Monthly Archives: March 2017

“Level Up” Learning with Newsela’s Binder

This is the final post in a series exploring Newsela strategies, and it focuses on ideas for Newsela Pro binder users.  You can check out other posts for ideas for using the free version of Newsela or Newsela Pro features.

So imagine that you are now using all of Newsela’s features with your students, and you want to determine how the information stored in the binder can help you “level up” learning in your classroom and across your school. Here are two simple ideas.

  1. Use Binder Data for Student Conferences and Personalized Instruction

When you confer with students, you can have them access their data in their student binders. Once students open their binders, you are able to see the overall percentage of questions they’ve gotten correct on quizzes. Although a good piece of benchmarking data, this percentage is not necessarily very helpful for growth.  

However, there is a great tool for guiding growth. A simple search feature at the top of the binder allows you to isolate different reading standards. Both the students and you can see percentages of correct answers for each type of skill and compare those percentages to the student’s average. This activity creates an enriching discussion about strengths and areas for growth.

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 9.07.37 PMFor example, I worked with a student who opened her binder, and she had a 76% overall on her quizzes.  Her first response was, “ I always get 75’s on my quizzes.” She seemed downtrodden by this fact (in actuality, 75% is a perfectly good score for students reading on their instructional Lexile level according to Newsela). 


Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 9.07.27 PMSo, I encouraged her to isolate some of the reading standards, using the filter in the binder. We found that she had gotten 95% of central idea questions correct, and I acknowledged that as a strength for her (compared to her 76% average). We then saw that she had a 65% on questions dealing with perspective and point of view.  We realized that this is was a growth area for her. I shared possible strategies she could use when reading in the future. We also explored some of point-of-view questions to learn more about what they asked.

Using this data allows us to give personalized feedback, help students self-assess their strengths and areas for improvement, and aids personalized instruction as well as targeted interventions.

2. Using Data for Schoolwide Focus

If you are a Newsela team leader, you have access to school-wide data in the School Performance tab. In this area, you can look at the average level of achievement of all students in your school. Here, you can also use the filter to learn about how students are doing in each individual reading standard.

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I was recently able to do this with one of my schools. I noticed that the school was doing particularly well on Standard 4, which deals with understanding vocabulary and figurative language in context. However, students were doing very poorly on the Standard 7 multimedia questions, which usually ask them to compare a print text to some visual text such as a map or a piece of art. This information was helpful for teachers, so they could be mindful of strengthening intertextual connections for students, regardless of the subject area where they teach.

If you want to hear about these strategies in depth, access the Newsela “Celebrate the Educator” webinar in which I share 6 strategies for “leveling up” with Newsela.

What are some interesting ways that you are using the Newsela Pro Binder?

“Level Up” Your Teaching with Newsela Pro

This is the second post in a series of three, and it focuses on ideas for Newsela Pro users. For ideas for the free version of Newsela, check out my last post.

So you have access to Newsela Pro, but you only use the quizzes. Here are two easy ways you can “level up” how you use Newsela Pro in your classroom.

  1. Supporting Writing and Academic Language with the Write Prompt

I recently had the opportunity to work with a group of English language Learners. In the lesson, we looked at conflicts occurring in Syria. I chose a Newsela article about the teenage rebels that fighting in the conflict .

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The purpose of the lesson was for students to use a graphic organizer to track causes and effects of teenagers being involved in the war. You can check out the lesson plan for resources. Every Newsela article comes with a Write prompt, where students respond to a CCSS standard-aligned question. If you have access to Newsela Pro, you are able to edit the Write prompt. For this class, I embedded these sentence frames into the Write prompt in order the scaffold their responses.

  • One factor that has caused teenagers to fight in Syria is __________________. Another reason that teens are fighting is ________________. (Other factors causing teens to fight include ___________).
  • One of the effects of teenagers fighting in Syria is _____________. Additional impacts from teens fighting include _________________________.Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 3.24.10 PM

2. Scaffolding Complex Texts with Annotations and the Lexile Selector

What are the major three shifts of the English language arts and literacy common core standards is text complexity. Newsela’s Lexile feature allows students to change the complexity of text to suit their comprehension. However, there are times I want to really challenge them with the text at or above their grade level. One way I can do this while still scaffolding students is this adaption of the “Trying on the Most Difficult Text First” strategy from this International Literacy Association publication on close reading.

  • Use Newsela’s annotation questions or create your own annotation questions in a complex version (for your grade level and students) of the article.
  • Ask students to make initial responses to the answers, and annotate their own confusions.
  • Then have students read a more comfortable Lexile version of the article to aid comprehension.
  • Next, have students return to the complex Lexile version and revise their responses.

This method encourages students to tackle rigorous text, while also providing scaffolding for them to grow as readers!

If you want to hear about any of these strategies in depth, access the Newsela “Celebrate the Educator” webinar in which I share 6 strategies for “leveling up” with Newsela.

What are some interesting ways that you are using Newsela Pro features with your students?

“Level Up” your Teaching with Newsela’s Free Features

So you’ve started using Newsela, but you haven’t done much besides having students access articles and possibly taking quizzes. I’ll offer some new ways you could use Newsela to “level up” implementation in your classroom. This post is the first in a series of three short posts, and it focuses on ideas for the free version of Newsela than any teacher can use.

  1. Highlight Purposefully as a Reading and Research Strategy

Newsela comes equipped with a highlighting feature. Students can use up to four colors to code text in different ways. For example, last year I had 9th grade English students participate in an inquiry unit called “The Grown-up Project.” Students were tasked at reading literary and informational texts for evidence that would answer the following compelling question: “What primarily causes someone to grow up: the aging process, external events, or personal choices?” For the informational texts, students selected articles from a Newsela text set that I created, looking for evidence to answer the question. I assigned students to use a different highlighting color for each of the possible types of evidence as well as the fourth color to highlight the quote they believed was most important in the article.

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2. Differentiated Reading Groups

One of the main reasons I love Newsela is that each text has a Lexile selector that allows you to differentiate readability at five levels. It is an amazing tool to differentiate with dignity.  If your students have access to devices, that can very easily select the levels for themselves. However, if you don’t have devices, you can print articles on whatever level you choose. One way to use this feature is creating differentiated reading groups.

Students can be divided into groups where each group reads a different article under a the same topic or theme. However, each group’s article can be leveled differently based upon the current proficiencies of that certain group (obviously, the teacher would need to create groups for this to work well). As an example, my colleague Lily, a biology teacher, created a genetics text set, where each student group read about a selective breeding and genetically modified organisms. Each article was leveled differently based upon the current proficiencies of the group. Then, a member of each group jigsawed with members from other groups in order to share information about their articles. All of the students were on equal playing field in regards to content, even if they had texts at different Lexile levels. By the way, since each group has a different article, it is not obvious that they have different readabilities. 

If you want to hear about any of these strategies in depth, access the Newsela “Celebrate the Educator” webinar in which I shared the 6 strategies for “leveling up” with Newsela.  

What are some interesting ways that you are using the free version of Newsela with your students?

Reflecting with #5wins

Hey everyone,

It has been a while since I’ve blogged, as life and work has been busy. Each day brings news challenges and opportunities, and there have been many days that I have worked long until the evening.

Sometimes, as a coach who works in multiple schools, I begin to doubt my impact. In my classroom, I had a regular barometer of my effectiveness with my students’ engagement and progress. As a coach, this is somewhat true, but results are often more delayed. In addition, when you are involved in so many activities, it is sometimes difficult to assess your effectiveness because you are always working on to the NEXT THING.

In the past several years, reflection was a required part of my life – as I worked on a Master’s degree, the Governor’s Teacher Network and National Board renewal. But this year, I have not had so many additional projects — which, quite honestly, has been a breath of fresh air.

But, there has been a downside.

When I am so busy during the day and I am not regularly reflecting, I begin to doubt myself. I begin to wonder about my impact.

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to hear Baruti Kafele speak about evidence and reflection. He essentially said, “Look at yourself in the mirror, and ask yourself, ‘what is my evidence of effectiveness?'”

I feel like I have been neglecting that question: “What is my evidence that I am an effective instructional coach?”

So, I came up with an idea. Each weekend, I am going to reflect on my week and post #5wins from the week. I am going to look at impacts and evidence of growth in students, teachers, and myself. Here are my tweets from this week.

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I think this will be a good way for me to make progress transparent. If you’d like to join me, please post about your successes from the week with the #5wins hashtag. I’d love to be inspired by what you’re accomplishing as well.