No matter the genre, readers gravitate toward their interests when reading. Working with students to create Class Text Sets with Newsela allows secondary students to choose what they learn about while still focusing on the learning targets of the subject area and course. The element of choice that having students create class Text Sets introduces increases student engagement in the topic and can excite students to read more. Having students take ownership of their learning is a goal of most educators, and this strategy encourages and supports that goal.
Teacher Preparation and Planning:
Create a Newsela Text Set
Create a Newsela Class Text Set by selecting "Text Set," "Your Text Set," and selecting "Create New Text Set."
This text set should have a name easily recognizable to you and your students:
Ex. Mrs. Jones Earth Science Class
Ex. Student Text Set for STEM
Ex. Exploring Chemistry: Powered by Student Interest
You may create multiple text sets that focus on the topics you will cover over the school year and to help students categorize the articles more easily.
Topics, Expectations & Timeline
Create a list of topics and make it available to students. This can be done by listing the topics in the Newsela Text Set Description area.
Determine the expectations about how many articles students must read and propose to be part of the class Text Set.
Create a timeframe of how long students have to complete the tasks (reading articles and suggesting articles to be added to the class Text Set). When creating a timeframe, be sure to consider how the text set fits within a unit/projects, terms, semesters, or even over the course of a year.
Create a rubric or tracking sheet such as the one included in the resource section below that students can use to easily identify if they are meeting their goals and on track for success.
Show students the class Text Set (see example text set below), and describe the task.
Review topics, expectations, and timeline.
Create SMART goals and place them on the Class Text Set tracking sheet. For example, a student's SMART goal for the Text Set creation could be:
"I will create a Text Set about architecture around the world that contains at least three articles in the next 5 days."
Students will explore the articles on Newsela to identify articles that relate to the class Text Set and/or class topics.
Students will read articles they find interesting to them, and if the articles relate to the topic of the class Text Set, they will record the name of the article and a category they think this article fits into on their Class Text Set Tracking Sheet.
Students will share their Class Text Set Tracking sheet with their teacher, and the teacher will add the students' articles to the class Text Set.
Students will create two probing, open-ended questions to be given to other students who read that article.
These questions can be recorded digitally with Google or Microsoft and then shared with the instructor.
Students can record the questions on paper or create a engaging visual and have the instructor make copies that can be stored where students have access. Students reading that article could then select the document matching the article and return it when they are done.
Students will present the articles they contributed to the class Text Set and explain why they selected those articles.
Students can make a formal presentation where they can really have fun with trying to "sell" their Text Set contribution. If you move forward with this option, it would be appropriate to allow preparation time for students to create note cards and possibly practice with their peers.
Alternatively, this might look like a more casual conversation where students meet in groups and discuss their selections and why they chose them.
Newsela Pro Modification
Students provide one Newsela Write Prompt to be placed in the Write Prompt for their selected text by the teacher.
Students identify Power Words from the text that relate to the key vocabulary of the class.
Teachers can create a word wall or some other visual representation of all terms identified by the students to be put on display for all.
The teacher reviews probing questions and places them in the "Write Prompt" for others to answer who read the article.
Mr. Trebel's Engineering Class Text Set
A Mile In Our Shoes
Connecting First American Cultures To Modern American Socio-Environmental Inequalities
The following modifications may support EL students to build their language acquisition skills while also participating in the class Text Set creation.
Consider personalizing the number of articles that each student needs to read. This can be done with the student during a conference.
Ask students to find a Newsela article that relates to the topic of the course in both English and their first language, if available.
Have students read through the article in both languages and ask them to identify any differences they find that they think may change how the article is received/understood. This may be based on how a word translates and may be interpreted differently in each language.
For example, you could have your students identify words in their native language that do not exist in the English language and how that might affect understanding.
You may also have students search for words that have similar meanings and similar spellings such as "president" and "presidente" or "telefono" and "telephone."
The teacher and student should read and discuss these differences and come up with a list of common differences that the student can look for when reading other articles.
If possible, collaboration with an instructor or translator of their primary language may be beneficial.
Students with special needs may need modifications and support to achieve the expectations of contributing to the class text sets.
For students who need more time to read through an article, consider personalizing the number of articles assigned based on prior personalized student goals and accommodations. A conference with the student and/or the Teacher of Record can help greatly with defining what is appropriate for each student.
For students who need additional support in comprehension, it may be beneficial to break the articles down into smaller sections that the student reads over an extended period of time.
Prompting questions could be created for each section to support reflection and comprehension.
A graphic organizer could also help the student organize their thoughts and help with knowing where to stop and reflect and provide prompting to identify key topics.
Newsela PRO Tip: Annotation would be a great way to prompt students after each section of an article. You could also include cues that instruct the student to "Stop" and "Reflect." The student could then respond using the annotation feature.
It is important to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity that exists in all classrooms. Additionally, it is important to remember to include articles and text sets that have a diversity of perspectives, authors, and cultural relevance.
Things to think about as a teacher when creating a Text Set:
Are the cultural backgrounds of my students represented in the Text Set?
Do the articles represent sex and gender identity diversity?
Does the Text Set provide a balanced perspective on the topic?
Does the Text Set have representation from various races and ethnicities?
Have I communicated the importance of diversity of perspectives and backgrounds to the students?
What do students think? How can they contribute to promoting a robust and diverse Text Set for the classroom?
How closely related are you hoping the articles that the students select are to the topic of each Text Set?
Do the articles need to relate to a specific topic?
How might you be able to identify topics that students might be interested in before creating the Text Sets?
Remember to set clear expectations for how many articles each student needs to find and how closely the articles need to relate to the topics or course.
Revisit the class Text Set often to add new articles that students have recommended.
Have students update their tracking sheet weekly and set benchmarks to keep the pace up and monitor their progress.