In my previous blog posts about the Basal Alignment Project and Question Stems, I shared some resources that might help you navigate the tricky Common Core English Language Arts standards. Today I have another resource for you: NewsELA!
I discovered NewsELA from a colleague. I then passed it on to the staff at our building and our librarian forged the way. She held my hand using this new tool, and now I will do the same for you.
First, I spent some time navigating the site. The site looks to the untrained eye as graphically stimulating as a major news site. The photos are interesting and it is easy to navigate.
Next, I assigned the students in my reading group to an account. Luckily we use another online service so I used their same usernames and passwords. NewsELA gives me a code so each student is assigned to my group.
Third, I chose a story I wanted our whole group to read. It was related to a Literacy Design Collaborative unit I was teaching about solving mysteries. Through NewsELA, I chose a lower Lexile level and printed out (on paper!) the text from NewsELA. As a class we practiced some close reading activities, focusing on vocabulary and our inquiry question for the week.
Next, students logged onto the site and took a quiz on the story we spent several days engaged in close reading activities. I was able to see how closely they met the Common Core Standard I was teaching this week.
Here’s the magic of NewsELA: not only is the news information interesting non-fiction text, but also students can choose their appropriate Lexile level. So kids can find a non-fiction text that interests them and then choose the best difficulty level so they can comprehend the information. Students can choose from topics such as Science, Money, Law, Health, or the Arts. Just like Netflix or Amazon, the site will recommend another story in the same genre or topic after they finish reading the story of choice.
The second fantastic piece of NewsELA is that students can take quizzes that measure their ability to meet the Common Core State Standards. There are some stories that have quizzes attached. It’s terrific as a teacher to have one more piece of information to tell me how students are doing. I can also look at my class and use the quizzes as formative assessments: what skills do I need to re-teach to which students?
Here is the fly in the ointment: NewsELA has moved from a free full service site to one that requires a Pro subscription to access all the services. All of the steps I’ve described thus far are available on the free version.
The PRO version allows me as a teacher to assign stories and quizzes to my students. When they log on, they will see a series of stories I want them to read along with the quizzes I want them to take. The PRO version also allows me to look at my class as a whole and see at once glance how they scored on the quizzes. Even without the PRO version, NewsELA remains an excellent resource to both students and teachers.
Just last week I was singing the praises of NewsELA to a fellow coach. She’s supporting a teacher who wants to use CCSS aligned non-fiction materials. Of course, this teacher doesn’t have a class set of non-fiction texts. NewsELA solved the problem of each student reading the same content at different levels, allowing for both scaffolding and differentiation. Besides practicing reading skills and strategies, students are learning more about the world around them.