A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Newsela is a website and app that offers kids the chance to read about current events at the level they're comfortable with. When kids sign up, they'll need to click on an email-verification link to get started. Once registered, you'll receive a start-up code that family members can use to log in. Kids will need to register separately with their own usernames and passwords, enter the code, and view articles you've selected. Kids can access news stories from several sources, and they can explore those stories at a reading level (measured by Lexile score) that suits their reading ability.
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What's it about?
Newsela is an online news-as-literacy platform featuring current articles in seven categories: War & Peace, Science, Health, Kids, Money, Law, and Arts. It's updated daily with stories from a wide range of sources (from the Associated Press to Scientific American to the Washington Post) in both English and Spanish, and all articles are Common Core-aligned and available in five different Lexile levels, ranging (roughly) from third to 12th grade. Each leveled text features a quiz tailored to that particular article plus a writing prompt that asks kids to write and respond to what they've read.
Newsela's resources are free to students; all of the site's articles and quizzes, as well as the annotation tool, are available for open online use. For teachers, the paid PRO subscription offers the site's most useful options. These include a dashboard to manage students' assignments and view both individual and class results, tracking progress toward meeting the related Common Core State Standards. Additionally, the PRO subscription gives teachers access to the site's annotation tool as well as some other customization features.
Is it any good?
Newsela is a solid resource for news stories your students will look forward to reading and discussing. Though it's a valuable tool for free, it's likely that the tools in a PRO account will offer the best learning value. Access to the annotation tool for teachers is enormously useful and it offers a great way to encourage active reading. Teachers have access to this, as well as crucial assessment data, through the dashboard. With or without a paid subscription, students will find the nonfiction texts here accessible and engaging; articles are pulled from high-quality news sources, then adapted to a range of reading levels. Topics run the gamut from pop culture, from roller derby to Minecraft, and they touch on subjects that encourage cross-curricular reading, like DNA testing, global women's rights, living conditions in Syria, and travel to Mars.
Including adjustable Lexile levels for every text (and quiz) is a significant feat and gives Newsela a considerable leg up against other competitors that offer more static nonfiction reading instruction. Additionally, the customized quizzes and structured writing prompts paired with each leveled text are a huge boon to teachers and students alike: These assessment features offer a rich, flexible way for students to demonstrate what they've learned, to practice their close reading skills, and to use their writing to analyze and discuss what they've read. It's especially powerful that there's so much content available in Spanish, making this a great tool for Spanish speakers or Spanish language students and for ELLs whose first language is Spanish. Features like a built-in dictionary, a translator, or audio support could make the experience even richer. Also, better search terms would make searches of the articles feel more fruitful: as it is, daily updates are impressive and the range of article topics is appealing; using the "News From Around the United States" is less impressive than disappointing, as some states haven't had an update in months. All that aside, though, this is an exceptionally strong tool for bringing current events, level-appropriate texts, and flexible assessments to students from second through tweltfh grade.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how news is covered. Ask your child to point out the who, what, when, where, and why elements in an article.
Can your child identify key differences between legitimate news sources, such as a newspaper, and online gossip or opinion sites? Discuss how to tell whether a site can be considered a reputable information source.
Show your child a few websites that have narrative writing and opinion-based pieces, such as a column, and then share a few examples of articles that illustrate impartial newswriting. Can your child tell the difference between the two forms?
- Subjects: Language & Reading: reading, reading comprehension, text analysis
Science: animals, astronomy, ecosystems and the environment
Social Studies: events, global awareness, power structures
Arts: music, painting
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: analyzing evidence, investigation, thinking critically
Self-Direction: academic development, personal growth
- Genre: Educational
- Pricing structure: Paid, Free (Newsela News is free, but Essentials and Core Subjects subscriptions are paid; contact the developer for pricing information for schools and districts.)
- Last updated: February 27, 2020
For kids who love current events
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.