During our seminar classes this year, which are much like a homeroom, we are practicing reading skills by using Kelly Gallagher's Article of the Week idea. His idea is to help students learn about the world in which they live by reading about current events. We cannot control what our students read outside of class, but if each student reads one current event article each week while they're with us, they will have read 36 articles by the time school lets out in June. Added to this idea, we are using these current events articles to practice basic reading strategies. Since our school houses grades seven through twelve, we use articles with two different reading levels.
For students in grades nine through twelve, Kelly Gallagher's articles provide an opportunity to read and reflect on what's going on in the world. For seventh and eighth graders, I create articles based on similar topics with lower readabilities. Many of these articles can be found online, using sites such as Tween Tribune or Youngzine. To incorporate technology, students can even log in to those sites and leave comments, which can engage them in authentic conversations with other students around the world.
Our students practice Close and Critical Reading strategies using these articles. Students are often asked to mark areas of confusion and annotate an article while they read. Annotating is similar to "having a conversation" with the article - students write down questions and comments that enter their minds as they read. If students are engaged and thinking, comprehension increases!
One more strategy that we ask students to practice is called "most important word." Students are asked to read the article and choose the word or phrase that is the MOST important. They need to defend their choice and explain their reasoning.