Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2015


Absorbing daily news stories offer kids just-right learning content

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts
  • Social Studies

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Teachers say (66 Reviews)
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Pros: A best-in-class library of high-interest, cross-curricular, adjustable nonfiction texts.

Cons: Expanded search and recommendation features could help students connect with articles tailored even more to their interests and reading level.

Bottom Line: Up-to-date, high-interest articles meet students right at their level: Use this robust tool to bolster students' nonfiction reading practice.

Teachers will want to 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.

Naturally, 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.

Teachers will also want to check out the Pro/Con articles formatted specifically to encourage debate and discussion. Ideally suited for middle and high school students, these articles offer a great way to take advantage of the site's variable reading levels for each article. Even in a mixed-ability class, you can have students engage in deep discussion and debate about a variety of topics.

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Newsela is an online news-as-literacy platform (and Chrome app) that features current, high-interest articles on everything from current events to myths and legends and from literature to science. Content is updated daily, with stories from a wide range of sources (from the Associated Press to Scientific American to the Washington Post) in both English and Spanish. On top of this, all articles are Common Core-aligned and 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 -- some articles also include vocabulary words.

Newsela's resources are free to students; all the site's articles and quizzes, as well as the annotation tool, are available for open online use. For teachers, the paid Pro subscription offers the site's most useful options. These include a dashboard to manage students' assignments and view both individual and class results, tracking progress toward meeting the related Common Core State Standards. Additionally, the Pro subscription, tuned to the needs of schools and districts, adds greater transparency, tracking, and customization. The pricing for the Pro version isn't available though, so contact Newsela for a quote.

Newsela is a standout resource for supporting your students' nonfiction literacy. Students will look forward to reading and discussing the site's timely and engrossing articles. Though there's plenty of value in the free tool, it's likely that a Pro account will offer the best learning value. With Newsela Pro, teachers gain access to students' assessment data that can help guide instruction and target instructional interventions. The Pro version also adds some useful customization options for activities and instructions, and more control over reading levels. With or without a paid subscription, articles are pulled from high-quality news sources, then adapted to a range of reading levels. 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. There's also an annotation tool that offers teachers a great way to encourage active reading among their students.

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. 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.

The addition of features such as 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. But as it is, the daily updates are impressive, and the range of article topics is appealing. Overall, Newsela is an exceptional tool for bringing current events and high-interest news to students, along with flexible assessments and critical-reading practice.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

High-interest news articles are updated daily in a simple, clean design that focuses on the texts and supporting images. When students read right at (or just above) their level, they're much more likely to be engaged.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Students can read texts at multiple levels, in English and Spanish, without compromising depth or relevance. Brief comprehension quizzes, annotation exercises, and writing prompts help them respond and demonstrate understanding.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Options for both English and Spanish offer great access. The ability to adjust reading levels makes for an excellent, flexible reading experience. Some articles include vocabulary; expanding this feature could help boost comprehension.

Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

Teacher Reviews

(See all 66 reviews) (66 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Elizabeth B. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Brookside School
Springville, United States
Pro Paywall Makes Tool Useless
This tool used to be great before they locked everything up. It is a little frustrating to try to find an article on the Maya or Aztecs, only to be faced with a snippet of article and a "pay to read more." I'm not talking a few articles and subjects locked up, EVERY ONE of their articles in their library is designated as "PRO." I guess its great if you can get your organization to pay for it. As for me, I'm out of luck.
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Data Safety
How safe is this product?
Users can interact with trusted users and/or students.
Unclear whether users can interact with untrusted users, including strangers and/or adults.
Unclear whether profile information is shared for social interactions.
Data Rights
What rights do I have to the data?
Unclear whether opt-in consent is requested from users at the time personal information is collected.
Unclear whether users can control their information through privacy settings.
Users can create or upload content.
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Data are not shared for third-party advertising and/or marketing.
Traditional or contextual advertisements are displayed.
Behavioral or targeted advertising is displayed.
Continue reading about this tool's privacy practices, including data collection, sharing, and security.