Topic Research Using Newsela with Secondary Students

Students examine a compelling question by researching articles on a topic in order to prepare to develop a written piece
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Topic Research Reflection Video

About This Strategy

Completing a research project can be overwhelming for students and daunting for teachers, too!  This strategy provides step-by-step guidance as students research either a teacher-selected or student-driven topic using These steps empower students to guide themselves through the research process and allow teachers the freedom to conference with students during the research process to support their success.

Before Reading Implementation Steps

Teacher Preparation and Planning:

  1. Decide whether students should be able to choose their own topics/articles to research or if the articles will be selected for students.

  • If articles and topics are to be selected by the teacher, add the titles and links to those articles to the Newsela Research Student Activity graphic organizer (included in the resources section below).

  • If students can select their own topics and articles, create a list of possible topics related to the curriculum that have a variety of articles available for students to select from on Newsela.


Student Preparation:

  1. Discuss both academic and non-academic situations in which research is valuable and/or necessary.

    • For example, finding a cure for a disease, buying a house, etc.

  2. Connect to students' prior experiences by asking them:

    • What topics have you researched?

    • What strategies worked for you as you engaged in research?

    • What challenged you as you engaged in research?  

  3. Allow students to select a topic or provide an overview of the teacher-selected topic.

During Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Allow students to select three to five articles with a common topic or assign a Newsela Text Set.

  2. Provide each student with a copy of the Newsela Research Student Activity graphic organizer (included in the resources section below).

  3. Using the Newsela Research Google Slides Presentation (included in the resources section below), instruct students to read each article and fill out the table in Step One of the graphic organizer. For each article, students will:

    • highlight key information

    • create annotations to help summarize the big ideas

    • determine the central idea and create a citation

After Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Once students have read all the articles and completed step 1 of the Newsela Research Student Activity Graphic Organizer, have them complete steps 2-4 in the Newsela Research Student Activity Graphic Organizer (included in the resources section below).

    • Teachers can go through this process with students step-by-step using the Newsela Research Google Slides Presentation (included in the resources section below) or provide students with a paper or electronic version of the presentation to reference as they complete the activity at their own pace.

    • Teachers conference individually with students once they have completed step 2 to ensure that all students are set up for success before they begin outlining.

Write a Research Paper

Students write a research paper using the information they have developed on the Newsela Research Student Activity graphic organizer (included in the resources section below).


Implementation Steps:  

  1. Have students use the blank outline  (included in the resources section below) to further develop their ideas and plan their research paper.

  2. Have students consult the rubric (included in the resources section below) to revise their essay.

  3. Conference with each student throughout the writing process, assess each essay using the rubric, and allow students to further revise the essay based on teacher feedback.

Recommended Newsela Texts or Text Sets

Fake News

  • Essential Question: Why do people create fake news? How can readers determine if what they are reading is accurate?
  • Grade Level: 8-12
  • Content Area: ELA, SS, Technology


Causes of the American Revolution

  • Essential Question: What events led to the American Revolution?
  • Grade Level: 7-11
  • Content Area: SS, ELA


The Benefits of Playing Video Games

  • Essential Question: What are the benefits of playing video games?
  • Grade Level: 6-12
  • Content Area: ELA

Special Education Modifications

Students of all abilities will be appropriately challenged by this project. Articles are naturally differentiated on and the process described breaks the research process down into manageable parts.



  • Students with dysgraphia can complete the student research activity online. This will assist students in developing and organizing their ideas throughout the process.

  • Teachers can develop Newsela Text Sets ahead of time for students with significant reading delays by using the advanced search feature on and sorting by reading level.

  • Teachers may consider only presenting one step of the student activity at a time to help students with executive functioning challenges to focus and not feel overwhelmed.

  • Further skills development in determining the central idea may be required for students with learning disabilities; teachers can reference the resource section below for additional guidance in helping students to determine a central idea. Consult the Identifying a Central Idea and Supporting Details Using Newsela strategy to learn more about how to support students to identify central ideas and supporting details.

Questions to Consider

  • How will you monitor student progress? It is particularly essential that you check in with students as they are developing their claim and body paragraph topics. If students complete this activity online via google classroom or schoology, you can monitor this work in real time and individually conference with students who need extra guidance.  If students complete the activity on paper, develop a system that works for you to check in with each student during this part of the process.

Teacher Tips

  • Developing a claim is really challenging for most students. Some students will benefit from completing the steps in the student activity in a different order (perhaps gathering text based evidence first, then body paragraph topics, then creating a claim). One of the benefits of this activity is that it is student-driven and flexible.  Students can decide for themselves how best to complete the activity. This will set them up for greater independence and success on future research projects.

  • The number of sources, body paragraphs, and text-based details can all be modified depending on the grade level, content, and purpose of the activity.

  • There are many ways to outline and assess a research paper. While I have provided a possible outline format and rubric, make adjustments as needed to meet the needs of your student population, standards, and curriculum.