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.
Teacher Preparation and Planning:
Create your own "Me Museum" Text Set using Newsela to share with students - it's equally important that the students get to know the teacher as it is that they get to know each other! See the sample Text Set and Description resource below.
Have students brainstorm a list of topics that they are interested in, or that would describe them. Consider using a QuickList like the one in the Resources section.
Model for students how to conduct a Library Search in Newsela for articles related to the keywords students listed in Step 1.
From the library search in Newsela, show students how to add their selected article to a new Text Set, and how to change the description of the Text Set to list which articles have been selected and why, as in the Resources section. To learn how to create a Text Set, see the video at the top of this strategy.
Show students how to adjust their Lexile level for articles that may be too challenging or too easy.
Model how to add an annotation to an article.
With the lists that they created in the previous section, students should browse the Newsela library for articles that are related to items on their lists.
Students should adjust the Lexile levels as needed to meet their individual preference.
Newsela PRO users may choose to require students to take quizzes for the articles they've selected in order to monitor comprehension and establish a baseline in the Newsela reading binder, especially when this strategy is used at the beginning of the school year.
Students should add an annotation to each article that briefly explains their connection to the article. This should be more in depth than the overview they listed in the Text Set description.
Upon completion, the students should set up their computer or device around the room, and each student should have their Text Set pulled up on their computer or device.
Students should be given 5-7 minutes to browse their classmate's Text Set and take notes (see note-taker in resources section) about what they've learned about their classmates.
It is not feasible to view all classmates' Text Sets due to class time constraints. So, teachers may choose to allow for 3-4 Museum "viewings" each day for a week, and then allow students to mingle and finish their Note-Taker sheet.
State Text Sets
Me Museum Text Set
EL students benefit from scaffolding and supports when constructing sentences in English. Models like sentence stems help support EL students in constructing sentences.
Provide sentence stems to EL students to support them in writing the sentences that they use on their article annotations.
By design, a Me Museum embeds tenets of Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning. Allowing students to bring their own cultural capital and experiences into the classroom from the very beginning of the school year sets the tone that diversity is honored and expertise is acknowledged. Students are able to see, through a Me Museum, that everyone has something to offer and everyone's background is important.
To help students of diverse cultures and experiences, teachers can direct those students to specific Text Sets, as in the Resources section.
Beyond serving as a great culture-building activity, this strategy exposes students to a variety of Newsela PRO features. It should be used at the beginning of the year to allow students to learn the Newsela PRO features they'll use for the remainder of the year.
Teachers might consider having a "Gallery Day" in which students view each other's Me Museums. Students can bring in artifacts (pictures, jewelry, knick knacks, books, etc.) that represent the experiences and interests reflected in their Text Set.
In the interest of time, it is not possible for students to present their Me Museum Text Set to every student in the class. Teachers may choose to create QR codes for each student's museum and post them in a central location of the classroom. Then, when students have down time or finish an assignment early, they can go view a Me Museum Text Set that they hadn't seen before.