Why I Use Newsela
Guest blog post by Jim Bentley
Newsela has changed reading in our project-based learning classroom. It adapts to fit the needs of my students. It stimulates curiosity and supports student-directed inquiry.
Data Doesn’t Lie
Textbooks with printed words on a page cannot adapt to meet the needs of individual students.
This is a Newsela reading report for Anhthu. She came to my class from Viet Nam at the start of the past school year with very limited English. Each dot on the data chart represents an article read. Starting in August, she gravitated toward articles with Lexiles mostly at the 3rd and 4th grade levels. By the end of the year and 72 articles later, that had changed dramatically. While scores on higher Lexile quizzes are slightly lower than earlier in the year, her reading and speaking abilities have soared along with her confidence. I would argue that’s due in part to providing her text to read that was not at a frustrational level and using the Say Something Protocol for reading on a regular basis.
Textbooks are one-size-fits-all, off-the-rack learning tools that change at the speed of adoption cycles. They’re ill-suited to facilitate student-directed inquiries.
This year my students explored climate change with the goal of acting at the local level to do something about it. Since there’s not a textbook for that, we turned to National Geographic and Newsela for help. National Geographic’s Learning Framework is designed around the attitudes, skills, and knowledge exemplifying an explorer. Newsela provided the foundational knowledge to understand climate change and its impact. By building a Newsela Text Set on climate change, I was able to aggregate dozens of timely, relevant, and trustworthy new articles for students to launch their inquiry. The best part: students were able to select the Lexile best-suited to their needs. You can check out the highlights of this project-based learning experience for yourself.
Knowledge Can Be Transformative
Newsela provides my students information that is engaging and relevant and which can lead to transformative learning. Remember Anhthu? She took the understanding of climate change she developed with Newsela and collaborating with a 4-person team created a film educating businesses in our city how to divert organic waste away from landfills where they would generate greenhouse gases. Check out Anhthu’s work for yourself.
Newsela allows me to customize learning experiences for my students.
I no longer have one class of 28 but 28 classes of 1.