Sunday, January 21, 2018

Why Language Arts Teachers Should Love Newsela!

     Today, as I (yet again) "liked" and retweeted a Newsela article, I realized I've never taken the time to explain why Language Arts teachers should love it as much as I do!  Here, off the top of my head, are eight REALLY good reasons:

     1.  Kids love tech!  But, as teachers, we have to be vigilant about the quality of the applications we use.  Are they actually keeping our students engaged -- or are they just keeping them busy?  In my experience, Newsela not only engages but challenges middle school and upper elementary students. 

     2.  Newsela is an easy, reliable way to access nonfiction text appropriate for the classroom.  If you haven't yet heard, students benefit enormously from reading increased amounts of nonfiction.  And, as with any other academic endeavor, the more they practice reading nonfiction, the more skillful they become.

     3.  Kids love choice!  Newsela organizes its library of articles into 14 categories:

     If you've been teaching your students to choose text based on their interests -- and I know that you have* -- Newsela's pre-sorted articles make it even easier for students to find something they will enjoy! 

4.  Take a moment to peruse those 14 categories, and you'll note that Newsela can assist your academic team with interdisciplinary planning.  Materials for use by Social Studies and science teachers are clearly available, and the post-reading quizzes afford students the opportunity to practice reading skills outside the Language Arts classroom.

     Similarly, if you ELA teachers are working with a short story like "Ghost of the Lagoon" by Armstrong Sperry -- (GREAT for sixth graders!) -- you can pair it with one of the twelve or so nonfiction passages that appear after typing "sharks" in the search bar at the top of the page.

5.  Finding appropriate text for students at their independent reading levels can be time-consuming, and teachers rarely have time to spare.  With a click of the mouse, any Newsela article can be changed from a "MAX" Lexile level (in this case, over 1170) to a level as low as 620.

6.  Speaking of teachers' on-going efforts to save time,  Newsela not only grades the students' quizzes for you but also provides reports of individual and class mastery on the quizzes they take.  Additionally, teachers can see which objectives are tested in each of the four questions provided in every quiz.  So, if you really want to hone in on "text structure" with your students, you can search ahead of time for tests that offer at least one question involving that skill.

7.  Are your administrators pushing for higher-level questions in class discussions and teacher-made tests?  Newsela almost instantly became my "go-to" resource for some of the best critical thinking questions I have ever seen.  Just look at the skills they address:  text structure, point of view/author's purpose, central idea.  

 8. Years ago, I realized that some of my students perform poorly on standardized tests not because they can't read, but because they just don't understand the test questions!  Fortunately, Newsela presents students with questions unlike any they have ever seen before.  As the class is working, I allow students to call me over to their desks to inquire what, exactly, a question is asking.  Sometimes, I only need to point out, "Oh, that's a main idea question," and they'll know our strategy for tackling it.  Other times, though, I have to explain the procedure they should use to determine the correct answer.  In other words, Newsela Day is a good day for practicing both reading- and test-taking skills.

     In case you're wondering, no, I don't own stock in Newsela, nor am I compensated for singing its praises to anyone who will listen.  (Although it would be a whole lot cooler if I were!)  Check it out for yourself, though, and you'll see.  School budgets are always tight, but an investment in this highly effective product is well worth the money.

Coming soon:  Using "Paired Text" in the Language Arts Classroom

* If you are new to the wonderful world of self-selected reading for students, you might want to check out this article to help you get started:  So Many Books, So Little Time.  (It also contains a link to an Animoto video you can use in class!)