Reading and Writing for Change with Secondary Students Using Newsela

Students read about others who have brought about change and then design their own projects to impact their homes, schools, or communities
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Reading & Writing for Change Teacher Tips

About This Strategy

There are so many problems and issues in today's society, and secondary students have the energy, creativity, and desire to solve them. Through this strategy, students will read about other young people who are bringing about change in the world. With these young people as inspiration, students will identify problems at home, at school, or in the community that they would like to solve, and they will design and implement plans to solve them.

Before Reading Implementation Steps

Teacher Preparation and Planning:

  1. Select and assign a Newsela article or a Newsela Text Set related to how young people can make a difference in the world that students can read. See the Recommended Newsela Text Sets section below for some suggestions.

Student Preparation:

  1. Students will respond to the following question: "Can students like you make a difference in the world? Explain." Students may respond to the question as a free write, or they may do a turn and talk.

  2. Students will brainstorm problems that they see in their homes, schools, and communities. The teacher should set up a place to collect student responses (the board, chart paper, a slide, a Padlet wall, etc.) so that the class may refer to the responses later in the strategy.

  3. If directed by the teacher, students will choose two articles from an assigned Newsela Text Set to read in order to learn more about how young children around the world have identified a problem in their communities and have worked to solve them.

During Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Assign the same Newsela article or Text Set to each student. When you create the assignment, you can decide whether to provide it at the Newsela Recommended reading level for each student or adjust the reading level to a particular grade for all students.

  2. Have students read the Newsela article and/or Text Set and use Newsela Annotations to highlight important information as follows:

    • Highlight what the person/group wants to change in RED.

    • Highlight what the person/group is doing to bring about change in GREEN.

    • Newsela PRO users may assign Newsela Annotations to their students. PRO users may ask students to highlight something from the article that is particularly important or surprising and then explain why it is important or surprising.

    • Newsela PRO users may also interact with their students through Newsela Annotations by commenting on student annotations or by asking follow-up questions.

  3. Students will respond in writing to the Newsela article. Students could respond in their journals or on the Newsela Article Reflection handout. (The handout is linked in the resource section below.)

    • PRO users: Modify the Newsela Write Prompt to read: Reflect on the actions of the person/group featured in the article. How has reading this Newsela article inspired you to make a difference?

    • Non-PRO users: Have students respond to the following Write Prompt: Reflect on the actions of the person/group featured in the article. How has reading this Newsela article inspired you to make a difference?

After Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Students will discuss key ideas and issues raised by the article that they read by having a Written Conversation/Chalk Talk. The key in a Written Conversation/Chalk Talk is that students do not talk. Students will respond to the questions in writing, and they will also respond to what their classmates write. Sometimes students answer the teacher's questions but then struggle to reflect on or ask questions about other students' ideas. If needed, the teacher can participate in this activity and can help model asking questions and giving feedback as he/she comments on student comments and writes follow-up questions as appropriate. The teacher will want to judge how the discussion is going to see how much time is needed. To learn how to engage in a Chalk Talk, consult the Chalk Talk or Silent Discussion strategy in the BetterLesson Lab.

  2. To set up a Written Conversation/Chalk Talk, write the following questions with each question on a separate piece of chart paper:

    • Can students like you make a difference in the world? Explain by using evidence from the text.

    • Share a personal connection that you made to the article or a key idea from the text that stands out to you.

    • Share a question or concern that you have after reading the article.

    • What is one problem at home, at school, or in the community that you would like to solve? Begin brainstorming how you might solve it. (Students may refer to the list of problems generated in the Before Reading portion of this strategy.)

  3. Students will then choose a problem to solve, design a plan to address that problem, and execute the plan. A sample graphic organizer for this step is included in the resources below.

Recommended Newsela Texts or Text Sets

Creative Kids Do Amazing Things

  • Essential Question: What kinds of things are kids like me doing to change the world and make it better for others?
  • Grade Level: 6-12
  • Content Area: ELA, Social Studies, Science, STEM

Children Changing the World

  • Essential Question: How does one demonstrate social responsibility?
  • Grade Level: 6-12
  • Content Area: ELA, Social Studies, Science, STEM

Are You Ever Too Young to Change the World?

  • Essential Question: How can students affect global, societal, and local issues?
  • Grade Level: 6-12
  • Content Area: ELA, Social Studies, Science

Market Day Culminating Activity

Consider this celebration/culminating activity as a way for students to share and celebrate what they have accomplished. It could also be a way for students to raise money and awareness for their causes. Students are so creative and come up with such innovative ideas. A few ideas are listed below, but, in reality, the possibilities with a Market Day Celebration are endless.

Implementation Steps:

  1. Determine a date to host a celebratory opportunity for students to share their projects called Market Day. Invite staff members, other classes, family members, and community members to attend.

  2. Participating students will create displays to share information about the problems that they were solving, the steps that they took to solve the problems, any benefiting organizations, etc. Students may create tri-fold display boards, posters, and/or other artifacts to display on Market Day. Attendees will browse the various displays and be able to talk with the students about their projects.

  3. Students may use Market Day as an opportunity to raise funds for their causes. For example, students could:

    • accept donations.

    • make friendship bracelets or other trinkets to "sell" for donations.

    • sponsor games or contests that attendees may enter. For example, fill a jar with candy. Attendees may pay $1 to guess how many candies are in the jar. At the end of the event, the person with the closest guess wins the candy, and the money raised goes to support the cause.

EL Modification

Using Newsela allows students to read articles at their own reading levels without missing out on key content. Reading articles at a "just right" level as well as the modifications below support EL students to build their language acquisition skills.


  • Students may read the article with a peer or with a small, teacher-led group. Students may also listen to the article using a tool such as Google Read&Write (see resource section below).

  • Instead of responding in writing to the Newsela Write Prompt, students may have a discussion about their reflections related to the article. If needed, students could also respond orally using a tool such as Flipgrid or Padlet (see resource section below).

  • EL students may require extended time for this activity.

Special Education Modification

Students with disabilities related to reading comprehension and processing are able to access key content at their own reading levels by using Newsela. Reading articles at a "just right" level as well as the modifications below support students with disabilities in their learning.


  • Students with disabilities that affect their processing and focus may need additional direction or support during the Chalk Talk. The teacher may consider providing students with sentence stems to help them respond to the prompts.

  • Students with disabilities related to focus and executive function may struggle with knowing where to begin and with staying on task throughout the assignment.

  • The teacher should chunk the project so that students with disabilities related to focus and executive function are able to work through the various steps of the strategy without feeling overwhelmed looking at the big picture.

  • The teacher may want to meet informally to check in with students during each chunk of the project to answer questions and ensure the proper focus on the task.

Teacher Tips

  • Some students may struggle to see how they can make an impact on the world. Consider how you might support such students. You may want to create a list of local charities that students may choose to support.

  • Students may have similar problems that they would like to solve, and there is power in numbers. Consider allowing students to work in partners or small groups if they are focusing on similar problems.

Consulted Resources

In developing this strategy, the resources linked below from The New York Times and the National School Reform Faculty Chalk Talk Protocol were consulted.