Reach Higher: Classroom Resources

The goal of first lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative is to inspire students to take charge of their future through education. Below, you will find a link to the Reach Higher Text Set created in collaboration with Michelle Obama. From stories on unique scholarships to special challenges facing students applying to college, this Text Set is both inspiring and informative.

To see the Reach Higher Text Set associated with the collection of resources we have created, you can visit this page.

Check out the activities below to bring the initiative into your classroom.

 Tip: Are you a Newsela PRO subscriber? We’ve highlighted ways to integrate these classroom resources using features exclusive to Newsela .

Paired Text Activity: Pursuing a College Degree in Unexpected Ways

Students will learn about nontraditional paths they may take to pursue a higher degree.

  1. Have your class read “Go team! Video-game players get athletic scholarships at one college” and "Basketball players want to finish their college degrees" from the Reach Higher Text Set and answer the following guiding questions:
    • Why do you think it’s important to attend college no matter what career you are planning to choose? 
    • How are these college students expanding the definition of what it means to be student pursuing a higher degree?
    • Who or what inspires you to reach higher and continue your education.

 Tip: Customized Write Prompt Use these questions to edit the Write prompt.


For everyone from video gamers to basketball stars, earning a college diploma means having more opportunities. What do your students want to accomplish after they attend college? They can discuss careers they’d like to pursue, titles they wish to hold, and dreams they hope to accomplish. Then, have students complete this sentence starter, “After I graduate…” with what they hope to achieve and become.

Optional: Share your students’ completed sentences with us by Tweeting them to @Newsela. Be sure to use the hashtag #ReachHigher

Timeline Activity: My Educational Journey

Students will create a timeline detailing their personal education journey including their experiences so far and what their future may look like. They will use the the article “Mentors have message for kids: Go to college” which is included in the Reach Higher Text Set. To complete this activity:

  1. Have students read the article "Mentors have message for kids: Go to college." 
     Tip: Use Assign Instructions to add these questions on the same page as the article.
  2. Instruct students to answer the following guiding questions after reading the article:
    • How do the mentors, in the article, encourage young students to think about their future educational goals?
    • In the article, Eric Anderson remarked that the transition from elementary to middle school is where the strongest negative changes are seen among students. Support this claim with evidence from the article. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?
    • Why do you think mentors and mentoring programs are targeting younger students to start thinking about college? What are the advantages or disadvantages to starting this thinking at a young age?
  3. Have each student create a timeline detailing their education journey so far as well as predicting what they would like to happen. The timeline can include words and symbols. Below are suggestions for what can be included: 
    • The names of the schools attended and the ones you want to attend, including your dream college.
    • Milestones achieved such as mastery of different topics or awards won.
    • Include goals you hope to accomplish and what your future self will need to do to accomplish it.
  4. After completion, encourage your students to present their timelines to the class.


Use the following questions to guide a class discussion after the presentation of the timelines.

  • What motivates you (or not) about school? 
  • What can be done to make your experience in school even better? 
  • What are you looking forward to as you continue your educational journey in high school? 
  • Are there any challenges you anticipate along the way? 
  • What can you do now to make sure you are successful as you continue on your educational journey?

Write: Become an Op-Ed Contributor

Students will read Michelle Obama’s Op-Ed, My College Story Can Be Yours, to understand the significance of point of view and purpose in this form of writing. With this understanding, they will create their own Op-Ed piece.

  1. Have your class read Michelle Obama’s Op-Ed, My College Story Can Be Yours, and answer the following guiding questions as they read:
    • What is Michelle Obama’s message to young people?
    • Why is the dream of college so important to Michelle Obama?
    • How is education in America different today from what it was a generation ago?
    • What does the Op-Ed suggest young people do to achieve this dream? 
    • Does this Op-Ed frighten you or make you hopeful? What language from the article supports this feeling?
    • How would the impact this article has on young people change if it were written by a journalist and not by Michelle Obama?
       Tip: Use Annotations to put these questions in the article itself.
  2. Your students can now write their own Op-Ed piece with the following prompt:
    • Write your own Op-Ed about how successes and challenges in your life have helped you pursue the dream of college.
  3. Encourage your students to reflect on Michelle Obama’s Op-Ed and their own experiences before writing the piece. Students learning about Op-Ed pieces for the first time should first review the purpose of Op-Ed stories and identify examples of persuasive language in My College Story Can Be Yours.

 Tip: Create a Customized Write Prompt so that you can score student work on Newsela.


Have your students analyze the use of persuasive language by comparing and contrasting the word choices in My College Story Can Be Yours and John F. Kennedy’s “We Choose to Go to the Moon” speech.

Powered by Zendesk