Question Scaffolds with Newsela for Secondary Students

Deepen student comprehension, activate close reading, and foster engagement by having students question the text
40 teachers like this strategy
Question Scaffolds with Newsela for Secondary Students
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About This Strategy

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.

Before Reading Implementation Steps

Teacher Preparation and Planning:

  1. Select an appropriate Newsela Text Set for students to read. This Text Set should be related to the current unit of study.

  2. From within the text Set, teachers should select one article to use for a whole-class modeling exercise. The other articles will remain as independent choice options for students to read.

    • For the modeling exercise, teachers should select a shorter article because it will be read aloud for the whole class.

Student Preparation:

  1. Distribute the Levels of Questions graphic organizer, found in the resources section, and review each type of question with students.

  2. Students should, with a partner, come up with their own Personal Example of each type of question.

  3. Read the selected article aloud, while students follow along on their devices. Teacher should stop after each paragraph and model a Think Aloud in which they ask questions. These questions should be recorded by the class on their graphic organizer.

  4. After reading, students should work in pairs to come up with one more of each type of question, based on the article.

During Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Assign the Newsela Text Set. 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. Or assign the Newsela Text Set at the Newsela Recommended reading level for each student.

  2. Students will select an article to read from within the Text Set. While reading, students should add at least one of each type of question (literal, inferential, evaluative, synthesis) to their article.

    • Newsela PRO users can use the annotation feature to have students add their questions to the article they are reading, and can have students color code the section of text that would help answer their question as follows (see the resources section for an example):

      • Red - literal, Green - inferential, Blue - evaluative, Yellow - synthesis

    • Non-PRO users can have students record their questions with paper and pencil.

After Reading Implementation Steps

  1. After reading, students should return to their original partners from the Before Reading exercise. Students should trade computers, read the article their partner selected, and respond to the questions via annotations.

    • Newsela PRO users can add these instructions to the assignment in the Text Set.

  2. As students continue to use this strategy, teachers can provide a more inclusive list of question stems, such as the Bloom's Question Stems and Teacher Planning Kit in the Resources section.

    • To foster critical thinking and to create questions that spark discussion, students should be encouraged to formulate questions at the Application level or higher.

Recommended Newsela Text or Text Sets

A Mile in Our Shoes: Immigrants

  • Grade Level: 6-12
  • Content Area: Social Studies, English Language Arts


Psychology: The Magic of Memory

  • Essential Question: Why is memory so important?
  • Grade Level: 9-12
  • Content Area: Social Studies, Science


Economizing: We Are Always Choosing Something

  • Essential Question: What are the opportunity costs of our decisions?
  • Grade Level: 9-12
  • Content Area: Math, Social Studies

Teacher Tips

Aimee Tolleson
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

This strategy should not be used in isolation, but as a springboard for other strategies that support student-led discussion. Teachers might consider using the questions that  students develop Question Scaffolds for use in a later Philosophical Chairs discussion, Socratic Seminar, Fishbowl Discussion, or Speed Dating strategy. To learn more about any of these strategies, you can search for them in the BetterLesson lab.