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.Continue reading Show less
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.
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).