Leveraging Power Words in Newsela

Support students' vocabulary development with Power Words and Annotations in Newsela articles
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Leveraging Power Words

About This Strategy

Newsela provides an add-on service to the PRO Subscription called "Power Words" which highlights new vocabulary based on the Lexile level of the article. Power Words are selected from Newsela’s Academic Word List (AWL) of Tier II academic vocabulary words, organized by grade level. Students who master these words will be well prepared to read complex texts across a variety of subjects. This strategy helps students recognize the meaning of Power Words and challenges students to identify the context clues in the article that support the meaning of new vocabulary.

Before Reading Implementation Steps

Teacher Preparation and Planning:

  1. Consider viewing the "How Newsela Works: Power Words" video in Teacher Learning Hub to become acquainted with Newsela Power Words. (See link in Resources.)

  2. To find articles with Power Words, use the Special Features filter under Narrow Your Choices on the Advanced Search page. These articles have 3-5 Power Words embedded at each reading level. Clicking a Power Word reveals a definition of the word as it’s used in the article. In the activities panel, students can complete Power Words activities. Locate articles with Power Words by looking for the lightning bolt symbol under the article.

  3. Reviewthe Newsela Top 100 Power Words for your grade level(s). (Links are located in Teacher Tips section of this strategy.)

  4. Identify the Power Words in bold throughout the selected article and determine whether students need support with these words.

  5. Develop graphic organizers to support development and understanding of new vocabulary. Determine which graphic organizer would best assist students. See examples in the resources section below.

  6. Develop an annotation highlighting guideline for students to identify Power Words and context clues.

Student Preparation:

  1. Model for students how to read a Newsela text that has Power Words in it by clicking on the word to open the definition box.

  2. Share with students the graphic organizer(s) that they will use to help them understand the targeted content vocabulary words as they read the Newsela nonfiction article.

  3. Emphasize that students should annotate words in the article as they read using the Newsela Power Words Annotation Guide (see resource section below) in order to determine the meaning of the selected power words in the text.

    • Note: Students should also be annotating the text to demonstrate their thinking about the text. They can highlight the text or Newsela PRO subscribers can annotate the text by including comments or questions in the margins.

During Reading Implementation Steps

  1. While students are reading, they will come across Power Words in the article. Students should click on the word to open the definition box.

    • TIP: Newsela gives students the option to have the word and definition read aloud to them.

  2. Have students annotate the Newsela article using free tools provided by Newsela. (See the resource section below to learn about these tools.) Consider having students use annotations to ask and identify context clues for Power Words 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.

After Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Students should complete the Newsela-provided Power Words questions in the Activities Panel.

    • These 10 Quick questions review synonyms, antonyms, context clues and more!

  2. Monitor Power Words activities by clicking on Binder, then Power Words, in the Newsela menu.

    • An individual breakdown of student progress is given for: Activity Item Average, Average Word Level, Words Practiced and Yearly Goal of Words for easy review.

    • Clicking on a student's name shows their individual Word Wall.

  3. Consider Word Wall Review Games and activities such as those included in the "Word Wall Active-ities" link in the resource section below.

  4. Review students' Power Words activity in order to provide specific, targeted support for students during upcoming one-on-one conferences by reviewing the following:

    • Binder Power Words tab: View a list of students and their Power Words averages and progress. Click a student's name to view more details about their Power Words activity.

    • Binder Assignments tab: View how many students have viewed an assignment. Click on an assignment to go to the Assignments Review Page, where you can see the Power Words average for the assignment and the number of Power Words activities completed for the assignment.

    • Article page: View each student's Power Words score for the article and the answers they submitted.

Recommended Newsela Text or Text Sets

Science & Power Words

  • Essential Question: How do we break down new words in Science?
  • Grade Level: 3-12
  • Content Area: Science/ELA

Recent U.S. News & Power Words

  • Essential Question: How do we break down new words in the News?
  • Grade Level: 3-12
  • Content Area: News/ELA

Civil Rights Leaders & Power Words

  • Essential Question: How do we break down new words in History?
  • Grade Level: 3-12
  • Content Area: History/ELA

Engineering & Power Words

  • Essential Question: How do we break down new words in Technology?
  • Grade Level: 3-12
  • Content Area: Technology/ELA


EL Modifications

In this strategy, students can learn utilize Newsela the Power Words feature to identify new vocabulary and pronunciation.  Students can also learn to interpret context clues in order to determine the meaning of new vocabulary. Finally, students can check their understanding and provide valuable data for teachers using the 10-question Power Words activity.



  • Previewing new, unfamiliar vocabulary with students, prior to beginning.

  • Provide visuals or realia, when possible for new vocabulary.

  • Give students a definition sheet, partially filled in, to help support understanding while reading.

  • Ask students to complete a graphic organizer showing understanding of the new vocabulary. (See resources for a sample!)

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

  • TIP: Clicking on Newsela Power Words in an article gives students the option to have the word and definition read to them.

Questions to Consider

  • How will you plan to cover all Power Words for your given grade level?

  • Which strategies would you use to help students break down Power Words?

Teacher Tips

Emily Iannotta
Newsela Master Teacher
  • Power Words are an add-on to Newsela PRO subscriptions and NOT available to non-PRO users.

  • The Top 100 Power Words by Grade Level are included below.

  • Words on the Newsela AWL are organized into families. Each family consists of a headword (e.g. assume) and corresponding subwords (e.g. assumes, assuming, assumption). The list includes families, not just single words. The articles may include any variation of an academic word (e.g. approach, approaches, approaching) based on the sentence structure and context of the article.