How cool is this? Real-World News from Major Publications offered at Different Comprehension Levels for Your Classroom!
Have you ever wished there was a way to get current news translated so that students with different reading comprehension levels could understand them? Well, there is, and the basic service is free!
Newsela is an innovative and path-breaking web application that combines English language literacy with real world news. The start up was launched in June 2013. Newsela is a great educational resource used for reading programs designed to enhance reading comprehension in schools, tailored for students of different grades.
This web-based tool offers textual information in the form of articles, from a wide variety of reputed news agencies, rewritten for the purpose of education. It helps in shaping the minds of students by keeping them informed about current events. In addition, it has been tailored to different difficulty levels so that students and teachers can choose the levels which are the most useful for them i.e. it is Lexile leveled.
What Makes Newsela so Useful?
Newsela is based on collated material from the latest day-to-day events. It is based on nonfiction and real world happenings. It not only helps in improving the reading ability and understanding of students, but also in broadening their knowledge of the world. It comes with many features, which helps its easy integration in classroom teaching. The software possesses many key features, which help in the creation and practice of differentiated learning experiences in classrooms, with students of multiple levels of abilities.
These include such aspects as:
- Interactive read aloud
- Shared reading
- Mini lessons
- Small-group guided reading programs
- Reading conferences
Each article comes in five different forms, corresponding to five different adaptable Lexile levels, which can thus be used for students with different strengths of language ability in a class. Students can read together or separately, conduct reading and analysis in small groups, take up quizzes to gauge their understanding and map their progress. Specific standards can be followed for different articles, as per the learning objectives.
The professional version of the software can be used to enhance the learning experience, as it allows the users to personalize it according to their own learning objectives (see end of article for more on Free versus Pro versions). With differentiated learning being the norm these days, teachers can easily adapt it to provide different levels of the same subject matter, to students with different abilities, simultaneously and this will save classroom management time.
Lessons Incorporating Newsela
How can the information provided by Newsela articles be used?
The text can be used as a source of evidence and inferences can be drawn from it, for the topic concerned and regarding the question. It can be studied to elucidate the underlying themes or central ideas, which can then be supported by the evidential details. Reading the given text would help students establish links between groups of ideas, people, places, and place it in the given context. It can be used for interpreting the words and phrases, and thus can be an aid in improving and enhancing usage of language, when used in different contexts.
Textual structures can be analysed and one can learn about the different ways of creating text and their purposes. The students can also analyse the kinds of content, based on the way they are presented and formatted as well as the kinds of media. The software can also be used for the analysis of argument claims and whether they are justified or not. It can be used for students from grade 3 to 12 and can be used in settings with few-to-many computers.
Newsela in our Schools
Newsela has been used in various kinds of educational settings and many have found it an interesting and extremely useful tool to engage students in collaborative learning experiences. It provides rich content for reading comprehension studies. It has been used as a tool to enhance the social science learning, where articles with different Lexine levels would be used to enhance student awareness of geographical terms such as latitudes, longitudes, equator, prime meridian and hemispheres with an assessment based on it. (Source: http://www.coonley.org/classrooms/schmeisser/page/2/).
It has also been used by some teachers to improve reading, and improve general knowledge awareness as well as part of reading on issues related to immigration followed by a quiz for assessment of understanding, followed up by other activities (msstults.com).The whole package involves teaching about the immigration in the US from different angles so that students get a holistic view.
The Robert Randall Elementary School, is using it as part of a blended learning program, for blended grades ranging from K to 6 and with the following blended subjects: Maths and Language Arts and used in both desktops and laptops. The program involves rotation between a learning lab where online learning is carried out and a room where other learning activities are carried out. Thirty three percent of the student activities are based on online learning and such rotation between different learning modes has been found to increase student engagement. (Source: http://www.christenseninstitute.org/robert-randall-elementary-school/).
Another teacher got inspired by teachers using Newsela during a school trip and was inspired to try it out in her own class. She used one of the articles posted on Newsela “Arctic heat release may be altering paths of hurricanes, other storms” as student reading on weather patterns. Following the reading, students analyzed the article for its words using different apps such as the Tag Cloud app and identified the key words, which communicate the main ideas in the article, and which would show up during searches. Using these words, they devised a graphic organizer to link up the various ideas associated with these words. They used different kinds of apps to make a holistic movie on these topics. (Source: http://lsusdtech.blogspot.com/2014/01/newselacom-information-text-at-its-best.html).
Here are a few more pieces about teachers using Newsela:
- Workshop Wednesday: Wonderful Website For Reading
- Sparking Student Motivation: Using NEWSELA
- Newsela Page from New Trier High School's “iPad Connect” Site
There are many such examples of how Newsela has become a part and parcel of today’s ICT (Information and Communication Technology) directed education. With the kind of functionality at its disposal, it would definitely make learning more easier and engaging, provide scope for teachers to manage students of different abilities at the same time, in an efficient manner and help in enhancing real world knowledge and language comprehension in an exciting way.
Free vs. Pro
Newsela is free for teachers and students to use at no cost. Newsela also offers features that help a teacher track individual and class-wide progress, in PRO versions that come with fees. Pro Features include the ability to for teachers to assign specific articles, use article annotations, run progress reports, track progress against Common Core Reading and Writing standards, and more.