As former teachers on Newsela’s staff, we’re always thinking about creative ways our content can be used in the classroom. This month, we’ve put together some of our favorite classroom resources, which can also be found in our monthly content calendar here. Check out how our picks can be used in classroom activities around National Poetry Month, Earth Day, and more this April.
Lauren’s Pick: Is Recycling Worth it?
April 11th on the content calendar.
Why I chose it: As a former classroom teacher, there was NOTHING more exciting than watching my students debate and discuss a topic they were passionate about. This text set takes something that has been ingrained in all of us since childhood - reduce, reuse, recycle - and turns it on its head! It asks us to examine the world around us with a critical eye and challenges our preconceived notions - what could be more exciting? When I first started delving deeper into recycling and what actually happens to our bottles and can when we put them into the blue recycling bin, I felt like a true citizen detective. What a joy to be able to have our kiddos do the same!
How to use it in the classroom: This text set allows students to practice inquiry and student-centered learning in a way that is directly related to their lives! Have students explore the texts in the Text Set and then allow students to form their own opinions. Once they’ve decided where they fall on the issue based on their research - using the debate resources - let the academic discourse flow from there.
Daniela’s Pick: This writer’s job: Get young people to see poetry everywhere
From the April 19th Text Set “National Poetry Month: Connecting with Nature” on the content calendar.
Why I chose it: This article about Naomi Shihab Nye stood out to me because it focuses on how she inspires students to become writers. As a recent ELA teacher, I immediately thought about how often students would struggle with brainstorming ideas for their writing. I love how Nye advises writers to focus on the quiet moments and the small details of everyday life. Thanks to Newsela, Nye could reach even more classrooms and show students they could become writers too.
How to use it in the classroom: This article could be a meaningful anticipatory set to present at the beginning of a new writing unit, such as poetry or creative writing. Students could make observations around their schools, homes or communities and choose a small detail or moment to write about. This article could also help struggling writers brainstorm new ideas or learn how to add details to their writing.
Katrina’s Pick: The Poet X Novel Study
April 13th on the content calendar.
Why I chose it: The Poet X was one of my favorite texts to recommend to my middle schoolers when I was a teacher. They loved it, and many told me how easily they could see themselves in the characters. The novel, written in verse, centers around Xiomara, who finds joy and community in spoken word poetry, as she is attempting to sort out the difference between who she is and who others assume her to be. The texts in Newsela’s Novel Study are perfect companions to this powerful book. They include connections to Harlem, where the novel takes place, wonderful poems about identity, and explorations of today’s spoken word poetry scene.
How to use it in the classroom: The texts and the activities suggested in the novel study’s resource tab will help teachers create compelling essential questions, engaging activities, and critical connections for students. The Novel Study will help students build background knowledge around the themes, settings, and motifs in The Poet X. There are even resources for a final project where students write their own poems!
Kara’s Pick: Lesson: Organizing for Less Waste
April 25th in the content calendar.
Why I chose it: Earth Day is upon us and it’s more important now than ever to take care of our planet. I chose the lesson “Organizing for Less Waste” as it includes impactful content that will make students thoughtful about their plastic use while teaching them the self-management tool of organization. When I taught 4th grade, we worked on Earth Studies that connected our actions to real-world implications. I would use this article as a tool for discussion and action.
How to use it in the classroom: One of my favorite classroom strategies is posing a question and letting students popcorn responses by taking turns sharing an idea that adds on, a question, or whether they agree or disagree with what the previous student said in relation to the article. Then, the students are in control of the conversation. I’d also use Lesson Sparks for writing an action-focused letter, research local plastic programs, or design plastic awareness posters to tape in the school hallways to promote local change.
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