Reading and Writing for Change Using Newsela With Elementary Students

Students learn to utilize Newsela articles to educate themselves about an important issue and effect change
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Reading and Writing for Change with Elementary Students Overview

About This Strategy

Newsela provides an abundant supply of news articles which can give students the opportunity to research issues they care deeply about. Reading and researching these topics can help students relate to what they are learning as they plan to effect change in our world. Reading and Writing for Change does more than just help students improve literacy skills -- it helps students discover causes they feel passionately about, and write a letter to an influential person who can enact change so they can improve their own lives and, ultimately, our world.

Before Reading Implementation Steps

Teacher Preparation and Planning:

  1. Determine the Texts or Text Sets students will read based on current issues that students relate to or based on the big topics of the curriculum. Consider choosing a topic that relates to the current unit of study

  2. Develop a graphic organizer for students to track their opinion of the topic before and after reading as well as a place to take notes on the articles they read (see the resource section for a sample graphic organizer).

    • Consider using a KWL chart to organize ideas. (Refer to the KWL strategies in the BetterLesson Lab to learn more about using this technique.)

  3. Decide whether to break the class into groups that deal with particular topics or if students can choose their own topics to research and write about.

  4. Create an outline organizer for Parts of a Letter. (See sample in the resources section.)

  5. Find out what students are passionate about by asking them to complete a simple survey (see an example in the resources section below). This will help to determine which topics to preview with students.

Student Preparation:

  1. Have students think about how change happens in the world and discuss a person or group of people who were able to bring about changes (i.e. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malala Yousafzai, Rosa Parks, Mahatma Gandhi, Ruby Bridges, etc.) in a small group or with a partner.

  2. Brainstorm as a whole class and then write down ways that people effect change (e.g. protests, demonstrations, writing letters or books, creating websites, etc.).

  3. Then, have students select a topic to read and research about using the search functions in Newsela. Or suggest topics to research based on the survey data collected in the Teacher Preparation and Planning step #5 above.

  4. Instruct students to locate and bookmark at least two articles that deal with the topic they've chosen.

  5. Students should identify the topic in their graphic organizer and make an initial opinion based on their opinion prior to reading the Newsela article and record their opinion in their graphic organizer.

During Reading Implementation Steps

  1. As students read their two selected texts at their selected reading level, have them determine the main idea or issue of the Newsela articles they read and complete the "notes" section of their graphic organizer (included in resource section below).

    • Encourage students to quote, summarize and paraphrase their notes.

After Reading Implementation Steps

  1. After students have finished reading their two texts, have them discuss the texts they read in a small group, using their graphic organizer as a guide, and then ask volunteers to share their thoughts and notes with the whole class.

  2. Have students think about their opinion of the topic based on the two articles they read and then record their final opinion in their graphic organizer.  

  3. Review parts of a letter with students to help organize thinking.

  4. Have students write a letter that expresses their opinion of the topic and presents facts and data presented in the articles they read.

    • Make sure that students consider their audience. Before they begin writing, have them decide to whom they will mainly direct their concerns in a letter. (See Letter Writing Activism link to locate Senators and Representatives.)

    • The letter should include a hyperlink to the Newsela articles that students referenced. (See link to YouTube tutorial for hyperlinking.)

    • The letter should include a proposal for what could be done about the issue, based on the student's opinion.

Extension Activity: Website or Poster Creation

Have students create a website or poster based on the topic they researched to print and share with classmates, or with the school community, to educate their peers about the topic. See the Student Activist Poster Sample and the Activist Website Sample of the Malala Fund in the resource section below for examples.

EL Modifications

In this strategy, students can build upon their background knowledge and relate topics to their own schema and personal opinions, further deepening their learning.


  • Differentiate Vocabulary:

    • Review the article or Text Set prior to implementation in the classroom.  

    • Determine vocabulary that might be challenging

    • Pre-teach vocabulary using flashcards

  • Suggested articles available in Spanish

  • Utilize a text-to-speech Chrome extension so students can listen to the articles while they read.

  • Provide an Anticipation Guide to give students some background knowledge about the topic they will read about.

  • Provide students with sentence starters to help them frame statements supporting or defending their opinion. (Review the ASCD Journal link in resources for additional information on providing support for ELs.)

Teacher Tips

Emily Iannotta
Newsela Master Teacher
  • Pre-Teach students about activism to ensure understanding of key vocabulary and connections between activism and community building. (Visit Teaching Tolerance link in Resources for more ideas.)

  • Consider the sensitive nature of some activist topics. Students may be surprised by some of the topics. Choose topics carefully!

  • Get parents involved! Be sure your parents are aware of the topics and conversations you'll have in the classroom in case students have questions and encourage them to discuss their opinions at home.