Focus on Reading Skills on Newsela in Order to Achieve Mastery

Students analyze data, set goals, and make intentional improvements on the eight anchor reading standards found within Newsela articles
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Focus on Reading Skills Overview

About This Strategy

Students will work to improve their reading comprehension with informational text by analyzing their reading scores on Newsela and then intentionally focusing on one reading skill at a time in order to make targeted improvements. These skills include: what the text says, central idea, people, places and events, word meaning and choice, text structure, point of view/purpose, multimedia, and arguments and claims.

Before Reading Implementation Steps

Teacher Preparation and Planning:

  1. PRO users familiarize themselves with the teacher Binder feature found in the upper right-hand corner on Newsela. In the PRO version of the teacher Binder there are four major components:

    • Assignments where teachers can view student progress on any teacher-assigned articles

    • Activity Feed where teachers can view any activity completed by students in their connected classes

    • Reading Summary where teachers can view specific information on individual students in their connected classes

    • School Summary where teachers can view the number of students rostered in each classroom in the school, how many articles have been viewed in that classroom, and how many quizzes have been completed

  2. Non-PRO users will not be able to see individual student data; however, students will be able to see their own data. Non-PRO users should familiarize themselves with how students will navigate to the student Binder.

  3. Determine whether to have students analyze their progress monthly or once per grading period. Things to consider:

    • If students have consistent, weekly time to practice reading skills on Newsela, it may be beneficial to analyze their progress more frequently.

    • If students have periodical time to practice reading skills on Newsela, it may be beneficial to analyze their progress at the beginning of each grading period.

Student Preparation:

  1. Show students how to access the student Binder in their account by clicking on Binder in the upper right-hand corner and then "Your Progress."

  2. Give students a copy of the Reading Skills Progress Report (see resource section below) and, using the data in the student Binder, fill out their starting percentages.

    • When students view their reading progress, they will see a drop-down menu at the top of the graph which says "All Reading Skills." Students will select one skill at a time and record their percentage in the Beginning Percentages column of the Reading Skills Progress Report.

    • If a skill says N/A it means the student has not yet taken quizzes having to do with that reading skill.

    • If a skill says 0% it means the student has taken a quiz having to do with that reading skill and they did not answer the questions correctly.

  3. Based on their percentages, have students identify the skills with the lowest percentages and choose one to work on initially.

  4. Students will record their reading goal on the Reading Skills Progress Report and meet with their teacher to talk about what their reading goal is and why they chose that specific strategy to work on.

  5. Give students a copy of the Scoring Grid for the specific reading skill they would like to focus on, and have them record their starting percentage for that skill on the Scoring Grid (scoring grids for each skill are included in the resource section for the During Reading Implementation steps below).

During Reading Implementation Steps

  1. When students access Newsela, they should use the Advanced Search feature to choose articles based on the specific reading skill on which they are focusing.

  2. While students are reading, they will use their Score Grid to record the date they are reading, the title of the article, the level at which they are reading the article, the amount of time spent interacting with the article, and their quiz score.

    • The only piece of data students cannot access in their own binder is the amount of time spent reading. For this piece of information, they will need to consult their teacher. Having this quick check-in about the amount of time spent reading allows the student and teacher the opportunity to address any concerns about the article. For example, if a student is spending only a brief amount of time on an article and consistently getting low quiz scores, this quick check-in allows time to have a conversation about what the student could be doing differently.

  3. For each article the students read, students should:

    • Read the article in its entirety.

    • Add in at least five Annotations of their choosing. Annotating is a key component of reading because it helps students understand that text is to be interacted with instead of just consumed. As an alternative to annotating within Newsela, teachers can print articles and have students annotate them using pencils, pens, and highlighters.

    • Take the Quiz.

      • If students score less than 50% on the Quiz, they should drop the article down one Lexile level and try again. If students were already on the lowest Lexile level, they should consult with the teacher.

After Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Once students have read 10 articles related to their chosen reading skill, they will access their binder on Newsela and record their ending percentage on the Score Grid.

  2. Students will look at the collective data from all ten articles and note on the Score Grid any patterns they see. For example, is there a correlation between the amount of time spent on the article and their quiz score? Is there a connection between the level at which students are reading and their performance on the quizzes? Are they scoring higher or engaging longer with certain article types as opposed to others?

  3. Students will also record on the score grid what, if anything, could be done to improve their reading comprehension. For example, does the student need to select a different reading level? Does the student need to spend longer interacting with the article?

  4. Finally, based on their performance on these 10 articles, students will record whether they should continue working on the skill for another 10 articles or if they are ready to move on.

  5. Once this information is recorded the student will have a short conference with the teacher to go over their responses and receive a new Score Grid to repeat the process with either the same skill or a new skill.

  6. At the beginning of every month/quarter/trimester, students will access their Binder, record updated percentages across all reading skills, and set new reading goals based on that information.  

Recommended Newsela Texts or Text Sets

Cultivating Close Reading: Analyzing Word Choice and Using Context Clues

  • Grade Level: 2-12
  • Content Area: ELA

Cultivating Close Reading: Analyzing Point of View

  • Grade Level: 2-12
  • Content Area: ELA

Cultivating Close Reading: Analyzing Text Structure

  • Grade Level: 2-12
  • Content Area: ELA

Cultivating Close Reading: Determine the Central Idea

  • Grade Level: 2-12
  • Content Area: ELA

Cultivating Close Reading: What the Text Says

  • Grade Level: 2-12
  • Content Area: ELA

Paired Texts & Argumentative Performance Task

  • Grade Level: 2-12
  • Content Area: ELA

Paired Texts & Creative Writing Performance Task

  • Grade Level: 2-12
  • Content Area: ELA

EL Modification

Focusing on one reading skill at a time allows students to repetitively practice a skill until it is mastered while at the same time receiving personalized coaching and support from the teacher and individualized practice in building language skills.


  • Instead of having students self-select an area to focus on, teachers can put students in groups based on data from the Binder. Then, students can work together in partners or small groups on reading articles and taking quizzes. Having a dialogue about the content of the article as well as talking through quiz questions can help with comprehension of the text in addition to building specific reading skills.

  • If Spanish is their first language, have students read articles in both Spanish and English

  • Have EL students read fewer than 10 articles for each strategy.

  • Allow students to dictate their reflective answers to you as opposed to writing them.

Questions to Consider

  • Do the score grids have a rolling due date or a firm due date? For example, is the expectation that students will complete one score grid per month/quarter/trimester? Or are due dates flexible as long as students are showing progress?

  • Are students going to manage their own score grids or will they be collected and kept somewhere in the classroom?

  • Are you going to have scheduled conferences with each student as they are working on the score grid or casual conversations as they get their times?

Teacher Tips

Kristen Rafferty
Newsela Master Teacher
  • Before implementing this strategy, be sure to model how to read and interact with articles on Newsela. To learn more about developing classroom routines using Newsela, consult the Classroom Routines with Newsela for Elementary Students and the Classroom Routines with Newsela for Secondary Students strategies in the BetterLesson lab.

  • Have extra copies of each Score Grid on hand or be reading to print them as students finish one grid and need another.