How to Use Current Events in the Classroom

She clutched a wrinkled, dirty newspaper clipping as she stood in front of the class. Some looked at her as if she were crazy. As she began reading from the paper, whispers started in the back of the room as everyone began to tune out.

Is that how you feel when you bring up current events in your classroom? Do you find your students tuning out because they aren't interested? Maybe it's because the content you're delivering to your 3rd graders is written for 12th grade level readers. Maybe it's because they haven't found a news story relevant to them. 

Why should you teach current events?
As an advocate for teaching students to be life-long learners, I believe you need to give those students tools to use as they grow up. For students to succeed in their lives they need to understand how to use non-fiction sources to educate themselves and use that knowledge to help them solve problems or make decisions as adults.

By teaching current events in your classroom, you are helping students learn from the world around them.

What is Newsela?
Newsela and Newsela Elementary are websites with non-fiction articles written for students from 2nd - 12th grade. They publish news articles daily at five reading levels (570L, 700L, 970L, 1070L, and "Max") on various topics. The articles also include comprehension quizzes and writing prompts.

Each article (in the teacher view) provides an approximate grade level and word count.

How can you utilize Newsela in your classroom?
Newsela has a lot of great features. I think the best thing about the site is you are providing all learners, with different reading abilities, access to the same information but written at a level they can understand.

Once you have an Educator account, you can assign articles to your class. There are several categories to choose from:
  • War & Peace
  • Science
  • Kids
  • Money
  • Law
  • Health
  • Arts
  • Sports
At the moment they also have some presidential categories to go along with the impending election.

After students read the articles they can take quizzes to check for understanding. You have access to the quiz averages for your entire class with the basic educator account.

How do you set up a Newsela account?
The process for setting up an account as a student, parent, or educator is super simple! When you select sign up from the ribbon at the top of the page, it will prompt you to choose "I'm a learner" or "I'm an Educator". From there the process is the same on both sides you sign up with your name and email address. Students do need an email address to create an account.

When you select "I'm an Educator", it will ask if you are a faculty member at a K-12 school. If you click yes here, you will need a school email address. If you are a tutor, homeschooler, parent, etc. select "No" and you can still sign up as an educator. You can learn more about the sign-up process for teachers here.

After you have created an Educator account, you can set up classes, invite students, and assign articles. More features are available if you sign-up for Newsela Pro, but there is no information given on pricing. You have to contact the company for a quote on the Pro version.

Newsela is a great tool that can be used to connect reading with social studies or science. Try it out with your students and you may be surprised to find how well they connect with the material!

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