18. Nonfiction and Current Events using Newsela

Nonfiction and Current Events using NEWSELA

newsela logo

Blog Post Agenda:

  1. What is Newela?
  2. Techie Teachers’ Tricks for Using Newsela
  3. End-of-Blog-Post Bonus (current events resources)

1.      What is Newsela?

Newsela seems to be e very promising free web tool with multiple benefits for classrooms. It was lunched only a few months (in June 2013), but is has gained GREAT popularity across the globe. Newsela, is the abbreviation for News English Language Arts. It is a website that provides access to Lexile leveled informational text from reliable sources for students in grades 3-12. The articles come from the McClatchy-Tribune news wire service, a consortium of 30 daily newspapers including the LA Times, The Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, and the Orlando Sentinel. As the Common Core advocates a “staircase” of increasing text complexity, Newsela hits this target. Jennifer Coogan, Chief Content Officer at Newsela, said “what we aim to do is help students move, step-by-step, up the staircase of reading complexity, so that they can eventually read the paper fresh off the presses without any added support.”

You can watch a great overall presentation of Newsela here.

Newsela FINAL

Common Core states that “at the lowest grade in each band students focus on reading texts within that text complexity band. In the subsequent grade or grades, students within in a band, students must ‘stretch” to read a certain portion of texts from the next higher text complexity band.” The Common Core States Standards listed the Lexile measures and Lexile ranges appropriate for each grade band, and also what should be considered a ‘stretch band.


Lexile Band
Common Core

Lexile Band*

Common Core


5 Lexile levels

Newsela- grade level




Approximate Lexile levels

How I correlate them




710 L

(2?) 3, 4




900 L

5, 6, 7




1020 L

8, 9




1110 L

10, 11, 12






Newsela recommends a reading right level for each student as soon as they have accessed it and took the first quiz which is presented to them according to the grade level assigned to them by their teacher. However, it gives students the opportunity to read articles a different levels; they might be able to read more complex texts on familiar topics, but lower Lexile texts on topics they haven’t been exposed to and are not familiar with. Students can also see what the same article looks like at the next and previous levels of complexity, each version of the same articles displaying leveled text features. Not all articles have a quiz, but all articles that have a quiz are aligned with Common Core Standards for reading informational text. You’ll see an anchor by the title of each article indicating whether or not that particular article is aligned to Common Core. Currently, they cover reading standards 1-4 and 6-8, and working on including all standards 1-10. The students and the teachers are provided with data regarding students’ reading achievement.

The home screen displays all articles in reverse chronological order. However, users can sort them according to 7 categories shown at the top: War & Peace, Science, Kids, Money, Law, Health, Arts, or by Common Core standards as explained towards the end of this blog post.

This website has a free and a paid plan. The paid plan is being developed and will include extra features such as assignment design, more detailed progress reports, constructed response writing assessments, and annotations. By accessing either the free or the paid plan, users have access to over 500 articles by category and reading standard, access new articles daily at five different reading levels, view quiz results and progress, and take quizzes.

2.      Techie Teachers’ Tricks for Using Newsela


  1. Sign up for a free teacher account and create classes

After you sign up for a free account you can easily create your classes. You need to assign a grade level for your classes which will determine the Lexile level of first article that Newsela will deliver to your students. However, irrespective of grade level, the next articles will be delivered according to their performance on the initial quiz. If you work with students from different grade level, Newsela recommends leveling students at the lower level because after they take the first quiz, if they show mastery, they will get higher level articles. Once your class is set up, Newsela will generate a code for you. All the students in that class will use the same code to register.

Video tutorial for registering your students.

  1. Sign up for students

To register students need to fill out the boxes under the “I’m a Student” tab. Students will use the code provided by the teacher to join their class. After typing in their code, they need to provide their first and last name, create a unique username (of their choice), and pick a password.

Sign up student

  1. Assign articles

Assigning articles is very easy. All you need to do is open the article you want your students to work on and you would just click on the class name tab at the top to assign it. The tab that indicates the name of the class you assigned it to will turn green indicating that the articles has been successfully assigned to that group. The articles that have an anchor by their title are Common Core aligned and have quizzes that students can take. So far, Newsela doesn’t allow teachers to assign articles to individual students, but to the whole class. After completing each quiz, the students see the results immediately and they can review their answers.  They can also read articles of their choice not only the articles assigned to them by their teacher.

Video tutorial for assigning articles.

  1. Track progress (student view)

Accessing the BINDER tab at the top, the students can easily see what articles have been assigned to them by the teacher, what articles they completed, the number of quizzes they took, their average Lexile level, their average score, and their average quiz score by standard.

Binder student view

  1. Track progress (teacher view)

To track progress click on the BINDER tab found at the top. Teachers can track student progress by article, by student, or by class. They get data regarding overall group quiz average, group quiz average by standard, or by student. Teachers have also the possibility to download Excel spreadsheets with data for each class.

You can access a video tutorial about how to track students’ progress here.

Binder teacher view cover code

Finding articles and quizzes
A filter for the front page of the site that will allow you to view only articles that have multiple choice quizzes is currently being developed. In the meantime, in order to filter the main page to show articles aligned to individual standards, you can use this url: http://newsela.com/articles/?anchor=2. Replace the # 2 above with any number 1-4, 6-8 (5 and 9 are in progress) and the page will display only those articles with quizzes aligned to that particular standard.

You can find answers to other questions you might have here (support), or video tutorials here.

Newsela is piloting the annotation feature. It seems this feature would be available in the Newsela Pro package. After enjoying so much using this feature in Subtext, I would love to see this feature free! Annotations have a great instructional value as they help students become critical thinkers, and transform their learning environment into a dynamic virtual community.

Citing an article
As recommended by Newsela, students should cite a Newsela article in the following format:
Original author last name, original author first name, original publication via Newsela (Ed. Newsela version Lexile). “Headline of version.” Date published. Web. Date accessed. <URL>.
Neergaard, Lauran, Mary Clare Jalonick, Associated Press via Newsela (Ed. Newsela staff. Version 1180). “Don’t Cut Food Stamps, Doctors Tell Congress.” 14 Jan. 2014. Web. 5 Feb. 2014. <http://newsela.com/articles/foodstamps-doctors/id/2394/>.

3.      End-of-Blog-Post Bonus (Current Events)

current eventsExtra tools to teach current events:
1. DOGOnews– is a source for current events, news and non-fictional articles for kids and teachers which claims that helps kids engage with digital media in a fun, safe, and social environment.

2. Time for Kids– is an interactive news site from TIME magazine; it categorizes current events articles and activities by grade level and includes games, trivia, and a homework helper.

3. Teaching and Learning with the New York Times offers lesson plans, blogs, and student activities designed around current events and the news.

4. Teaching with the News, CHOICES- The Choices Program’s Teaching with the News initiative provides resources and lessons to connect instructional content to the headlines in the news.

5. News for Schools, BBC provides news-related education resources for Primary School and Secondary age students.

Until next time get creative, be inspired, and grow! :)

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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1 Response to 18. Nonfiction and Current Events using Newsela

  1. Pingback: NewsELA Helps Build Non-Fiction Fluency in Students | HPS Digital

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