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What is Newsela and How Can it Be Used to Teach? Tips & Tricks

Newsela
(Image credit: Newsela)

Newsela is a news story-based platform that aims to help students improve their literacy skills with real-world content.

The idea is to offer a place that features curated news content so students can safely improve their reading skills while also learning about real-world affairs at the same time. 

A free version is available, and there is a paid for option that offers more features, providing an opportunity to try this type of tool before deciding if committing to more features is worth it for students.

Featuring reading level sectionalized content and follow-up quiz options, Newsela is built for teacher and students, but is it right for you?

What is Newsela?

Newsela (opens in new tab) is an online news platform that uses curated real-world stories to help students improve their literacy skills. Since this is measured in reading levels it's an easy to use way for teachers to set reading tasks for students with real-world news minus the worry of unsuitable content slipping in there.

Newsela

(Image credit: Newsela)

Content comes in daily and is sourced from a good range of news providers including Associated Press, PBS News Hour, Washington Post, The New York Times, Scientific American, and others. All of which offer English and Spanish options as needed.

Everything is spread across five lexile levels and runs from third grade right up to twelfth. While this can be shared based on ability, if you want to use content specific filters you will need to opt for the paid service – but more on that below.

Everything is available online via a web browser, so students can get to it on their own devices to read in class but also from home or on the move. The quiz options are great here as these can be used for at home follow-up learning.

How does Newsela work?

Newsela offers a free package that allows teachers to share content with students for reading. This is limited to news and current events as opposed to more updated and subject specific content controls, which come with the paid version.

Newsela

(Image credit: Newsela)

The free version can be accessed by students directly but the paid version allows teachers to set reading tasks and track progress. This features a dashboard for more controls and also allows teachers to work based on Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. 

Essentially, the free version of this tool is a great supplementary teaching tool while the paid version can play a more central role in teacher planning and delivery of lessons.

Schools and districts can sign-up to Newsela for wide controls and access across a broader use base. Then teachers simply sign in and begin using it, and can assign and share tasks digitally to students on their device of choice. Students simply enter a class code to get access to tasks and content set for them by the teacher, making it very easy to access.

What are the best Newsela features?

Newsela has a huge selection of features, with most available in the paid version, which is what will be talked about here. Primarily there is the ability to set reading based on ability. 

Useful follow-up tools help with teaching include quizzes, which can be edited by the teacher to suit specific students or groups. There are also follow-up writing prompts available that can support setting tasks to integrate learning and show how students are progressing.

Newsela

(Image credit: Newsela)

Annotations are a useful feature that provide teachers a way to specifically steer students as they are reading through the material. This is ideal for at-home learning or for extra guidance if working as a group in the class -- particularly when some students may need more assistance than others.

Text Sets are helpful by offering a curated list of texts and accompanying tasks to suit what might be going on at that time. For example, a Native American Heritage Month specific content list that can easily be found, edited, and shared as needed.

Quite uniquely, Newsela offers Spanish and English reading options that can be toggled between the two as needed. That makes this a useful resource for teaching ELL and ESOL students as well as those who are learning Spanish and want to read real-world content, checking their comprehension as they go.

Subject specific packages are useful and include ELA, Social Studies, Science, and SEL – all of which are in the subscription option.

How much does Newsela cost?

Newsela does offer a free model that gets you news stories and current events. Go for the paid subscription and there is a whole load of more options.

Newsela Essentials gets you access to the Professional Learning resources in the Educator Center, quizzes and writing prompts, student activity viewing, and admin visibility.

Go for the Core Subject Products for the most comprehensive selection of features including the above plus access to subject specific content and curation, Power Words in articles, subject specific quizzes and writing prompts, curated collections, curriculum components, comprehension quizzes, state standards-aligned instructional content, custom collections, and teacher support workshops.

Pricing for the paid level subscriptions are available on a quote basis and vary based on the number of users and institutions needed. 

Newsela best tips and tricks

Quiz the class
Set a reading task and quiz combination for the class to complete at home then follow up in class with a discussion to see how well the learning has been absorbed.

Prompt homework
Use the reading prompts as a way to set follow-up tasks for at-home or in-class work that allows students to get creative with what they've learned.

Target individuals
Take the time to assign specific articles to specific individuals based on their abilities and interests. Have them provide feedback to the class as a way to promote group learning.

Luke Edwards is a freelance writer and editor with more than two decades of experience covering tech, science, and health. He writes for many publications covering health tech, software and apps, digital teaching tools, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and much more.