Science Concept Explanation with Elementary Students using Newsela

Students create a visual or written explanation to display science concept knowledge
31 teachers like this strategy
Science Concept Explanation

About This Strategy

Newsela articles serve as an excellent springboard to pique student inquiry, leading to more investigation and research. In the Science Concept Explanation strategy, teachers can identity science concepts that students need to master and can assign Newsela articles aligned to these concepts. After reading, students conduct further research and explain a key scientific concept or principle connected to the Newsela article and the unit of study. This strategy provides an excellent opportunity for students to have a creative outlet, as they may choose to present their explanation in written format, using a diagram, a comic strip, a storyboard, or in other ways.

Before Reading Implementation Steps

Teacher Preparation and Planning:

  1. Select an appropriate Newsela article or Text Set that is aligned to the current science unit of study.

  2. Edit the Assignment Instructions and Write Prompt in Newsela in order to closely connect the text or Text Sets students will read to the current science topic of study in the curriculum and to support students to identify research questions as they read the text or Text Set (see the example in the resource section below). The Assignment Instructions should clearly identify the article's link to the current unit of study.

Student Preparation:

  1. Have students select which science concept to explore further, based on the assigned Newsela article or Text Set.

  2. Model for students how to create Annotations and research questions in Newsela for a small section of the article (see example in the resource section below).

During Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Assign the Newsela article or Text Set at the Newsela Recommended reading level for each student.

  2. Students should complete the assigned annotations as they read, making sure to connect their reading to current science content and vocabulary. Some sample annotations include:

    • Highlight vocabulary words in RED

    • Highlight connections to the science concept in YELLOW

    • Highlight anything you have questions about in BLUE

  3. Students should respond to the customized Write Prompt: "List two research questions you have after reading this article."

After Reading Implementation Steps

  1. After reading, students should research to find answers to the two questions they recorded in the Write Prompt area.

    • Teachers might consider providing a list of resources to students, rather than giving them free-reign to search on the Internet. An example list can be found in the resource section below.

  2. Have students take the information they annotated in their Newsela article and their answers to the two research questions they crafted to create an explanation of their science content. Students should use a planning page, like the one in the resources section, to plan out their ideas.

  3. After students have completed a planning page, they can translate the information into any style of presentation they'd like. Students might consider:

    • A written explanation

    • Flipgrid

    • A storyboard

    • A comic strip

    • A diagram

  4. After completing their explanations, students should share with their classmates. During share time, students should complete a notetaker sheet (example notetaker sheet is in the resource section below).

Recommended Newsela Texts or Text Sets

Newsela Earth Sciences: Weather & Climate

  • Grade Level: 3-5
  • Content Area: Science



Flora & Fauna

  • Grade Level: 2-5
  • Content Area: Science, Technology & Engineering


Geology Rocks

  • Grade Level: 2-5
  • Content Area: Science


Life Sciences: Adaptations

  • Grade Level: 2-5
  • Content Area: Science

Teacher Tips

Aimee Tolleson
Newsela Master Teacher
  • For older students, this strategy can be used as an extension task when students have completed other work. Students can create Concept Explanations to help peers understand new concepts.

  • Teachers can create a Text Set of science concepts for the year so that students can always access the articles and content.

  • Teachers can use the Concept Explanations as a framework for explanatory writing in the English Language Arts classroom.