How I Use It
I have used this product with ninth graders and with fifth and sixth graders. When I was teaching ninth grade ELA, I was looking for an online tool that allowed students to not only highlight and annotate, but save their annotations so they could reference them at a later date. I was thrilled when I found Newsela because it allowed students to not only save their annotations, it also allowed them to take comprehension quizzes and change the lexile of the reading. My student's reading levels varied, so I was so happy that they could adjust the level at which they were reading. All the results of the quizzes came to me, so I could see if they were reading for meaning, or if they did not understand the article.
In my current ELA class of fifth and sixth graders, I do have the issue of trying to teach to a variety of reading levels. I went back to Newsela because it was an application that allowed all of my students to read the same article at different lexile levels. It is enjoyable for all students to read the same article and have a conversation about it, regardless of the grade level they read at.
The drawbacks to Newsela are really limited to the number of articles available. I teach projects that each have a specific theme, so I cannot always find the right topic from their selection of available articles. Also, I did notice that each article has varying amounts of lexiles available. For example, one article may have four versions at different levels while others may have five or six.
I think that this is a great tool for teachers. If you can find an article that has the topic you are looking for, I would certainly not hesitate to use Newsela. It allows teachers to have all students read right at their reading level so everyone in the class can understand what they are reading. Allowing students to read right at their current level allows for all students to have constructive conversations. It is a great way to differentiate, and Newsela has made the process quick and easy.
The set up time will vary, depending on if you would like to have the students access the articles electronically or print them out. If you are printing everything, it should not take you more than five minutes to print out everything you need. If you want students to read the articles electronically, it will take you longer to set up your class. Once the class is set up, though, the process for preparation is quick and easy.
The only limitations include the limited topics and articles available and the reading levels that each article is limited to (as they vary by article.)