Analyzing Articles with Students

September 13, 2014

The Common Core movement has put a greater emphasis on analyzing, reasoning and developing arguments.  It seems that content area teachers are scrambling to try to find effective and simple ways to tweak their lessons to include those types of skill building activities.  Here is one strategy that I’ve found helpful.

(photo at top courtesy of Mer Chau)

Help Students Dig Deeper into Articles

Two points come to mind about this:

  1. Students are not used to reading much of anything that has a technical nature to it (like science).
  2. Students are not used to analyzing complicated things, especially when reading.  They have very little experience with the work and initial confusion that is involved in trying really understand something.

Life often forces you to read things that are technical and complicated (have you tried reading your medical insurance documents lately–that is the definition of technical and complicated!).  There is real value in helping students develop more skill in this area.


Here is a strategy I have used that makes it easier for students to learn to analyze while at the same time making it fairly easy for me to assess.

It’s called ReQuest and I learned about it from a book by Jeff Whilhelm that we read for a book study at our school.  He also came and did a workshop with us….it was top-notch.  He has various reading strategies in the book, but this one seemed to best fit what I wanted and it was easy for me to use.  It really centers around 3 levels of questions.

  • What is being directly said (On the line).
  • What is being implied (Between the lines).
  • How does it affect the big picture (Beyond the lines).

I created a simply worksheet template.

Download (DOCX, 17KB)

Feel free to use it.

Popular Science

For me, having a simple strategy with the template is a solid start, but where could I get good articles?  One answer I found: Popular Science.  My school gets a subscription which I peruse each month and find ideas.  Not only are their articles interesting and fairly short, they also have graphs and photos that grab the attention and can be used on their own for an analysis activity.

Here is what I would recommend from the September 2014 issue:

There is a lot of buzz lately about concussions and sports.  These two articles hit that head on;)

Why don’t Woodpeckers get brain damage coupled with The Helmet that could change Football.  (The woodpecker article is around 400 words and the helmet one is just a short blurb.)

Pushing our Limits is a series of short blurbs that discuss records of human feats of strength, speed, memory, brainpower, etc.  It also gives tips about improving your body and mind (4 pages–the online version would be difficult to copy and paste however).

Google can now delete your past. But how much should be erased?  This article brings up the issues surrounding online information about people– the so-called “right to be forgotten”. (one page)

There is a unique looking graph thick with visual data in the infographic How the World Wastes Food.  A class could get a lot of analytical mileage out of that one (a two page spread).

I like the articles in Popular Science.  They are about the right length and they grab my interest.  When I copied and pasted a few of the articles into Microsoft Word, they showed a readability level of around 12th grade.  I was expecting it to be a little lower than that, but I think they work.  You can get the print version of Popular Science at a cheap price.  Amazon has a year subscription for $12.

analyzing popular science


My goal this school year is to do one article analysis each quarter.


More →