Theme Analysis using Newsela with Elementary Students

Students read a Newsela Text Set organized around a theme that they have been studying and then write about how that theme emerges
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Theme Analysis Student Explanation
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About This Strategy

In this strategy, students read a Newsela Text Set organized around a particular theme or themes that they have been studying in a shared class text such as a novel, short story, or poem. As they read, students write about how that theme emerges in the article or articles.

Before Reading Implementation Steps

Teacher Preparation and Planning: 

  1. Select a shared class text (e.g., a novel, short story, or poem) that your class has been recently reading and exploring.

  2. Select or create a Newsela Text Set organized around a particular theme (or themes) that has been reflected in the shared class text you selected. 

  3. Determine whether students will analyze the theme in the Newsela texts independently, in pairs, or in triads.

  4. Discuss how to annotate the text. Consider the following example: 

    • RED: highlight/add comments - details supporting the theme of the anchor text

    • GREEN: highlight/add comments -  additional information that adds to the understanding of the theme of the anchor text 

  5. Edit the Write Prompt to reflect the task at hand. Refer to the example provided in the Resource Section. 

Student Preparation: 

  1. Explain to students that they will be reading an article or a series of articles that has been organized around a particular theme (or themes) that students have been studying in a shared class text. If more than one theme is being explored around the same shared class text/anchor text, assign each group of students to one theme within that anchor text. This way no student will be working on more than one theme supporting the anchor text.  

  2. Describe the purpose of the task including the following steps:

    • Read the assigned and/or selected articles in a Text Set about the theme.

    • Make annotations using the Annotation Key while reading the article (or a series of articles).

    • Write about how the theme of the shared class text emerges in the article (or a series of articles) using the Write Prompt feature.

  3. Model for students how to access articles and/or Text Sets on Newsela including features like Annotations and Write Prompt (to learn more about using Newsela Annotations and Write Prompt, consult the resource section below).

  4. Model for students how to take notes on the theme they are studying using an article of your choice. Show them how to make meaningful annotations while reading using the Annotation Key and how to describe how the information they learned about the theme in the article they read. This helps them to better understand the theme of the anchor text they are reading with their class using the Write Prompt. 

  5. Using teacher discretion, form groups of two or three students. Refer to the Cooperative Learning Chart in the resource section below if needed. If students prefer working independently, make this option available as well. 

  6. Model how to complete the Write Prompt using a variety of scaffolds such as sentences starters and/or a graphic organizer. Refer to the Theme anchor chart/sentence frames included in the Resource Section below.

During Reading Implementation Steps

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

  2. Have students explore articles within the assigned Text Sets on Newsela to identify the ones that peak their interest, or assign specific articles within the Text Set to students/groups. 

  3. Have students read and annotate the assigned Newsela articles (or articles of their choice) individually or in groups. 

  4. Create a color coded system for students to use as they annotate. Newsela PRO users can also write annotations to help students respond to nonfiction article. An example of a color coded annotation system for Non-PRO/PRO Newsela Users is: 

    • RED: highlight/add comments - details supporting the theme of the anchor text

    • GREEN: highlight/add comments -  additional information that adds to the understanding of the theme of the anchor text 

  5. Have students complete the edited Write Prompt about how the article helps students better understand the theme of the anchor text.

After Reading Implementation Steps

  1. After completing their Write Prompt, students should share their new understanding of the theme of the anchor text with their peers. Some options for how to do this include:  

    • Have students share their findings with another student or group within the same Newsela Text Set about the same theme. Students should use their Annotations, and the Write Prompt as resources during the share out. Then, each student can complete an Exit Ticket demonstrating what they learned about the theme from their peers. 

    • Have students who researched different themes share what they learned about their theme with another group. Then, each student can complete an Exit Ticket demonstrating what they learned about the new theme. 

    • Have students contribute to a class poster stating the theme of the shared class text by adding post-its (or writing in bullets on the chart itself) describing theme connections/evidence found in the Newsela texts. Refer to the example of a poster setup included in the Resource Section below. Ask students to reflect on their peers' work and their contributions to the poster by completing an Exit Ticket.

Recommended Newsela Texts or Text Sets

Anchor Text: Rules by Cynthia Lord

  • Text Set Title: Autism
  • Essential Question: How does autism affect families?
  • Grade Level: 4-8
  • Content Area: ELA

Anchor Text: Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed and/or I Am Malala by Malala 

  • Text Set Title: Access to Education 
  • Essential Question: Why is equitable access to education important?
  • Grade Level: 4-8
  • Content Area: Social Studies, ELA

Anchor Text: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba

  • Text Set Title: Human Ingenuity 
  • Essential Question: Why is necessity the mother of invention?
  • Grade Level: 4-8
  • Content Area: Science, Social Studies, ELA

Anchor Text: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry OR The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

  • Text Set Title: The Power of Human Resilience 
  • Essential Question: How does courage and resourcefulness play a role during the times of war?
  • Grade Level: 4-8
  • Content Area: Social Studies, ELA

Anchor Text: Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

  • Text Set Title: Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
  • Essential Question: How do individuals survive in challenging environments? How does overcoming extreme adversity propel an individual to preserve?
  • Grade Level: 4-8
  • Content Area: Social Studies, ELA

Anchor Text: The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

  • Text Set Titles: The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis and/or Critical Events (Civil Rights Movement) 
  • Essential Question: How are civil rights - human rights?
  • Grade Level: 5-8
  • Content Area: Social Studies, ELA