Paint Chip Vocabulary using Newsela for Secondary Students

Students explore articles at multiple reading levels to broaden their vocabulary
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Paint Chip Vocabulary Explanation

About This Strategy

Exposure and forming connections are two effective ways for students to learn new vocabulary. Newsela provides an engaging method for vocabulary exposure given that its articles all appear at multiple Lexile levels. Students can engage in an article scavenger hunt through multiple Lexile levels to see how the same idea is presented differently, using different vocabulary, in increasing complexity. When students record these words, they create for themselves a rich vocabulary resource of synonyms for improving their own writing.

Before Reading Implementation Steps

Teacher Preparation and Planning:

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

  2. Reading the article at the lowest available Lexile level, select key vocabulary words for students to focus on, and input them on the lightest-colored box of each column of the Paint Chip Template (included in the resource section below). Share this document with students.

    • Newsela PRO users can also choose to highlight the selected words using the Annotations feature or add them to the assignment instructions.

  3. Model completion of the first column of the Paint Chips template before students begin reading, by completing steps 2-4 of the "During Reading Implementation Steps" below with students. This will give students a guide as they complete the rest of the words.


Student Preparation:

  1. Make a copy of the Digital Paint Chip document provided by the teacher.

During Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Assign the Newsela article or Text Set.

  2. Have students read the article at the lowest Lexile level, looking out for the words provided on the Paint Chip Template. Instruct students to input a definition for each word, based on what they've read, in the first row where the words are listed.

  3. Instruct students to read the article at the Max Lexile level, trying to find a more complex synonym for each of the provided words. Place the synonym in the darkest color of the Paint Chip Template.

  4. After reading the Max level and finding a synonym for each word at the lowest Lexile level, adjust to the intermediate Lexile levels and try to find less complex synonyms for the original word.

    • Not every article will provide for multiple synonyms of each word. Students should be instructed to use online Dictionaries and/or an online Thesaurus if, after searching all Lexile levels, they cannot find additional synonyms.

    • For an extra accountability step to ensure students are not simply browsing the internet for synonyms without looking at the articles, students should record the Lexile level at which they found each word.

    • Students should attempt to fill in at least 3 of the 4 "chips" for each word.

After Reading Implementation Steps

  1. After reading, students should write a sentence using their favorite word from each column. The sentence should include context clues to demonstrate an understanding of the word's meaning.

  2. Upon completion, students should review their Paint Chips with a partner to see if their partner found any additional or different vocabulary words.

  3. Students should keep their completed Paint Chip cards for use during later writing exercises.

  4. As students continue to use this strategy, they can self-select vocabulary words, rather than having the teacher provide them. Similarly, students can create Paint Chips for articles they've read independently for others to complete.

Recommended Newsela Texts or Text Sets

Entrepreneurs Changing our World

  • Essential Question: How do new ideas impact the way we live?
  • Grade Level: 9-12
  • Content Area: English Language Arts, Social Studies

Oh, Hello: How We Communicate & Why Words Matter

  • Essential Question: How has communication evolved over time?
  • Grade Level: 9-12
  • Content Area: English Language Arts

Does the US Constitution Protect Everyone, or Protect Some While Hurting Others?

  • Grade Level: 9-12
  • Content Area: English Language Arts, Social Studies

EL Modification

EL students have limited vocabulary knowledge and benefit from linguistic supports. Teachers can provide modifications that will help EL students better access new vocabulary.


  • Rather than only providing the word at its lowest Lexile level, teachers can provide both the lowest Lexile and the word at the MAX Lexile level.

  • Teachers can add annotations to the article that include definitions, to help guide EL students' understanding.

  • Teachers can also provide vocabulary words in both English and the student's native language to support language acquisition.

  • Teachers can provide definitions on the Paint Chip document.

Using Paint Chips During a Writing Task

Paint Chips are most effective when students continue to collect them and create their own "dictionary" of synonyms and increasing vocabulary. Students should revisit their Paint Chips during the revision stage of the writing process in order to focus on diction and variety.


Implementation Steps:

  1. When working with a completed draft, students should have their Paint Chips out.

  2. Students should scan their draft, looking for repetition of words and low-level vocabulary; these words should be circled.

  3. After scanning the draft and identifying repetition and words that can be improved for more clarity, students should consult their Paint Chips for help in strengthening their vocabulary.

    • While students will not have every word they might need listed on their Chips, they will have ideas to pull from to find better choices of words.

    • Students can also go "Paint Shopping" and look at classmates' collection of Paint Chips for ideas.