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Three tips to address a skills reinforcement gap

The Newsela Team
Mar 4, 2022

Practice makes perfect, they say. But, what if your core resource doesn’t provide a student with enough opportunities for skill practice or literacy connections? You may have a skills reinforcement gap. 

Simple rote repetition does not improve performance. That’s why, Newsela provides opportunities for “deliberate practice” and entry points for priority skills, with materials that never sacrifice student engagement. Additionally, our content is offered at 5 reading levels as measured by Lexile, allowing students to build background knowledge and confidence in reading as they strengthen their literacy skills. If any of the signs above resonate with you, your core materials may have a skills reinforcement gap. Check out how Newsela can address these gaps.  

Incorporate active reading strategies throughout the text 

When students read with purpose and understanding, they engage more deeply with the text. That’s why, reading is more than knowing the words on the page but rather the strategies that students can engage with to build their knowledge and skills.

One of the most popular features among teachers who have access to Newsela’s premium products are the Lesson Sparks associated with many articles and collections. Lesson Sparks provide teachers with lesson suggestions, resources like worksheets, and more. Many Lesson Sparks also include suggested activities for before, during, and after reading. For instance, Famous Speeches: Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream”, provides a variety of Lesson Sparks alongside the text with objectives and activities to guide students on topics such as understanding freedom and the impact of repetition.  

Allow students to choose content that interests them so they can be engaged in skill building

When students have the opportunity to choose what they read, they can be engaged in skill building that otherwise may come off as disengaging. Newsela’s Reading Skills: Nonfiction for Elementary Readers collection offers a text set on finding the main idea. Readers can choose from articles on a variety of topics such as a chess master, a bone cancer survivor or young activists. Each text set also offers a quiz that assesses readers' ability to find the main (or central) idea and other literacy skills such as sentence structure, expressing ideas, and vocabulary.

Make content more relevant by teaching students to analyze evidence with document-based questions 

Document-based questions (DBQ’s) focus on analyzing evidence from primary sources, which is important because it builds students' critical thinking skills as they craft their responses. In addition, DBQ’s allow students to practice skills in collecting and synthesizing evidence and making evidence-based arguments. Newsela Social Studies DBQs are organized by the number of documents (i.e. 1-2, 3-4 or 5 or more) included for each question. Each specializes in a different set of skills in order to respond to the question.

For instance, the text set on Was the Mexican-American War Justified includes a set of documents and corresponding analysis and questions that students can answer to determine whether or not the war was justified.

Teachers should take into consideration students' existing knowledge to design practice tasks and reinforce literacy skills. Many students have different learning preferences, and some may need more practice than others. That’s why closing a skills reinforcement gap allows every student, no matter how they learn, to have additional opportunities to practice skills in the core curriculum. 

Stay tuned for more about the common gaps in core materials in the next blog in the series on the coverage gap. If you missed the previous blog on the accessibility gap read it here.

Read this story to learn how a school district embraced a new approach to skills practice with Newsela.

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