A quick activity engages students in the upcoming lesson

What is this lesson component or teaching method?

An opener is a short activity at the beginning of a lesson that engages students in the content that will be taught. Students can complete the activity independently without teacher support. In addition to engaging students, openers settle students after they transition into the classroom and may give teachers some early formative data about what they know and can do before the lesson truly begins. Openers have many names, including do now, activator, hook, bellringer, warm-up, welcome work, and starter.

How does Newsela fit into this lesson component or teaching method?

If students are going to read a particular article later in the lesson, the opener can prompt them to activate their prior knowledge about the article’s content before they begin reading. The teacher could ask students to consider their opinions on the topic, predict the topic of an article by using the text features (e.g., headline, subheadings, photo, caption), or interpret a particularly rich image. Some examples are:

  • The article we’re going to read today is about illegal immigration. What do you know about illegal immigration? What are your opinions about illegal immigration? Explain.
  • The title of the article we’re going to read today is “Climate studies say hold the beef”. What do you think the article will be about? Explain.
  • Examine the image below. What do you see? What do you think is happening? Why do you think this is happening? Explain.

If students are going to read a particularly complex article later in the lesson, the opener can give them five minutes to read the first paragraph and highlight the 5 Ws (Who, What, When, Where, Why). This grounds students in the basics before launching into more complex analysis later in the lesson.

A more free-form opener that could open any lesson gives students five minutes or so to explore the new articles on Newsela. The teacher then gives students a few minutes to share what they learned in small groups. This fosters students’ curiosity about the world, builds speaking and listening skills, and potentially helps reduce the temptation to explore the site later in the lesson.

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