“Part of the reason my students have such a hard time reading is because they bring little prior knowledge and background to the written page. They can decode the words, but the words remain meaningless without a foundation of knowledge” (Kelly Gallagher)
In one of my previous posts, I explained how I use Kelly Gallagher‘s excellent resource, “Teaching Adolescent Writers” (2006), in order to help my students learn how to write effectively. In our school, we run TLCP (Teaching-Learning Critical Pathways) cycles focusing on a particular reading strategy throughout the year. Currently, we are focusing on making connections, where students are to read a text and then respond to it by either making a text-to-self, text-to-text, or text-to-world connection. I often find that students will only skim the surface when making connections and I really want them to work on making a deeper and more meaningful connection to the text. Students have a difficult time making meaningful connections to texts because they lack sufficient experience and background knowledge.
Kelly Gallagher has developed an excellent strategy to assist with this dilemma: the Article of the Week. The premise may be simple, but the effect is profound. Each Monday, students are given an article to read. At the top of each article, Gallagher provides the following strategy: “1. Mark your confusion. 2. Show evidence of a close reading. Mark up the text with questions and/or comments. 3. Write a one-page reflection on your own sheet of paper” (from kellygallagher.org/resources/articles.html). At the end of each article, Gallagher provides possible written response topics. A new article is provided each week with the same framework.
In my opinion, this strategy is perfect in every way:
- Students are provided with an article on a high interest topic that will capture their attention and motivate them to read (hopefully!)
- Topics can change each week and can reflect current events, student interest, or connect to other curriculum topics
- The reading strategy is consistent with each article (the three steps provided at the top of each article)
- Students are provided with a consistent task, where they apply their skills on a regular basis
- Students and teachers can easily monitor student progress by reviewing weekly responses over a certain time period
- Students will be building their knowledge base and be provided with the background to make meaningful connections when reading other texts
- This activity can easily be scaffolded with teachers slowly removing direct support when students become much more sufficient in breaking down the text and responding to it
- Differentiated instruction is easily attainable, as students can receive different articles on the same topic but at different reading levels or teachers can continue to provide more support to struggling students, while other students are able to work more independently
- Assessment for and as learning are addressed on a regular basis, as teachers can keep track of student comprehension, learning, and skill development, while students can use self-assessment to determine how well they are applying their reading comprehension strategies over time.
Kelly Gallagher has provided years worth of archives for the Article of the Week. The Articles of the Week are further subdivided according to the grade level Gallagher taught when that article was used. Since Gallagher teaches high school English, many of the articles are a bit too difficult for my grade 7 and 8 students. Not a problem, as I have been scouring various sources for interesting articles that I can use in my own classroom. Even if you do not teach high school English, this approach will work with your students, as the framework is extremely effective and focused on improving student reading comprehension in a regular and methodical manner.