Speed Dating Using Newsela with Elementary Students

Students can engage in sustained and focused one-to-one conversations about content material with a variety of partners
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Students Explaining Speed Dating Using Newsela

About This Strategy

Speed Dating is a discussion strategy that allows students to engage in several short discussions around a specific topic -- from a factual conversation about a text to a discussion in which students share evidence-backed opinions on a topic. In this strategy, students read and annotate articles to learn about content material and annotate the articles in order to identify important information about an assigned topic or a topic of their choice. They then engage in sustained and focused one-on-one conversations about the content they learned with a variety of partners by responding to teacher-developed prompts or questions.  

Before Reading Implementation Steps

Teacher Preparation and Planning:

  1. Determine the purpose of the Speed Dating activity. Will students interact with one another in order to:

    • exchange factual information about a common topic? (e.g., "What do they know about Autism Awareness Week?" or "What is a black hole?")

    • share opinions and interpretations pertaining to a chosen concept/person? (e.g., "Was Christopher Columbus a hero or a villain?" or "Which invention contributed to the human progress the most?")

  2. Determine the format of the Speed Dating activity. Will all students be involved in researching one topic, which would allow for a whole class Speed Dating, or would the class be divided into groups to explore different topics? Ensure that your text set includes a sufficient number of articles on any given topic. A recommended minimum should include 4 - 6 articles, which would allow for 2 - 3 rotations of Speed Dating on one topic.

  3. Select a Newsela article by choosing one of the following options:

    • Option 1: Create one Newsela Text Set for students to select articles from. The Text Set should include articles on a variety of topics relevant to the content taught and/or of high student interest. You may consider creating a Text Set containing a mix of primary and secondary sources on any given topic (perfect for DBQs).
    • Option 2: Explore the existing wide variety of Newsela Text Sets by topic. Select a set (or more) that reflects your students' interests or the current content discussed in class.
  4. Locate the Cooperative Learning Chart in the resource section below, if needed, to use as a reference.

  5. Consider creating an organizational tool - a chart (handwritten or digital) - to track which topics have been assigned to which students.

  6. Locate and make copies (or enable digital access to) the Article Analysis - Guiding Questions (Fact/Opinion Exchange)Templates to be used by students during reading. Refer to the examples in the resource section below.

  7. Use the questions provided in the templates (included in the resource section below) or develop questions to ask students about the Text Set during the speed dating activity.

Student Preparation:

  1. Explain the purpose of the task to students and how it relates to the daily objective or learning target.

  2. Model for students how to access Text Sets and/or separate articles on Newsela. Also model for students how to use Newsela features like Annotations.

  3. Using teacher discretion, group students accordingly and assign the selected articles. Refer to the Cooperative Learning Chart in the resource section below, if needed. If students prefer working independently, make this option available as well.

  4. Complete the Article Assignment Chart for organizational purposes (optional).

  5. Provide students with the Article Analysis - Guiding Questions (Fact/Opinion Exchange) Templates to be used during reading.

  6. Review the task, timeline, expectations, and evaluative tools.

During Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Assign the Newsela article or Text Set. Decide whether to provide it at the Newsela Recommended reading level for each student or adjust the reading level to a particular grade for all students.

  2. Have students read and annotate the Newsela articles of their choice individually or in pairs.

  3. Have students complete the Article Analysis - Guiding Questions (Fact/Opinion Exchange) Templates as they read the assigned article. Refer to the example of the completed template included in the resource section below.

After Reading Implementation Steps

  1.  Depending on the number of topics, consider the following:
    • If the whole class researched the same topic, divide the class into two groups. Members of the first group should be given a number, e.g., 1-11; while the remaining students should be given a letter, e.g., A - L. Pair the students using the format: A-1, B-2, C-3, etc.

    • If the class was divided into groups to research different topics, send each group to a different area in the classroom, then assign Speed Dating partners within each group (to be rotated).

  2.  Set a limited amount of time for one Speed Dating session (i.e. 5 minutes). Consider using a digital timer visibly displayed in the classroom for students to track. Remind students to have their completed Article Analysis - Guiding Questions Templates with them during the exchange as well as their laptops/tablets with access to the articles (if needed).

  3. Ask students on the receiving end to jot down 1-2 facts they learned during the exchange using the Speed Dating Exit Ticket.  Consider allocating an additional amount of time for students to complete their Exit Tickets and share them with their partners.

  4. Reassign the partners (or pairs) and repeat the routine.

  5. Wrap up the entire Speed Dating session with a whole class reflection on the speed dating process and how it impacted students' learning. Conclude with a student-created list of potential recommendations to improve the speed dating activity for next time. 

Recommended Newsela Texts or Text Sets

Speed Dating Text Sets to share opinions:

Christopher Columbus

  • Essential Question : Christopher Columbus - a villain or a hero?
  • Grade Level: 4-5
  • Content Area: Social Studies, ELA

The Underground Railroad

  • Essential Question: Why would people put their lives at risk to help slaves escape to freedom?
  • Grade Level: 4-5
  • Content Area: Social Studies, ELA

World War II

  • Essential Question: What effect did World War II have on individual citizens and entire nations?
  • Grade Level: 4-6
  • Content Area: Social Studies, ELA

Speed Dating Text Sets to exchange facts:

Black holes

  • Essential Question: What makes black holes intriguing?
  • Grade Level: 3-6
  • Content Area: Science, Social Studies

All About Volcanoes

  • Essential Question: How do volcanoes operate?
  • Grade Level: 2-6
  • Content Area: Science, Social Studies

Earth Sciences: Natural Resources

  • Essential Question: How can one protect non-renewable natural resources?
  • Grade Level: 3-6
  • Content Area: Science, Social Studies

Digital Speed Dating

Consider having students engage in speed dating in a digital form using Flipgrid or any digital classroom platform (Google Classroom or Canvas.)

Implementation Steps:

  1. Once students complete their Article Analysis - Guiding Questions Templates, have them video record a brief summary of everything they learned about the assigned topic using Newsela article as a resource.

  2. When finished, ask your students to view at least 2-3 Flipgrid recordings of their peers, and have them record a response where they share what they learned from each classmate. To learn more about using flipgrid, consult The Educator's Guide to Flipgrid 2nd Edition by Sean Fahey and Karly Moura.

EL Modification

This strategy supports EL students because it provides them with multiple opportunities to refine their thinking and share their ideas in structured one-to-one conversations.


  • Spanish-speaking EL students who are not proficient in English should take advantage of the Spanish versions of select Newsela articles to support their comprehension and enable them to fully participate in the Speed Dating activity. Refer to the Newsela tutorial on how to search for articles in Spanish included in the resource section below.

  • Provide EL students with sentence stems/starters to use as they engage in speed dating conversations.