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.
To help build my students’ prior knowledge, I assign them an "Article of the Week" every Monday morning. By the end of the school year I want them to have read 35 to 40 articles about what is going on in the world. It is not enough to simply teach my students to recognize theme in a given novel; if my students are to become literate, they must broaden their reading experiences into real-world text.
Below you will find the articles I assigned* this year (2013-2014) to my students. Please note, all articles are subject to the copyright protections stipulated by the original source.
"CIA's 'Harsh Interrogations' Exceeded Legal Authority, Report Finds" Reuters, HuffingtonPost.com
"How Earth Got Its Tectonic Plates/On Saturn's Moon Titan, Scientists Catch Waves in Methane Lakes" by Monte Morin for the Los Angeles Times and by Amina Kahn for the Los Angeles Times, respectively
"Hard Evidence: Are We Beating Cancer?" by Peter Johnson, Ph.D., for TheConversation.com
"Where Is Flight 370? 10 Big Questions" CNN.com
"The Evolution of the NSA" by Theunis Bates for The Week
"Why Is American Internet So Slow?" by John Aziz for TheWeek.com
"A Divided Ukraine" CNN.com
"Heroin's Lethal Comeback" The Week
"Why Michael Sam's Coming Out Is Not an Unnecessary 'Distraction'" by Nico Lange for the Los Angeles Times
"Bill Gates: The World Is Better than Ever/The World's Biggest Problems" by Doyle McManus for the Los Angeles Times and by The Arlington Institute, respectively
"Spy Agencies Tap Data Streaming from Phone Apps" by James Glanz, Jeff Larson and Andrew W. Lehren for the New York Times
"85 Richest People Own as Much as Bottom Half of Population, Report Says/Study: No Harder to Climb Economic Ladder" by Jim Puzzanghera for the Los Angeles Times and Paul Wiseman for USA Today, respectively
"Ethicists Criticize Treatment of Teen, Texas Patient" by Liz Szabo for USA Today
"Everything You Need to Know About Japan's Population Crisis" by Sarah Eberspacher for The Week
"5 Things to Be Encouraged About in 2014" by Paul Brandus for The Week
"The Limits of Locavorism" TheWeek.com
"Mandela's Death Leaves South Africa Without Its Moral Center" by Lydia Polgreen for the New York Times
"The War on Pink: GoldieBlox Toys Ignite Debate Over What's Good for Girls" by Eliana Dockterman for Time
"15 Words Etymologically Inspired by Animals" TheWeek.com
"Q&A: What Are Trans Fats Anyway, and Why Are They So Bad?" by Karen Kaplan for the Los Angeles Times
"China's Massive Pollution Problem" by Keith Wagstaff for TheWeek.com
"A Conquered Foe Returns to War-Torn Syria: Polio/Briefing: The Sunni-Shiite War" by Deborah Amos and Rima Marrouch for NPR.org/TheWeek.com
"Why Being a Thinker Means Pocketing Your Smartphone/Have Smartphones Killed Boredom (and Is That Good)?" by Todd Leopold for CNN.com and Doug Gross for CNN.com, respectively
"L.A. Unified's English Learner Action Upsets Parents, Teachers" by Teresa Watanabe for LATimes.com
"We Are Teaching High School Students to Write Terribly" by Matthew JX Malady for Slate.com
"Court Needs Alternatives in Handling Mentally Ill" by Steve Lopez for the Los Angeles Times
"Obama Breaks Three Decades of Silence with Call to Iranian President" by Paul Richter and Christi Parsons for the Los Angeles Times
"Blast Kills Four Children; Riots Follow/Dead Girls and the Lives They Might Have Lived" excerpted from the Washington Post and United Press International, September 16, 1963/Leonard Pitts, Jr. for the Miami Herald, September 14, 2013
"Electronic Cigarettes Growing in Popularity with Teens" by Karen Kaplan and Monte Morin for the Los Angeles Times
"How the World Is Responding to a Possible Strike on Syria" by Keith Wagstaff for The Week
"12 Things We Know About How the Brain Works" The Week
Looking for previous year's Article of the Week assignments? Check out the
Article of the Week Archive.
*While I assigned these, many of the lessons were prepared by my former colleagues in the Magnolia High School English Department, including Helen Goldsmith, Amie Howell, Melissa Hunnicutt, Virginia Kim, Katrina Mundy, Esther Noh, Kalli Pappas, Sherri Rothwell, Lindsay Ruben, Margaret Tagler, Robin Turner, Michelle Waxman, and Dana White.