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Building meaningful extended learning programs with Newsela

The Newsela Team
Apr 12, 2021

There’s a lot of momentum around extended learning programs and summer school, but many districts still have a long way to go with planning and addressing so-called “learning loss.” 

We have been meeting with district customers and listening to the advice of learning experts, and we have determined that there are 4 elements that are critical for any learning recovery plan or extended learning program to be impactful for students who need support: Assessment, Engagement, Acceleration, and Social-Emotional Learning. 

These 4 interconnected elements are important for both extended learning and the regular school year. Instead of leaning on the tired (and unsuccessful) remediation exercises and tools that isolate, segregate, and demotivate students, this approach focuses on creating meaningful, joyful lessons for all. Read on to learn how your Newsela subscription can support your extended learning plan, whether your district is planning for summer school, tutoring, or something else. Then, register to join our Customer Success Workshop: Accelerating Summer with Newsela.

1. Assessment: Leverage formative assessments to understand where students are in their learning

Formative assessments are powerful because they reveal so much, while being flexible enough to be used in the context of an engaging and social lesson. Most Newsela teachers know about Newsela’s standards-aligned multiple choice quizzes on every article, but fewer are aware of our customizable Write Prompts or the annotations feature, which can facilitate a digital dialogue between teachers and students. Use both features to get students to stop and think, draw text to self connections, or form arguments using evidence from the text. Our favorite use for extended learning is for both instructor and student to share interests and perspectives to build connections with each other while building literacy skills.

Avoid adding additional high-stakes assessments that will add anxiety and set the wrong tone with students. Use data from spring interim assessments where possible (and if your district uses MAP Growth, turn on our data integration). From there, complement your existing assessment strategy with Newsela activities.

2. Engagement: Use authentic, high-interest content to create meaningful lessons
is more than attendance. Students are most engaged when lessons are inclusive, accessible, relevant, and give them agency—on top of being aligned to standards. Every text on Newsela is already aligned to state standards, accessible to students of all reading levels, and WCAG AA compliant, so every learner is able to confidently access the content. Teachers should focus on maximizing the relevance and relatedness of the content students read in extended learning programs. Timely and culturally responsive texts will resonate most.

With over 15,000 pieces of content, teachers have access to every topic under the sun to spark students’ interests and go in depth on any topic. Teachers can pick content they know will resonate, have students search Newsela themselves based on their interests, or leverage one of dozens of pre-curated collections available with our core subject products. Many collections available with Newsela ELA, like Debate and Discussion, come with engaging SEL supports to promote SEL like teamwork and identifying emotions as part of the lesson.

3. Acceleration: Plan for acceleration by looking forward, not backward

While students have indeed missed instructional time, we recommend taking a “what they will need to move forward?” approach instead of a “how will we re-teach what they missed?” approach. This means you should focus on the essential knowledge and skills that students will need to be successful in next year’s curriculum, and to do this, flexible instructional content like Newsela will be critical. 

The best lessons go deep on relevant and interesting topics rather than isolating skills, which is demotivating and lacks context. Extended learning and summer plans should have cohesion with the coming school year. Locate content related to next year’s curriculum from existing Newsela collections, like the Review collections in each of the core subject products (Review: Standards & Skills in Newsela ELA, Review: Key Concepts & Skills in Newsela Social Studies, and Review: Science Core Ideas in Newsela Science). Or, create and share your own Text Sets to fit your plan and get every student reading the same content at their own level. 

4. SEL: Prioritize supporting students' social-emotional needs alongside academics

When we think about what has really been lost this year, we think of relationships and confidence as much as academic progress. Socially and emotionally, students need to rediscover personal relationships with peers and adults. Extended learning programs should give them time and space to do this, and not just park them in front of a device. 

Integrate SEL skills alongside core instruction so students are in the right mindset to learn. Again, accessible, relevant content from Newsela can help. For example, ELA Acceleration Units in Newsela ELA are organized by grade and support trauma-responsive needs with topics like goal setting, health and safety at school, processing change, and more, while also focusing on building ELA skills. The CASEL-aligned Newsela SEL Collection brings literacy to your SEL strategy, and also has units designed specifically for building relationships, resilience, and routines. Learn about the research behind these resources from our webinar with Turnaround For Children founder Dr. Pam Cantor, and check out our recent Newsela SEL Workshop for Newsela customers for even more Newsela SEL tips. 

Planning for extended learning programs presents a unique opportunity to rethink how we serve the students who need the most support. As educators, we know what doesn’t work: rigid programming and drill-and-kill remediation. Instead, let’s use this moment to do better in how we approach assessment, engagement, acceleration, and SEL. With your Newsela subscription, you have access to the largest, most diverse and flexible library of high-interest, high-quality content out there to build amazing lessons that can prepare students for the brighter months ahead.

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