Thursday, May 25

GUEST POST: Here's Why Newsela is for You!

The Top Ten Things That I Like About Newsela
Jeanne Bellinger
7th and 8th grade ELA/History, Ocean Shore

1. Newsela can adjust to each student's reading level.  After students take a few quizzes, Newsela will present the assigned article to students at the level that is appropriate for them.  Students can see the various levels, and can move up or down if they choose.
2. Newsela has reading quizzes and writing prompts attached to each article, and will grade the quizzes for you. Of course,  you still have to grade the writing assignments.  However, you can enter a score from 1-4 for the writing response, and Newsela will keep track of it for you.
3. If you use Google classroom, Newsela will import your classes.  If you don't, you can give a code to students that they can use to "join" your Newsela classrooms.  You don't have to enter students one by one.
4. Newsela provides summaries like this for each article you assign, so that it is easy to see how your class is doing overall.

Article Title: Young CEO quit Stanford to create navigation system for self-driving cars
AVG. TIme IN ARTICLE 12:55   AVG. QUiz SCORE 71%

5. Newsela will track student progress over time, providing information about average reading level of the articles chosen, average time spent per article, average time spent reading the article, and the average quiz score.
Student name Article Level Avg. # of Articles Read Average Time       Quiz Average

Jane Doe  7.9 6 7:20 min 84%

6. Newsela has lots of topical articles to choose from as well as information about historical, literary, and cultural figures and events.

7. You can use Newsela's text sets on various topics, or save your own articles into a text set that you create.

8. It's user friendly, for me.  It goes without saying that it's easy to use for my seventh and eighth graders!

9. The kids seem to like it, or at least, not hate it.

10. It's fun!

PSD is currently funding the "Pro" version for grades 6-8. 
Earlier grades have access to the "free" version which offers many useful capabilities. 

Wednesday, May 10

Getting Them to Read: No Strings Attached!

A GUEST POST by Humanities Leads: 
Jane Solano, Catherine McFadden, and Laura Vuskovic

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child, by Donalyn Miller, provides food for thought about how teaching reading is approached today.  The author advocates strongly for creating a classroom environment where teacher and students alike thrive on books, and are self-motivated to read.  In the chapter, “Cutting the Teacher Strings,” she proposes teachers remove the “strings” attached to reading requirements, such as reading logs, book reports, and trudging together through class novels.  She offers up alternatives to the traditional teaching methods in order to more effectively motivate and excite students about books and reading.  The table below summarizes her suggestions.

Class Novel (with worksheets)
Teach readers, not books:
-Set up book groups in which students are given two focus questions for their book.  
-Teach standards/concepts, making sure every skill taught connects to their independent reading. (a la Reader’s WS)
Comprehension Tests
-passing a test becomes a purpose for reading.
Extensive reading, writing, and discourse.
-appreciation of the book is the purpose.
Standardized Test Prep
Teach reading the standardized test as a genre.
Book Reports
Book “Commercials” (Authentic opportunities to share their enthusiasm for a book.)
  • free-flowing dialogue about books
  • recommendations
  • short , impromptu testimonials
Book Reviews
  • teach language of reviewers
  • post on class blog
  • print and glue in books
Reading Logs
Expand reading time in class to get students hooked on books - results in more at-home reading.
Celebrate increased engagement and finishing books rather than page number or time goals. Have students track number of books finished.
Round-robin/Popcorn Reading
“Prep & Practice” for oral reading.
Other Substitutes for Oral Reading
  • shared text, teacher read-aloud
  • share-reading with a like-leveled buddy
  • listen/read book on CD or podcast
Incentive Programs (They don’t teach the value of reading.)
Teach,model, and provide experiences that show reading itself is the reward.

Source: Miller, Donalyn.  The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child. Pgs. 119-151.  Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA, 2009.

Join your Humanities Leads: Catherine McFadden, Jane Solano, and Laura Vuskovic 
for Learning Cafe, "Awakening the Reader in Every Student" 
on Tuesday, May 23rd in the IBL Staff Lounge from 3:30-4:00

More upcoming offerings...