T-Charts Using Newsela for Secondary Students

T-charts help students organize information and thoughts in an orderly and clear format
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T-Charts with Newsela

About This Strategy

As students read, they often struggle to summarize or analyze what they are reading, and it can sometimes be difficult to describe key ideas or features of the text when they have finished reading. A T-Chart is a visual organizer that can aid a reader in summarizing or analyzing what they read by organizing their thoughts into two categories. Students make a T on a piece of paper. At the top of the T, students write the topic of the T chart (for example, comparing and contrasting two events/topics in a text). On the left side of the T, students include their thinking about a particular category (e.g., how two events/topics in a text are similar), and on the right side of the T, students record their thinking about another category (e.g., how two events/topics in a text are different). T-Charts are  a great graphic organizer to help students identify key similarities and differences between ideas within or between texts. T-Charts can be used in a variety of ways, from comparing and contrasting two texts or topics in a text, to identifying an author's claim and finding evidence to support that claim.

Before Reading Implementation Steps

Teacher Preparation and Planning:

  1. Identify the purpose of the T-Chart. For example, a T-Chart can be used for the following purposes while reading:

    • Develop a Pros & Cons list

    • Identify Opinion vs. Fact

    • Note Taking: Main Idea & supporting details or claims and evidence to support the claims

  2. Identify a topic, Text Set, or specific Newsela article for students to read as they complete their T-Chart.

  3. Create or find a template of a T-Chart that is specific to the topic and purpose.

    • Students or teachers  can create a table or spreadsheet using Google Docs/Sheets or Microsoft Word/Excel, or they can use Canvas to develop a T-Chart.

    • Consult the online resources in the resource section below to see some examples of other options for creating a T-Chart.

  4. Provide an example on the T-chart that students can use to guide their work.

    • For example, a topic for a T-Chart in a Geometry class could be: Compare the equations for area and volume of the following 2D & 3D shapes and solids. The T-Chart would have the area of square equation on the left side of the chart and the volume of a cube equation on the right side of the chart.

    • Another example of a T-Chart that a teacher could use as an example is a Pro/Con T-Chart about whether to have a four day school week. On the Pro side, the teacher could include "Increased time with family & friends."  On the Con side, the teacher could include "Fewer opportunities for extracurricular activities."

  5. Complete an entire T-chart for the assignment as you would have your students do. This is especially important the first few times you utilize this strategy

    • Four day school week: Pro- Increased time with family & friends.  Con- Fewer opportunities for extracurricular activities

  6. Teach/review how to use a T-chart and the purpose for it, including your expectations for how many comparisons or notes need to be recorded.

Student Preparation:

  1. Listen to the lesson on T-charts and how to use them.

  2. Ask questions about expectations. Some sample questions that students might ask could be:  

    • How many comparisons should be included?

    • Are we comparing one article or multiple?

    • Should the T-Chart be typed or hand written?

    • Is sketching an acceptable alternative to a written description?

      • Note: As a modification, you may encourage students to create thumbnail sketches or create symbols to associate with characters or main ideas as they create their T-Charts. This can help students recall the information more easily later.

  3. If not provided by the instructor, students can create a template T-Chart using Microsoft or Google software or by simply taking a piece of paper and creating a hand drawn T-Chart.

During Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Distribute the T-Chart (if on paper) to the students or share the link to the digital file.

  2. Review the topic(s) that will be analyzed.

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

    • Encourage students to read the text once through before beginning to fill out the T-chart. This can help students get the overall gist of the text. Newsela PRO tip: If using a Newsela PRO account, students will be able to annotate the text using the Annotation feature. Students can highlight words or concepts they do not understand and conference with the teacher about those before moving forward.

    • If you have a regular Newsela account, you can print the article for students and have them use highlighters or other strategies such as underlining, circling, and boxing in to annotate the text.

  4. Students read through the article a second time. During the second read, students should be documenting on the T-chart. This will look a little different from student to student based on their understanding of the text and perspectives as well as the purpose of the T-chart.

    • Newsela PRO TIP: If using a Newsela PRO account, students can add additional Annotations to the article as they read. The highlighted text could be transferred to the T-Chart as main ideas, pros or cons, or supporting details if the purpose of the T-chart is to identity a main idea and provide evidence from the text.

  5. The teacher should be moving around the room to address questions students may have. It may also be beneficial to quickly review what students are putting on the T-charts and to ask probing questions such as:

    • Why do you think the other has that opinion of the main character?

    • I see you sketched a symbol here, what does that represent?

After Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Once students have completed their T-chart, they can partner with another student and discuss similarities and differences between the T-charts using a Think-Pair-Share strategy (to learn more about this strategy consult the Think-Pair-Share strategy in the BetterLesson Learning Lab or the resource in the resource section below). This can help students identify what they may have missed and highlight how each person may have a varying perspective based on varying backgrounds.

  2. Students can also use their T charts to respond to a Write Prompt (customizable in Newsela for PRO users or using Google Docs or a handout) that asks them to compare and contrast, develop a claim, or provide both sides of an issue.

Recommended Newsela Texts or Text Sets

Empathy & Sympathy

  • Essential Question: How can empathy and sympathy change our world?
  • Sample T-Chart Topic: If you have sympathy for someone, do you also have empathy for that person? Why or why not
  • Grade Level: 6-12
  • Content Area: Social Studies, STEM, ELA, Biology, Creative Arts

"Moby Dick" by Herman Melville

  • Sample T-Chart Topic: What makes fishing/whaling "good"? what makes fishing "bad"?
  • Grade Level: 9-12
  • Content Area: ELA

Women in Math

  • Sample T-Chart Topic:  What are some myths about women in the STEM field, and what is the reality?
  • Grade Level: 6-12
  • Content Area: Math

EL Modification

English Learners may struggle to understand words that do not have a direct translation between their home language and English. The T-chart modification below can be a way to identify these words and activate prior knowledge in order to better understand why and how to bridge this gap.


  • Students can create a T-Chart that lists key English vocabulary terms from the text that do not have a direct translation to their home language. On the other side of the T-chart, students can fill in how that term is described in their home language.

Special Education Modification

Students who have a difficult time processing and summarizing a text or identifying the tone of an article or text may be able to use the T-Chart modification below.


  • The teacher can provide a T-chart that has a column for big topics or themes of text and a column for excerpts from the text that represent these themes.

  • These excerpts will have main ideas/topics and will be filled out by the instructor before the student reads the text.

  • The student will then need to read the article and review the T-chart and identify the main idea that they feel best fits the excerpt from the text. (Note: Depending on the student, you may wish to provide a list of themes that the student can pick from.)

  • After some practice with this, The teacher will then pre-fill the main idea/theme column for the student for a given text and the student will need to identify the excerpts that provide an example of these.

  • Finally, the student will receive a blank T-chart and will need to identify both columns.

Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning Considerations

When using a T-chart, especially with open-ended questions or ideas or pros & cons of decisive topics, it is important to consider the backgrounds of each student. How they perceive or view a topic has a lot to do with their experiences and life at home.


  • Keep in mind that if you provide examples for your T-charts, that you are aware of your own bias and perspectives on the topic.

  • Provide examples for both sides of a topic

  • If based on opinion vs. fact, please explain what you mean by "facts" in a way that students understand that you are not diminishing their beliefs or opinions.

Questions to Consider

  • What is the purpose of the T-chart I am using/created, and is that purpose clear to the students?

  • Do I have clear expectations, and do my students think they are clear? Do my students understand these expectations?

  • Do digital or paper-based T-charts make more sense for my students?

  • How will I reteach students who are struggling to meet the expectations?

Teacher Tips

Adam Trebel
Newsela Master Teacher
  • Have fun with the visuals of your T-chart! You may have limited resources, but making the T-chart visually interesting will help with engagement from your students.

  • Make sure the topics of your T-chart are clear, and address any vagueness or questions from your students immediately.

  • Don't reinvent the wheel. There are many templates available and even templates that include questions/prompts that may fit your topic.

  • Use Annotation in some form.

    • If you have a regular Newsela account, you can print the article for students and have them use highlighters or other strategies such as underlining, circling, or boxing in to annotate the text

    • If you have a Newsela PRO account, Annotations are an easy and fun way to achieve a deeper dive into the text by your students.