A couple of years ago, when I first read more in-depth about Kelly Gallagher’s article of the week and followed-up by binging on the Dave Stuart Jr. blog posts about it, I knew that I HAD to try it.
Juuuuust like I had to try ALL the other new ideas I had accumulated over the summer.
Summertime is a time for teachers to refresh, and (predictably) as their refreshment is on the upswing, they start to plan. And planning leads to inspiration and inspiration leads to grand visions for implementation.
I had experienced so much success with daily independent reading in my classroom that I made up my mind that I was going to do all the things like Kelly freakin’ Gallagher and Penny Kittle.
Side note, I have nothing but love and respect for these two heroes of the English teacher community and say freakin’ in the most awestruck of ways.
So, where was I. Oh, yes. All the things.
Reading conferences AND writer’s notebook AND article of the week AND writer’s workshop AND modeling my own writing. And. And. And. Oh, and by the way, there’s that required curriculum I was supposed to be teaching, too.
Article of the Week Lessons From the Teaching Trenches
Here’s the real deal. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it is this:
➡️ Trying to implement too much at once is the recipe for mid-fall semester overwhelm and abandonment of these ideas.
❗️ No one needs this kind of stress. Not you, not the students. No one.
💡 Try to, instead, choose ONE thing. What’s your main thing for the year, my friend. Go ALL IN. And if it’s article of the week…I’ll be cheering you on!
➡️ And if there’s a second thing I’ve learned over the years, ideas are great, but I need to feel free to make them work for my classroom, my style, my students.
❗️ Don’t put your teacher self in a corner, man.
💡 Instead, feel free to take the spirit of an idea and fine-tune it like an instrument.
Don’t Hate, Recreate
So I hope by now you’re picking up on my vibe. I don’t hate the article of the week assignment in and of itself. It’s a great idea! I wish I had been more successful with it.
I hate how I implemented it. I hate that it felt like just one more thing among other things. I hate that it felt disconnected from the curriculum I was required to teach. I hate that, despite my best efforts, 15-20% of my students consistently did not do the article of the week homework and I didn’t have the time or the energy to chase them down. I hate that I couldn’t spend more time with the articles, reading, discussing.
Article of the Week, Me-Style
I want students to be writing more than I can assess. I want students to be engaging with ideas in a wide variety of texts to build reading stamina and comprehension.
But I am just not the teacher who can sustain a weekly AOW assignment in addition to everything else.
So, here’s my solution:
This year, I’m going to do quarterly breakout discussion sessions, making article of the week writing more purposeful and integrated in my classroom.
We will model together with one topic. Then, when students are clear on the skills and expectations, they will sign up for a breakout session they are interested in.
I may organize these topics by genre, but more likely I will organize by theme or topics related to the focus of the course. I may even ask students to come up with the breakout session ideas.
Students will prepare for the breakout session through ongoing reading and response in an article of the week notebook.
Prior to the breakout session, students will determine inquiry questions, find texts to read, and complete their preparation work (reading and writing in their notebook).
During the breakout session, students will come together to discuss the central themes and issues that sparked their interest and attention during their individual work.
Certainly, the spirit of the AOW is the same; however, I’m adjusting it to fit with my love of inquiry-based learning. I’m also making it more manageable for me (and hopefully the students?) by making it a longer turn-around than week after week after week. I have reflected that I am better at being consistent with something when it is flexible in its structure.
I also like that the me-version of article of the week will build to a rich discussion and that I can do formative assessments along the way.
✔️ If you’re interested in my nonfiction reading response notebook, check it out HERE.
✔️ In the meantime, I want to encourage you as the year ends to reflect on what works and what doesn’t work.
✔️ Ask yourself why and how you can make adjustments.
✔️ Don’t feel bad if you tried something and it didn’t work.
✔️ And, for the love of sticky notes, please don’t feel like you have to implement all the new ideas you will no doubt gather over the summer all at once in the fall.
Be kind to yourself!
Pick one thing. What will be your main thing this year?
Leave me a comment and let me know so that I can cheer you on!
Hey, if you loved this post, I want to be sure you’ve had the chance to grab a FREE copy of my guide to streamlined grading. I know how hard it is to do all the things as an English teacher, so I’m over the moon to be able to share with you some of my best strategies for reducing the grading overwhelm.
Click on the link above or the image below to get started!
Such a GREAT post! Thank you!! #BestAdviceEver 🙂
You’re so welcome, Tara! We have to be kind to ourselves or risk getting stuck in overwhelm!
I have never laughed so hard at myself and my great-out-the-gate plans! I.am.you. That teacher who pins and pins ideas and then struggles to remember who that insane person was during the summer. Thank you for a gentle reminder to just.pick.one.idea…repeat after me: Just One.
Yessss!! We’ll repeat it together, haha! Successful implementation of ONE thing that will make a difference is better than 100 great ideas.