How I Use It
NewsELA was used to integrate current event articles into class, and relate them to current curriculum topics. I really liked the annotation tools (paid) in NewsELA, as I required my students to make annotations at the different levels of Bloom's and move them beyond basic comprehension. The differentiated reading levels were helpful to provide access to a wide range of students in my 9th grade inclusion class, which contained students who were reading as low as 4th and as high as 12th. In addition, the differentiated quizzes were surprisingly engaging to some students, who would attempt on their own to attempt multiple quizzes at different levels. I thought the interactivity of some of the questions, and requiring students to answer by clicking on evidence in the article, was particularly helpful in preparing them for the next generation assessments.
Like most of the tools I evaluate, it really depends on how you use it in the classroom. I feel this is especially true for NewsELA. I have seen it used very well, and not so well. First and foremost, it is a huge asset to be able to change the Lexile level. However, this decision should be data-driven and a collaborative process between the teacher and student. There should always be discussion between the teacher and the student about the learning process and learning targets for each individual student. If this does not happen on a consistent basis, the differentiation that NewsELA provides is pointless. Secondly, NewsELA should not be a lesson in itself. Too many times I have seen teachers assign an article and check the "I used technology box." NewsELA articles are short, and the current events that are published daily should engage students in a higher level of Bloom's in another part of the lesson. The point of NewsELA is that the differentiated Lexile levels should provide a gateway of comprehension, in which students can each read in a way that is challenging to them. NewsELA grants them comprehension access to take it to the next level. It is relatively easy to find an article that aligns with something you are covering in class. I would encourage teachers to follow individual reading time with Socratic Smackdown (http://www.instituteofplay.org/work/projects/print-play-games-2/socratic-smackdown/) or other discussion forum.