Thursday, February 9, 2017

News Made Simple for Kids with Newsela

Most kids don't keep up with the news. Face it. Only a few households receive daily newspapers, and discussing current events with your child isn't particularly the easiest thing to do. Well, there's a news website that's targeted to youth in grades 2-12.

I Love It!

In 2014, I became a fourth-grade self-contained teacher. Meaning, I taught the core contents (Math, Science, Social Studies, and English Language Arts) to the same group of students daily. Prior to that, I was a secondary math teacher for several years. This move to elementary was new for me. I didn't have an early education background nor was I familiar with teaching anything other than middle school math.

So why did I make the move?

Honestly, I thought it would be best for me and my children. I was a single mom with young kids, finishing up grad school, and I had a tremendous amount of guilt about not spending enough time with my kids. I thought having elementary hours similar to my son's school would benefit my family. Boy, was I wrong, but that's another story.

Back to this news website...I attended a professional development workshop later that year and the facilitator discussed using Newsela to differentiate for various readers and he utilized this writing technique ACE/ACED to have his students elaborate. Although it was late Spring, I went back to school with a new zeal and incorporated Newsela and ACE/ACED into my lessons.

What is ACE/ACED

ACE is simply a writing strategy that helps students organize answers to short answer prompts or essays.

A - Answer by restating the question
  • What's the difference between carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores?
  • The difference between carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores is...
C - Cite an example that supports your answer
  • According to __________, you can observe the teeth and digestive system to determine their diet.  
E - Explain in a few sentences how C proves A
  • Carnivores have strong, sharp teeth made for shredding meat...
D - Done (Conclude your paragraph/essay)
  • The survival of carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores is beneficial in maintaining...
Steps C and E can be repeated several times to allow the writer to adequately present their ideas. Initially, the teacher or parent would model this strategy several times before the student does it on their own.

Why Newsela

Newsela is not just a program for teachers. My son is a fourth-grader who reads a few years above grade level, he scored Advanced on the 3rd-grade STAAR test (Texas's state assessment), and he's an avid reader of graphic novels. Despite his reading proficiency, his performance in English/Language Arts did not reflect his capabilities. When I conferenced with his reading teacher, she suggested that I spend more time assisting him with expository texts. And that conversation led me back to Newsela. 

I want to share a few reasons why you should use Newsela at home.

1. It's FREE!

Unlike other sites, there's no enrollment fee for Newsela. You can register, create a class, invite your child to join the class, or have them use your account. Once you set up an account, you'll have access to a wealth of articles on various topics. These topics are located under three tabs: Library, News, and Text Sets, which contain a collection of articles. You can also search for specific topics by typing keywords into the search bar.

2. Differentiate Reading Levels

This is one of the best features of Newsela. Each article has five reading levels ranging from second grade to twelfth grade. If your child uses IStation! or another program that assigns Lexile levels, then you can select the article closest to your child's Lexile level. I either go a level up or select my son's reading grade level when assigning him an article to read. The number of words and details increases with each level. In my opinion, if you have multiple children with varied grade levels, this would be an excellent resource to foster discussions around current events.  


Each article has a writing prompt and a four-question quiz following the reading. You are not provided the answers to the questions or a report of your child's progress in parent mode. However, if you create a class and invite your child to join, they can take the quiz in student mode where they will receive a score and the correct answers once they submit their choices. Again, as a parent, you won't be able to review the details of the quiz, but you create a class and assign readings. Then you have the ability to see how many quizzes have been taken and the overall average of those quizzes.

4. BILINGUAL (English/Spanish)

This feature is excellent for Spanish-speaking English Language Learners (ELL), students studying Spanish, or someone who wants to practice their Spanish reading skills. I know that I need to brush up on my Spanish skills so I created a student profile to practice my Spanish.

Now you have four great reasons to use Newsela at home or to share with your child's teacher. Feel free to share your experience with Newsela or other resources you use to discuss current events.

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