Solution: Not only will our students need to deal with nonfiction texts of all types throughout their school careers but, exposure to this type of text supports building background knowledge. In his book, "Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement", Robert Marzano points out that research tells us that "what students already know about the content is one of the strongest indicators of how well they will learn new information relative to the content."
Newsela is a free resource that provides students with authentic nonfiction texts from real world publications. These texts can provide a source for continuing development of reading skills as well as build background knowledge around a variety of topics.
How do I get started?
- Sign up for a free account on the Newsela website.
- In the Account settings, set up a class by typing in a name and choosing the grade level, then click on the "Add Class" button. Make note of the signup code for each class as your students will need this to join your class.
- Give your students the signup code. They will create an account in Newsela using this code. After the initial account creation, additional classes can be joined from within their accounts.
How do I locate and assign news articles to my class?
Search recent articles from the Newsela home page, click on one of the categories at the top of the page or use the search tool.
For each article, you'll find an image, the category label and a short descriptive paragraph about the article. Once you've found an interesting article, simply click on a class name at the top of the page. Students will access articles by clicking on the Binder icon at the top of the page. Once an article is open, it will be shown at a lexile level appropriate to that particular grade. Students can personalize their reading experience by choosing any other lexile level available.
How can I continue to support my students' skill development while reading these articles?
Use annotations to remind students to use particular skills as well as to prompt them to think about what the text is saying.
Whenever you highlight text in an article, you'll notice four highlighting colors, a space for typing and a share button. Teachers can use this to provide appropriate prompts and share those with students. Students can respond by creating their own annotations that are only seen by the teacher and student.
In addition to Annotations, as you search for articles, those that have a lightbulb icon have quiz questions that are aligned to Common Core anchor standards for reading. Assigning this type of article/quiz to students will allow you to track their use of these skills and monitor progress.
How can my students and I access and use data about reading performance?
The data is one important reason to consider using Newsela to support reading nonfiction text in any content area.
- Individual Student Data: In their Binder, students will be able to track performance and will see the average Lexile level, quiz average and number of quizzes taken. The Lexile level is also shown as a graph giving students a visual way to see progress in this area.
- Teacher Data View: In the Teacher's Binder, there are tabs to help you view progress by assignments, classes and student progress.
As you consider the importance of building background knowledge as well as the development of close reading skills with your students, how would you envision using Newsela in your instruction? How might it support the flipped classroom model of instruction?