Teacher Toys & Tech: Newsela Current Events {Leveled for Readers}

Current events.  Among 54 other things they hold a steady place in my overflowing “bane of my existence” bucket.  I get frustrated by the lack of knowledge middle schoolers possess, but also feel responsible for shedding light on the daily happenings in this world.  So, every year I begin the same way.  I trial-and-error through several formats, end up losing sight of the goal, and drop the current event assignment midway through the year.  Cue the “I’m a failure” song and dance on repeat.

I found a resource worth using as trial-and-error for the year, and I think this one may stick.  Newsela works to several goals:

1.  embed Common Core literacy skills within the current event sphere;

2.  deliver high interest articles to ALL students, regardless of reading level;

3.  provide opportunities for assessment of reading comprehension through prepared quizzes


4.  supply the teacher with a bevy of resources to make current event instruction seamless, meaningful, and productive

How does it work?

Newsela provides frequent articles under the categories war & peace, science, kids, money, law, health, and arts.  Students can choose their own articles or teachers can assign articles (once their students are enrolled in the section – teachers send out an “invitation” and students can join with a class code).  The most exciting feature is the lexile range. Students can bring down the reading level based on their success with the start of the passage.

Upon landing on an article.  Students will see something like this…the bar can easily slide to decrease the reading level.

Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 3.12.39 PMThe articles listed below decrease in reading level as shown by the introduction paragraph.  Background information builds up and word choice comes down.

Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 4.06.20 PM Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 4.06.34 PM Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 4.06.48 PM Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 4.06.58 PMThe site is still in Beta version, but it looks like teachers will be allowed to annotate articles and post questions and have students respond individually.  The site offers a dashboard to manage completion and achievement data.