Reflection Using Big Questions with Newsela for Elementary Students

Students can utilize 3 Big Questions to critically think about and reflect on informational reading with Newsela
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3 Big Questions Video

About This Strategy

Teaching students to reflect on learnings by asking key questions can be applied to any Newsela text using the BIG questions from Kylene Beers and Robert Probst. These questions are:

1. What surprised me?

2. What does the author think I already knew?

3. What changed, challenged or confirmed my thinking?  

These questions support students to demonstrate their understanding and reflect on the text they have read while reading and after reading.

Before Reading Implementation Steps

Teacher Preparation and Planning:

  1. Develop a mini-lesson introducing the 3 Big Questions prior to applying the strategy to the Newsela text.

  2. Download and print Big Questions Posters (see the resource section for a sample poster).

  3. Create a response outline and rubric (see resources) so students will understand the expectations of the assignment.

  4. Decide whether to divide students into small groups or if they will work independently.

  5. Select a Newsela article or Text Set for students to read and determine whether to lock the Lexile level of the Newsela article or allow students to choose their own Lexile level.

  6. Decide whether to focus students on one of the three big questions at a time while reading, or whether to have students focus on all questions at once.  

Student Preparation:

  1. Introduce the 3 Big Questions to students in a mini-lesson using the Big Questions poster in the resource section below as a guide.

  2. Explain to students that they will be writing a response to one of these three questions after they read a text. Review expectations for a written response with students.

  3. Share with students the Graphic Organizer they will complete after they read the text. Encourage students to highlight important words and phrases in their Newsela article using Newsela Annotations while reading to remind students of the questions as they read.

During Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Have students either work in small groups to read the article(s) or independently. Those students who choose to read the text(s) in small groups may share their feelings when they are finished, or read together and share their ideas as they read.

  2. Have students annotate the Newsela article using free tools provided by Newsela (see resource section below to learn about these tools). Consider having students use annotations to ask and respond to the three big questions as they read.

    • Newsela PRO Subscription Teachers can add annotations for students to respond to while they are reading.

    • Non-PRO Subscribers can highlight the text but will need to respond to questions on a graphic organizer, such as the one in the Resources section below.

  3. As students are reading, circulate and assist groups that might be struggling. Pay attention to their conversations, and lead them when they get off-track.

  4. Have students read the text(s) a second time in order to review their initial annotations and to complete the Big Questions Graphic Organizer (see resource section below).

After Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Have students review their Newsela annotations and graphic organizer in order to choose one question to focus on as they write a reflection of their reading.

  2. Have students write a one-paragraph reflection response on the question they chose in order to describe how it helped deepen their understanding of the topic. See the sentence starters, outline, and rubric below to support students' writing.

    • Newsela PRO users can modify the Write Prompt and students can write their 1 paragraph response right in Newsela.

    • Non-PRO users can have students write their response by hand or by using Google Docs.

  3. Ask student volunteers to share their responses with their small group or with the entire class.

Recommended Newsela Text or Text Sets

Voting and Elections

  • Essential Question: Why is it important to vote?
  • Grade Level: 3-5
  • Content Area: Social Studies/ELA

Big Questions about Science!

  • Essential Questions: Why is it important to study Science? What can we learn from it?
  • Grade Level: 3-5
  • Content Area: Science

Myths and Legends

  • Essential Question: Why did/do people create myths and legends?
  • Grade Level: 3-5
  • Content Area: ELA

EL Modification

In this strategy, students can activate their background knowledge and relate topics to their personal experiences, 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.

  • Newsela PRO Subscribers can provide Newsela teacher annotations for students to spark new thinking.

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

  • Provide sentence stems/starters for Write Prompt