Students are more engaged readers when they find relevance in texts by connecting their reading to their current realities or experiences. In any given classroom, students have diverse experiences. These experiences need to be called out and celebrated as windows into other cultures for students. In addition to honoring the diverse experiences and backgrounds in each classroom, students need opportunities to celebrate how they're similar. Community Connections with Newsela leverages Newsela's built-in annotations feature and high-interest articles to combine both of the goals aforementioned: connecting reading to a student's current reality and enabling students to find things in common with their peers by focusing on a common experience - the communities in which they live and attend school.
Teacher Preparation and Planning:
Select an appropriate Newsela text or Text Set to use with this strategy. Teachers might consider an article like "Putting Out Fires For Free in Portugal" to get students thinking about Community Heroes (see link to article in resource section below), or teachers can consider finding articles in Newsela that focus on specific communities other than their own.
Activate student knowledge about the idea of "Community" by having students work in groups to brainstorm their ideas about their own community.
Ask students to list the people who make up their community. Desired responses include parents, kids, teachers, postal workers, police officers, etc.
Ask students to list the places that make up their community. Desired responses include schools, libraries, parks, stores, etc.
Ask students to list their favorite things about their community.
Ask students to list problems in their community.
Teachers of upper elementary students can have students respond in writing.
Teachers of lower elementary students might consider having students respond using pictures.
Work within a group to respond to the pre-reading prompts first as a discussion and then in writing or by using pictures.
Read the selected Newsela article together as a whole class.
Stop after each paragraph to allow students processing time. Allow students to share what they're thinking, specifically about how this reminds them of conditions or issues in their own community.
Add students' responses to the article as annotations.
Have students complete a Reading Response to the article they read and annotated as a class similar to the one in the resources section.
Have students revisit the Community Brainstorming they completed at the beginning of the strategy to select a "Community Connection" to explore further on Newsela.
Lower elementary students may need the teacher to find an article and assign it to them.
Upper elementary students can search the Newsela library for a connecting article.
While reading independently, have students record connections to their own community.
Teachers of lower elementary students and non-Newsela PRO users might provide a graphic organizer, like the one in the Resources section.
PRO users and teachers of upper elementary students can have students annotate within the article.
Students should return to their groups from the brainstorming activity and share the connections they found during reading with their peers.
MAX6: Everyday Heroes
Wonders, Grade 2: Let's Make a Difference
Building a Classroom Community
Students take pride in where they live. After exploring community connections, they may feel compelled to create a plan for bettering their community.
Provide chart paper or a digital template, as in the resources section, to students.
Students should create an artistic representation of a plan to improve their community, and may consider using the template below.
Once completed, students can engage in a Gallery Walk to see their classmates' plans.
Having students acknowledge their similarities and differences brings diversity to the forefront of the classroom and paves the way for culturally responsive teaching and learning. When students acknowledge diversity through the use of windowed and mirrored texts, they become more capable of navigating the diversity of experiences they'll encounter over their lives.
To further tease out discussions of cultural diversity and foster cultural responsiveness, teachers can have students select an article about a community students know to be very different than their own. For instance, students might choose to browse the library about a religion different than their own, a gender identity different than their own, or a different geographic region than their own. Students can then complete the same during and after reading steps. Teachers might also choose to have students create a visual representation of what they learned about this community.
Newsela's "A Mile in Our Shoes" Text Sets are an excellent resource for adding the Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning modification to the Community Connections strategy.