A Gallery Walk is a form of discussion that fosters student reflection and provides students a way to capture their thoughts through written conversation. Gallery walks can be formatted with paper/pencil, using chart paper, sticky notes, etc., or using a digital method. To structure a gallery walk, teachers should post interesting questions, statements, or problems for students to solve that are focused on the current unit or topic of study on chart paper around the room. Student groups are each assigned a starting point, and rotate through the statements/questions/problems on the pieces of chart paper, discussing the statement/question/problem with each other and then synthesizing their group's response and writing it on the chart paper. This strategy is an excellent way to increase student engagement through movement. Additionally, it allows for scaffolding through peer support and the open-ended nature of the prompts; there is no right or wrong answer in a gallery walk. A gallery walk can also serve as an excellent pre-writing strategy in literacy classrooms.
Speed Dating is a dynamic discussion strategy that supports students to analyze texts and respond to the ideas of others. To set up an initial Speed Dating exercise during class, teachers should prepare a series of questions related to an individual text or text set. Students can later be coached into writing their own questions based on the reading. Teachers should distribute one question to each student and allow the students time to answer the question in writing. The room should be structured as a typical "Speed Dating" venue, with two rows of desks or tables facing each other, and each student facing another student. Each student shares his or her question with the classmate sitting across from him or her, and then the classmate responds to the question. After an allotted period of time, students rotate to their next classmate in the line, which provides an opportunity for each student to speak with multiple classmates about multiple text-dependent questions. This activity fosters student engagement and builds students' discussion skills. Speed Dating is a very valuable strategy for English Language Learners, as it allows for rehearsed oral practice and conversational skills. It also embeds social skills into the classroom, with students practicing active listening and accountable talk with their partners.
Effective readers engage with the text by questioning, tracking their thinking, taking notes, and having discussions about what they've read. However, these are not skills that students inherently possess; they must be explicitly taught to read actively and use these strategies. One of the most powerful springboards for active reading is questioning the text using levels of questioning such as from Bloom's taxonomy. With Newsela, teachers can model the types of questions to ask of a text, using the annotations feature, and then have students create their own questions for discussion. Not only does this force students into a state of metacognition while reading, it also fosters healthy dialogue about textual issues, leading to deeper understanding and critical thinking.
Most teachers would agree that when students learn new vocabulary, they often can memorize words and/or meanings, but they struggle with deeper understanding that helps them transfer their vocabulary knowledge to novel situations, use it in their own writing, or recognize it in when it comes up in new texts. Students need opportunities to make connections, justify explanations, and apply new words so that they can successfully transfer their knowledge. Sort and Categorize Vocabulary gives students the opportunity to create connections between words by grouping new words into categories and giving the category a name. Students then hear how their peers have grouped and categorized new words, giving them further exposure and strengthening the connections they've already made. With Newsela articles and Text Sets, teachers and students alike can identify new words that they can sort and categorize after reading; the use of Newsela's leveled articles provides built-in differentiation that makes this strategy even more powerful.
Equally important to content standards are the skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. However, these skills cannot be addressed until teachers have taken explicit steps to build a classroom community and a positive classroom culture. When teachers allow students to bring their unique strengths, experiences, and interests into the classroom and take the time for students to acknowledge those attributes about each other, community is built. A Me Museum is an excellent opportunity for students to curate a collection of artifacts that represent their lives to then share with classmates. Newsela offers a novel way to create this museum: students can create Text Sets of articles representing their interests and experiences, then use that Text Set to introduce themselves to their classmates.
For conceptual understanding of a text or topic, students must understand a sequence of events. A great way to accomplish this is to create timelines. Students can create a timeline after reading a Newsela article to demonstrate their understanding of an event or a series of events and to teach others about it.
An Anticipation Guide is a valuable pre-reading strategy that supports student comprehension by activating schema and sparking student interest in the topic. Anticipation guides work best when students are provided a series of provocative and unique statements. Additionally, anticipation guides are effective when students are given a chance to discuss their thinking throughout the Anticipation Guide. There are several modifications to a traditional Anticipation Guide that can provide the opportunity for movement, discourse, and novelty. Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of an Anticipation Guide is the opportunity for students to revise their thinking by revisiting Anticipation Guide items after reading, and qualifying whether or not they've maintained their original line of thinking.
Students are more engaged in reading when they can form connections and have a purpose for reading. Teachers can accomplish both of these tasks by providing opportunities for students to think and discuss before reading; this front-loaded processing time allows students to activate their schema and thus enables deeper comprehension. An effective strategy to use for this purpose is a "Think, Read, Share," and using Newsela makes this strategy even more engaging for students. Newsela allows students the opportunity to interact with the text and track their thinking from before to after reading through the use of annotations and write prompts.
Students understand history best when they're able to think like historians: when they're able to ask the same types of questions historians do, draw the same types of parallels historians do, and make the same kinds of connections historians do. However, this line of thinking is often foreign to most students. When students use the Annotation and Write Prompt features of Newsela along with Stanford History Education Group's "Historical Thinking Skills Chart," they are provided with scaffolds to think like historians. The scaffolds included on the "Historical Thinking Chart" have students focus on Sourcing, Contextualization, Corroboration, and Close Reading to better understand historical documents. The combination of Newsela Annotations, Write Prompts, and the Historical Thinking Skills Chart results in deep analysis and the ability to truly think like a historian.
Teachers can pair texts on Newsela to support historical and contemporary connections for analysis. Using Newsela articles, students can analyze how a topic might be written about differently by different authors or article types (editorial, opinion, explainer). When students compare two texts about the same topic, they're able to deepen their understanding of the topic through analysis of multiple sources. Through their close reading of paired texts, students notice key differences and commonalities between the texts, leading them to ask deeper, more analytical questions. Using Newsela, teachers and students are able to identify topics for paired texts, use Annotations to track their thinking, and then respond to an analytical Write Prompt.
Students are more engaged readers when they find relevance in texts by connecting their reading to their current realities or experiences. In any given classroom, students have diverse experiences. These experiences need to be called out and celebrated as windows into other cultures for students. In addition to honoring the diverse experiences and backgrounds in each classroom, students need opportunities to celebrate how they're similar. Community Connections with Newsela leverages Newsela's built-in annotations feature and high-interest articles to combine both of the goals aforementioned: connecting reading to a student's current reality and enabling students to find things in common with their peers by focusing on a common experience - the communities in which they live and attend school.
For acquisition of new vocabulary, students must not only memorize definitions, but also understand connections between words and internalize their own usage of new words. Students often complain that vocabulary instruction is not engaging, so it's important that teachers find new ways to engage students with vocabulary; games are a great way of keeping vocabulary instruction novel and exciting. Two Truths and a Lie, Volley for Vocabulary, and Vocabulary Taboo are all games in which students think critically about new words and have fun interacting with peers.
Exposure and forming connections are two effective ways for students to learn new vocabulary. Newsela provides an engaging method for vocabulary exposure given that its articles all appear at multiple Lexile levels. Students can engage in an article scavenger hunt through multiple Lexile levels to see how the same idea is presented differently, using different vocabulary, in increasing complexity. When students record these words, they create for themselves a rich vocabulary resource of synonyms for improving their own writing.
Many strategies address the skills of productive discourse, agreeing and disagreeing with peers, and effectively stating an argument. Equally important, yet often overlooked, is the skill of active listening. Through the use of a Fishbowl Discussion, teachers can provide explicit instruction and modeling in both of these areas, helping to mold both active, reflective listeners and thoughtful, direct speakers. In a Fishbowl discussion, students are seated in two concentric circles; an "inner" and "outer" circle. Students seated in the inner circle are engaged in a discussion, while students seated in the outer circle are listening, taking notes, and preparing for their turn to engage in the discussion. After a set amount of time, students switch roles (the "inner" students switch to "outer" and vice versa). Use of this strategy fosters student reflection and forces students to think about their own communication habits and how those contribute to discussions and understanding.
Students are more engaged in learning about people (both historical and fictional) when they're able to personalize their learning by making inferences about characters based on their thoughts, words, and actions. This type of character analysis engages students in texts, leads them to ask questions of texts, and helps them form connections between people they may never meet and their own lives. In this strategy, students read texts and complete a graphic organizer in order to analyze the character or historical figure's thoughts, words, or actions.
Newsela offers an excellent opportunity for students to practice active reading, monitor their own comprehension, and extend new learning to their own lives. Using Newsela Chats, students read and annotate their own articles independently, then discuss their reading with a partner using the CHATS framework (Connections, Help, Advice, Thoughts, Summary). Using this framework, partners apply information from their reading to their own lives and share key learnings with the rest of the class.
Critical to student analysis of texts is their understanding of the author's purpose for writing the text. Using the annotations feature and high-interest pieces in Newsela, students are able to identify the author's purpose and evaluate the author's choices that support the development of this purpose. Students can then replicate some of the author's choices in their own writing.