Tag Archives: informational texts

BC 1.8 Article of the Week with Resources #BC20

I heard about Kelly Gallagher a few summers ago during the Eastern Illinois Writing Project Summer Institute; a few teachers swore by everything that he has ever written. And I believe Amber from Tuscola Middle School mentioned his Article of the Week. Intrigued, I went to Gallagher’s website: http://www.kellygallagher.org/resources/articles.html

Gallagher’s rationale for assigning an article of the week–to provide students with more informational texts (before CCSS) and to encourage students to become more aware of current events/topics–seemed logical and obvious. I incorporated it into the senior level English class I taught that fall. I selected an article each week trying to choose topics that they might not cover in the Current World Issues elective course. Students were expected to read, annotate, write a one-page (minimum 30 lines) response (not summary), and participate in a class discussion.

My students struggled with omitting or relying on a summary, and I found that I needed to teach them annotating skills. The nonfiction annotation skills lessons continue to be a work in progress. However, the weekly articles did provide the students with a wide variety of topics from which to draw for their researched argument papers, as well as our side topic of reading editorial cartoons. And I intend to incorporate the weekly article assignment with the dual credit literature class that I will teach next year.

This current spring semester, I have incorporated the use of an article each week, but rather than me choosing an article, my students have to research and choose an article to connect to each week’s literary reading. It has been a struggle for my students, mostly because I suggested, rather than required, that they read certain websites on a daily or weekly basis to keep up with current topics, and they have not chosen to do so. I even told them which websites could be followed via Twitter or would send them daily emails to appeal to their social media addictions (and to include BYOT). I don’t want to quiz them weekly on current topics, so next year I will model reading the various websites for the first couple weeks with the hope that they will continue on their own.

These are the websites that I have suggested that my students read and that I have used to find weekly articles: The Week Magazine “10 things you need to know today” (http://theweek.com/); Mental Floss–Random, Interesting, Amazing Facts (http://www.mentalfloss.com/).

These are websites that are more for teachers to utilize: The Learning Network (http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/); NewsELA which provides timely articles that area available in four different Lexile levels and some articles include quizzes that can be taken using BYOT–all for FREE (http://www.newsela.com/); ThinkCERCA which is similar to NewsELA but with fewer article choices, but still FREE (http://thinkcerca.com/); The Responsibility Project from Liberty Mutual provides recent controversies involving teenagers that are great for starting a discussion or research (http://responsibility-project.libertymutual.com/)

I would love any additional suggestions!!

BC 1.3: Favorite Website #BC20

I have numerous favorite websites; if you are a teacher of any subject looking for informational texts to incorporate into your curriculum (because it is NOT just the ELA teacher’s job to teach/practice/require literacy in the classroom), I strongly encourage you to check out Learning Blogs at The New York Times and NewsELA (both are linked below in my blogroll). If you are teaching any subject that can contact with history, check out the Library of Congress (www.loc.gov) for primary sources. However, all three of these websites are well-known or well-linked in the education universe.

My new find this school year was Narratively (narrative.ly or on Twitter @NarrativelyNY); I found it when Mental Floss (another great website–the articles tend to be interestingly quirky http://www.mentalfloss.com) tweeted a link to an article on Narratively. Narratively publishes original narrative essays that they group by a single theme each week. At the high school level, CCSS suggests a 70%-30% split between informational texts and fiction texts. PARCC suggests that in the ELA classroom, this split should be 50%-50%, but most of the informational texts will be nonfiction narrative essays–exactly what Narratively provides (some personal narrative, some third-person narrative).

I carefully chose three essays during first semester to use as mentor texts for my students’ personal narrative essay assignment (Kelly Gallagher says that you cannot provide too many example or mentor texts). I found topics that I thought would interest my students, that would be no more than four printed pages (two pages front-to-back), and that I then edited for language if necessary. Over winter break, I received an email (because you can subscribe and receive weekly emails) stating that the next week’s theme (the first week after winter break) would be “American Dreamless.” What was the third quarter theme in junior English? American dream/American nightmare, with The Great Gatsby as the extended text. The five essays were wonderful! They provided a more realistic view of the theme but also provided textual evidence that the so-called American dream is not limited to America. (Again, a couple essays needed a word or two edited for appropriateness.)

Third quarter I used an essay about a soldier to illustrate a realistic example of the hero’s journey with my freshmen; this quarter, I have used one essay (rather than an entire weekly theme of essays) to provide a cultural/religious discussion of identity with my freshmen.

The essays also include illustrations; some are photographs of the people and places, while other illustrations are created by artists to accompany the essays. Finally, some of the essays are video essays.

The only drawback to the website is that it cannot be searched; to find an essay, one needs to scroll through the essays. I have made it a point to save essays the same week that they are published for my future use.