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Pros: Articles are adjustable by Lexile level, feature quizzes/comments, and can be easily assigned. Teachers can track student quiz and comment activity.
Cons: Some articles are more fluff than substance. The topics and tags could be more clearly defined. No due dates on assignments.
Bottom Line: This is a helpful and well-designed supplemental resource for reading development, but not necessarily a go-to news site.
Teachers who register can set up a classroom, add students (and their Lexile levels), and then assign articles, review students' quiz results, and approve their comments. Student comments aren't visible until a teacher approves them, and they can be seen only by other classmates, unless teachers decide to make comments public so that kids can communicate with students from other schools.
Teachers can use TweenTribune to support students' reading development. Since most of the articles aren't focused on pressing topics or newsworthy current events, it's best as a supplemental, casual activity. It'd be less useful than other sites for topical research or news literacy. It's easy for teachers to find interesting articles, assign them to students, and then encourage them to complete the quizzes and participate in discussion. Unfortunately, teachers can't set due dates for articles, and there aren't rubrics for discussions. Teachers can also encourage students to visit the Photo Gallery and respond to the prompt. To extend and deepen learning, teachers might check out the additional educational materials in the teacher section, including resources on vocabulary, reading, journalism, and critical thinking and other lesson plans that support the Common Core standards.
Smithsonian's TweenTribune is a free website with news articles for students. The site is regularly updated with new articles from the Associated Press. Each article includes comprehension- and vocabulary-based quizzes and adjustable Lexile levels. A critical-thinking challenge question ends each article and encourages students to post a comment beneath the article. Students can post comments, which teachers must review and approve. (Teachers can also toggle whether students' comments are public or not.) All old articles are available for browsing and can be filtered by grade level (K-4, 5-8, and 9-12). Students and teachers can also do a keyword search for old articles. In addition to the grade-based categories, there are dedicated sections for tech-related stories and a section with Spanish-language articles (although these aren't Lexile adjustable).
To manage the experience, teachers can set up a classroom, add students, and then assign articles. They can then track students' quiz results and moderate/approve their comments. The teacher section of the site features lesson plans and other materials that teachers can use to support students' learning.
Students won't necessarily learn about the day's biggest news stories on TweenTribune, which tends to focus on human-interest stories and includes occasional fluff pieces. But kids should be able to find interesting things on the site that they'll want to read; stories cover a variety of topics, including science, technology, animals, and teen celebrities. The site is also focused, and exceptionally easy to navigate and use. This, plus it being free, means teachers will likely find it useful as a supplemental resource. Teachers can use TweenTribune to build students' reading habits and encourage them to think about and discuss what they read.
The blog-like news coverage is familiar and appealing; the homepage includes brief descriptions and a suggested grade level for each article, which can help teachers quickly determine assignments. Students will enjoy the interactive quizzes (although they'll need to resist consulting the still-visible articles for answers). The critical-thinking questions will encourage students to more deeply consider what they've read. The site could add even more of these types of questions to each article to facilitate further reflection and conversation. Teachers would also appreciate more substantive articles along with these critical-thinking questions to push students' thinking and reading further.