistent and thoughtful use of word work (or memorable language, as my campus has decided to term it), is to implement the use of Kelly Gallagher’s Article of the Week. Having reread this section in Deeper Reading by highly regarded high school teacher Kelly Gallagher this summer, I was sold. I noticed that our students lack a core understanding of not only current events; but how to critically read, ruminate and recite in a clear voice a news article.
Today we set off on our year-long trek through the unchartered waters of timely articles by focusing on the phrase, “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.” The kids turned and talked at their tables about what they thought it meant, then we as a class explored the thought. I added my silly phrase that I like to throw out, “Opinions are like belly buttons, everyone has one,” in an attempt to show my new students that our classroom is one that welcomes all ideas. Our classroom listens respectfully and wants to understand everyone’s side. Our classroom has a voice and must learn to use it.
After priming my students for the kind of classroom environment I strive to have, I then passed out the article I selected to debut this week and asked the students to place it in their new bradded folder marked “Article of the Week.” Living outside of Houston, many of our student’s families work in the oil industry in some way. I purposely chose an article that I knew my kids would have a lot of background knowledge to draw upon, but I had to test the waters to see just how much they already knew. I asked them to turn and talk to their tablemates about what they already knew about offshore drilling and about the most costly accident in history that occurred this past spring. It was no surprise then, that the buzz in the room was instantly deafening. My kids most definitely were well-versed about the accident.
We then began reading the selection. As I read aloud the article and modeled the tracks of my thinking as we went on the Elmo, the honest and respectful tone that my students adopted was absolutely heartwarming. My kids were vested in the conversation. Although the classroom was abuzz with definite opinions, not one of my kids acted inconsiderate. In fact, a handful of kids reported that they had changed their minds after speaking with their table mates and then whole group.
For homework, I shared our class wiki and asked the kids to respond to the Wallwisher made specifically for responding to this hot topic button by Wednesday (another goal of mine this year is to significantly reduce the use of paper in my own teaching). I just checked the wiki and was pleasantly surprised: over half the class has already responded on Wallwisher concerning their thoughts about the article (I created three separate walls to accomodate the three blocks that I teach).
Today was a nice start to a new program in our class. By carefully front loading my beliefs about opinions and how we should receive a thinker who thinks differently than we do says a lot about what we can and should expect to happen in a classroom. Thoughtful readers approach an informational text, interact with it and synthesize it to make it their own. Respectful discourse occurred. Critical reading and articulate oration flowed naturally throughout the short time spent on The Article of the Week. Now, if only we can get the adults in our society to function as politely and intellectually to a spirited debate…
For more information about The Article of the Week, please see:
News Links For Younger Readers: