Six Writing Prompts for AOW Assignments

Offer students more ways to respond

If you’re a fan of Article of the Week (AOW) assignments and student choice, then this post is for you.

Side note: If you’re unfamiliar with the AOW assignment, scroll to the bottom first for a quick explanation and here’s a link to my post about how I use the AOW in my classroom.

In the past, when creating my AOW assignments, I usually included only one prompt and positioned it below the rubric on each AOW. Often, the same or a variation of the same prompt appeared on more than one AOW, but yesterday I asked myself:

Why not simply provide a list of response options that students can access and choose from each week?

So yesterday morning, I skimmed through my AOW assignments from 2019-2020, copied and pasted the various writing prompts and compiled them into this group of six.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

This group of six response ideas could be used with any AOW assignment in order to give students choice in their writing. They could be posted on a bulletin board or an anchor chart, on a Google doc, in a Padlet, or wherever.

I hope to develop about six more text-based prompts that are “meaty” enough to require a response of 250-400 words; however, in the meantime, I’ll share the first six with you here:

Reader’s Response Choices for AOWs

  1. Make a clear, defensible claim about the topic of the text. Support your claim with clear reasons and relevant evidence from the text. 
  2. Explain your opinion on the main argument of the article. Explore the ideas of someone who would disagree with you.
  3. Discuss the research and/or other sources used by the writer of the article. Is the research relevant? Is it from a reputable source or not? How do you know?  
  4. Choose a new-to-you word from the article and reflect on its use and meaning in the article.
  5. Discuss a “writing move” made by the writer in this piece that you think is interesting. Explain its effectiveness.
  6. Pick a specific passage from the article and respond to it. (Credit to Kelly Gallagher for these last two prompts.)

No, these prompts might not be suitable for every AOW. After all, you might find an article that warrants an entirely different prompt, one that you would need to design specifically for that article.

However, for the majority of texts, I think students could find one from this list that’s to their liking and go with it.

If you’re unfamiliar with Article of the Week assignments, read below:
Article of the Week assignments, also known as AOWs, are a mainstay in my high school ELA classes. Many teachers across the country use these assignments, which were designed by teacher and author Kelly Gallagher. Gallagher's basic goal of the assignment is to get students reading about current events in order to build their prior knowledge so they are better able to comprehend the texts they encounter during high school and beyond. 

According to the AOW archives page of his website:  "Kelly recognizes that part of the reason his students struggle with reading is because they lack prior knowledge and background. They can decode the words, but the words remain meaningless without a foundation of knowledge."

Gallagher offers his complete archive of AOW assignments from 2019-2020. Click here for assignments dating back to 2013-2014. 

Here’s an example of one of my AOWs. The individually written prompt below the rubric could be eliminated from this sheet (and allow more room for text and annotating) if students could refer instead to a standing list of response choices, which could be posted in the room or in Google Classroom.

I plan to offer these six choices regularly this fall with the AOWs I assign, so I won’t have to make a writing prompt section on the assignment sheet each time AND so students have more choice when planning out their responses.

There is a risk, though. If the standing choices imbue a sense of ready-made “generic-ness” or diminishes the individual nature of each AOW, then I’ll rethink this change.

However, if the bottom line is to infuse more choice into these trusted assignments through more response options each time, I definitely want to at least try it.

Thanks for reading! Do you use AOWs? How do you assign the writing topics for them? Feel free to leave a comment below with your ideas.

And one more thing: Join my mailing list by entering your email address below. In return, I’ll send you a link to a guidelines sheet for Treasured Object poems that you can use to introduce this creative activity to your students.

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Published by Marilyn Yung

Writes | Teaches | Not sure where one ends and the other begins.

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