Newsela changed its pricing structure starting in the 2019-2020 school year, making a mostly free service now mostly subscription-based. If you're not a paid subscriber, you'll find drastically less content available than there was before, and some of the best features (including reporting tools and vocabulary practice activities) are only available to paid users. That said, even in its slimmed-down free version, Newsela can be valuable for teachers, since there are still reading comprehension quizzes and writing prompts and annotation features. There's just a lot less content, so the free version of Newsela is likely to be a supplement to your curriculum rather than a central component.
Meanwhile, if your school or district springs for a subscription, you've got access to a huge library of the best leveled reading materials out there, and great classroom management and assessment features. Keep an eye on Newsela's Text Sets, which offer thematically curated texts as well as lesson plans and activities that can give students a more holistic picture of a topic. These rotate regularly, including timely content like a set of texts for Native American Heritage Month. Newsela's range of reading levels invites targeted intervention and differentiation. You can assign articles to individuals as well as small groups, using the quizzes to track progress and make further suggestions. Whole-class work has just as much potential; you can select articles for targeted instruction on specific reading standards while modeling good annotation and close-reading strategies for your students. Afterward, encourage them to practice independently.Continue reading Show less
Newsela is an online news-as-literacy platform that features high-interest articles on everything from current events to myths and legends and from literature to science. Users can choose a free account (which just features news and current events) or paid subscriptions that include daily news story updates and subject-specific products for ELA, social studies, science, and SEL. Content is updated daily, with stories from a wide range of sources (from the Associated Press to Scientific American to the Washington Post) in English and also often in Spanish. Topics run the gamut from pop culture to roller derby and Minecraft, and they touch on subjects that encourage cross-curricular reading, such as DNA testing, global women's rights, living conditions in Syria, and travel to Mars. All articles are available in five Lexile levels, ranging (roughly) from third to 12th grade. Each leveled text features a quiz tailored to that particular article plus a writing prompt that asks students to write and respond to what they've read.
For teachers, the paid subscriptions offer the site's most useful options, including a dashboard to manage students' assignments and view both individual and class results, tracking progress toward meeting the related Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. Subscription packages include Newsela Essentials (formerly Newsela PRO), which features news stories, and subject-specific subscription packages for four subjects: ELA, Social Studies, Science, and SEL. The subscription-based accounts are designed for implementation by schools and districts, and they include more features for tracking student progress, customizing their reading experience, and supporting teachers' professional learning. The subscription pricing isn't available online, so contact Newsela for a quote.
Full Disclosure: Newsela's platform includes some of Common Sense Education's Digital Citizenship curriculum; however, this partnership was established long after our initial review of Newsela. Our reviews are also editorially independent, and are in no way influenced internally or externally by this partnership.
Newsela is a standout resource for supporting students' nonfiction literacy. The inclusion of adjustable Lexile levels for every text (and quiz) is a significant feat and gives Newsela a considerable leg up against competitors that offer more static nonfiction reading instruction. Additionally, the customized quizzes and structured writing prompts paired with each leveled text are an asset to teachers and students alike. These assessment features offer a rich, flexible way for students to demonstrate what they've learned, to practice their close reading skills, and to use their writing to analyze and discuss what they've read. It's especially powerful that there's so much content available in Spanish, making this a great tool for Spanish speakers or Spanish-language students, as well as for Spanish-speaking English language learners (ELLs). The fact that ELLs can toggle between the English and Spanish versions of a text and adjust the Lexile level in either language (for many, though not all, articles) is particularly groundbreaking. Features like a comprehensive built-in dictionary, an in-line translator, or audio supports could make students' experience even richer. Also, better search (vs. filtering) functionality could help the process of finding that just-right article feel more fruitful. These additions, however, would just bolster an already impressive, robust platform.
Teachers -- especially those already familiar with Newsela -- should be aware of some changes in the pricing model. Much of Newsela's content used to be available for free; however, in 2019, the developer shifted most of the texts and assessment features (including CCSS and NGSS alignment information) behind the paywall of subscription-based accounts. With a paid account, teachers gain more customization options plus access to students' assessment data that can help guide instruction and target instructional interventions. Without a subscription, there's a much slimmer, more static content library to choose from, and this more limited experience makes Newsela stand out less from other leveled reading tools teachers might use. Overall, Newsela is an exceptional tool for bringing current events and high-interest nonfiction texts to students -- it's just a shame that its new price tag may put it out of many students' reach.
Key Standards Supported
Reading Informational Text
Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.
Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.
Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 5 topic or subject area.
Compare and contrast the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in two or more texts.
Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent.
Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.
Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text, identifying which reasons and evidence support which point(s).
Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.
Analyze in detail how a key individual, event, or idea is introduced, illustrated, and elaborated in a text (e.g., through examples or anecdotes).
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings.
Analyze how a particular sentence, paragraph, chapter, or section fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the ideas.
Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in the text.
Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.
Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.
Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Determine two or more central ideas in a text and analyze their development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.
Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text (e.g., how ideas influence individuals or events, or how individuals influence ideas or events).
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.
Analyze the structure an author uses to organize a text, including how the major sections contribute to the whole and to the development of the ideas.
Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author distinguishes his or her position from that of others.
Compare and contrast a text to an audio, video, or multimedia version of the text, analyzing each medium’s portrayal of the subject (e.g., how the delivery of a speech affects the impact of the words).
Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims.
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).
Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).
Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.
Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.
Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.
Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
Analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the structure an author uses in his or her exposition or argument, including whether the structure makes points clear, convincing, and engaging.
Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness or beauty of the text.
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).