Having students explore and research issues surrounding their community supports them to engage in their community and potentially make impactful changes. Student engagement and questioning skills increase when they relate to the subject and realize that many of the things they face on a day-to-day basis are the same for many people around the world. In this strategy, students read Newsela articles to learn more about their communities in order to identify a problem, and then develop research-based projects to explore and present solutions to those problems.
Teacher Preparation and Planning:
Create a Newsela Text Set or find an existing Text Set that contains articles that have issues, events or problems that are similar to your local community and relate to your unit/project topic. The Newsela Text Set could also include articles relating to industries that are present in your community. For example, the "Lend a Helping Hand" Text Set in the resource section below describes how people help out in their community
Identify a single article from the text set that has a theme or issues related to the local community. This will be used as the example that the teacher will use to model for students how to complete the assignment.
For example, the "Formerly Homeless 13-year-old Now Makes Soaps and Donates to Charity" article (in the resource section below) from the "Lend a Helping Hand" Text Set could be an article to use to model.
Create a series of prompting questions that will guide students to identify the common themes you are looking for them to identify and analyze. These questions can be on a paper document, online document/LMS or can be added to the Write Prompt.
For example, a prompting question could be: "What challenges did the subject of the article face that are similar to challenges that are present in your community?"
Newsela PRO TIP- Newsela PRO accounts can use the Annotations Tool (see more information in resource section below) to embed these prompting questions in the text. Using the tool, teachers can highlight a sentence or phrase and then ask a question for students to respond to as they read.
Before the lesson, students can survey their families outside of school or the school counselor to identify social issues in their community. Alternatively, they can identify a problem on their own or as a whole group discussion.
Review the prompting questions that students will respond to as they read.
Optional, but encouraged: Students can identify 1-2 questions they are interested in and add it to the prompting questions.
Work as a class to create further prompting questions.
Have students read the Newsela article
Have the students pay attention to any Newsela PRO Annotations if access to the PRO features is an option
Have students respond to the prompting questions on a separate document or in the Write Prompt as they read.
Have students use annotations to record their initial thoughts and informally cite examples comparing and contrasting the article to their own community.
Newsela PRO Annotations feature can be used by the students to highlight the text as they go to review later
Have students take the Newsela Quiz.
Have students respond to the list of Write Prompts in one of the following ways:
Newsela Write Prompt that has been edited by the teacher with all the prompting questions listed
External digital or physical document provided by the teacher
Newsela PRO Feature Annotation- If the school or class has access to Newsela PRO, they can respond to the prompts that are present in the Annotations created by the teacher.
After students respond to the prompting questions, have them engage in a small group or whole class reflection discussion of the article.
For example: "What does poverty look like in our community?", or "What are some ways our school and/or community tries to help people overcome obstacles related to poverty?"
Exit Ticket: Prompt students to think about how the article may have changed their perspective
"How did reading this article help you think about your community in a new way?"
"What did you take away from this article that you would like to enact in your school or community?"
Extended Learning Uses:
Students can use this information gathered to identify a topic for a research paper.
Students can use this information to create a presentation to make others aware of the issues their community faces.
Students can use this in a journalism piece as research and inspiration.
Students can use this information to identify a project focus for a science or math or STEM class.
Students can use this information to create a paper or presentation comparing and contrasting their communities to other times in history or other communities using a T-chart or other graphic organizer.
Lending A Helping Hand
Preserving Small Town America
As students learn about other communities and compare and contrast them to their own, there may be some culturally specific themes or topics that come up depending on the community the classroom is located in. In rural communities, for example, students may not have an understanding of the cultural norms and traditions of urban communities. Furthermore, this strategy is an opportunity to expose students to racial, religious, ethnic and socioeconomic communities dissimilar to their own. This can increase understanding and lead to larger conversations on the similarities and differences between the communities.
Identify and discuss the "type" community the students are part of and have the students make a list of descriptors that would be attached to their community.
Assign articles that are about communities dissimilar from the students.
Prompt students to think about what issues their community faces that are similar to the communities they are reading about.
Facilitate a conversation about what they think about these similarities and differences.
What is a community and are they all the same?
What does our community have in common with other communities in our state, country or world?
Are there any similarities of issues between our community and other communities? If yes why? If no, why not?
Getting community members or leaders involved is a great way to increase authenticity of this strategy.
Sometimes students may not want to share issues they are facing in their home or community. Be clear in the beginning that students do not need to share what they are not comfortable with, and give them the option to talk with you privately to give them a safe opportunity to share and discuss their ideas.
This strategy can lead down many rabbit holes. Keep in mind what your purpose is for exploring this topic and try to allot enough time for students to really reflect and discuss to further their understanding.