Top 10 Ways to Teach Spanish with Newsela

Learning Spanish with Newsela is easy and fun. The ideas presented are a great resource to learn useful vocabulary and appropriate grammatical structures. With the vast array of articles offered by Newsela, there is an article that will interest every kind of learner. Here are some fun ideas that can be used in the classroom:

1. USE OF SYNONYMS IN ARTICLES (ideal for beginning levels)

  • Choose a Spanish article in the lower lexiles (580L). Have the students read the article in a loud voice, one paragraph at a time.  
  • Have the students highlight in YELLOW all the words they don’t understand.
  • Students must replace those words by annotating words they are already familiar with. They can work in pairs, and brainstorm on which are the ideal synonyms to replace the highlighted words. Another option is for you to highlight which words the students must replace.
    For example:
    Article used: Un cohete que llevará turistas al espacio está listo para pruebas de vuelo

    Mojave, California. - Los turistas viajan por el planeta en avión. También podrán viajar al espacio en un cohete (avión).

    Una compañía llamada Virgin Galactic construyó (armó) una nueva nave. La compañía quiere transportar  (llevar) turistas al espacio. Los pasajeros podrán comprar un boleto (pasaje). Podrán ver la Tierra desde allá arriba. Sentirán (experimentarán) que pueden flotar por la falta de (estar sin) gravedad.

    El 19 de febrero, Virgin Galactic presentó la nueva nave (cohete). Se llama SpaceShipTwo. Pronto comenzará (empezará) a hacer vuelos de prueba (práctica).

    SpaceShipTwo tiene dos pilotos. Puede llevar (transportar) hasta seis pasajeros. La nave volará  (viajará) a 62 millas de la Tierra.
  • Once students are finished replacing the highlighted words, they can read the paragraph again in a loud voice. Once done, move on to the next paragraph.
  • If students are having a hard time finding synonyms, they can refer to their class dictionaries or look up options on the Internet, using the sites approved by the teacher.

2. READ AND ROLE PLAY PRESS CONFERENCE (intermediate to advanced levels)

Assign an article in Spanish with the appropriate Lexile according to the class level. Students can read the article on their own, in class, or as homework.

Have the students choose a main person from the article, and prepare a questionnaire of at least 5 key questions. Students must consider the following:

  • What would you like to know about this person’s private life?
  • Why is this person’s opinion important?
  • What are the key aspects of this person’s achievements?
  • What do you think he / she could have done different?
  • What are the things that he / she could improve?

Once their questionnaire is ready, students choose one student at a time who can play the subject who will be interrogated, and the rest of the class can ask questions in Spanish as if they were journalists and reporters participating in an international press conference. The idea is to have the students practice the new vocabulary in context, creating phrases and a dialog of their own.

3. FILL IN THE BLANKS (can be adapted to any level)

Choose one article in the level that is most appropriate for the class and create an easy writing exercise based on the article. Grab the content and create an exercise of “fill in the blanks using the correct word or phrase” based on the article. The idea is for the students to be creative and use their own Spanish words within the text of the article. This can be done individually, in groups, or as a whole class brainstorm on which word or phrase to use. The teacher can provide one copy to each student. Ideally, choose only nouns, verbs, or adjectives to be replaced. This can be a super fun exercise, because the meaning of the article can be different from its original meaning. Once the blanks are filled, the students can read their “new” versions of the article and compare them to the “original” version.

For example:

Article used: Algunas playas tienen redes para que no entren tiburones

Nadar en el __________________ es ___________________.  Cuando hay ___________________cerca puede ser _____________________. Por eso algunas playas tienen __________________ contra __________________. Las _______________ sirven para atrapar a los ______________________ antes de que lleguen a las _____________________. Las ________________ se colocan bajo el _____________ y cerca de la _________________-

Un nuevo __________________indica que estas ___________________no funcionan.

4. TRANSLATION (intermediate to advanced levels)

Choose an article that presents a Spanish version, and an English version. First assign the English article to the students, choosing the correct Lexile according to the class level, and have the students translate one or two paragraphs, or the whole article into Spanish if they are ready for such a task. Once they are done, the can refer to Newsela’s Spanish version of the article, and correct themselves. Students can make notes, annotate and highlight areas where they need to improve their translation. They can also compare with their peers to observe how sometimes the same idea can be conveyed using different words or phrases.

5.  PLAYING WITH VERB TENSES (intermediate to advanced levels)

Assign an article in Spanish to the class, making sure the article sticks to the same verb tense throughout. Have the students highlight all the verbs in the article using the highlighting tool. They can use a different color to highlight the adverbs of time, which can later be changed to match the verb tense. Then they can rewrite the article using for example, the future tense. The idea is to have the students practice their verb tenses within the context of the article.

6. READING & WRITING  WITH VOCABULARY LISTS (adaptable to all levels)

Pick an article that will provide a specific vocabulary list. For example, you can decide that the class will focus on vocabulary related to “The Environment”. The theme can be any, since Newsela offers a great variety of articles that range from sports, to politics, science, money, law, health etc. The possibilities here are endless, and the students can even create their own “Newsela glossaries” for future reference.

Pick an article such as Hawái crea un vivero para el cultivo rápido del coral (710L). Then create a vocabulary list using the annotation tool. Highlight the words using YELLOW, and later create a list of those words in a separate document.

  • The first step is to assign the list to the students, and go over it in class, making sure that everyone knows the meaning of the words.
  • The second step is to assign the article to the students, so that it can be read in class, making sure that the students focus on the meaning of the highlighted words.
  • The third step is for the students to use the Write tool, and create their own sentences using the words from the Vocabulary list.
  • The Lexile can be adapted according to the class level.

For example: 

Hawái es un estado ubicado en el océano Pacífico. Está compuesto por varias islas. Los corales que viven allí son distintos a los demás. Crecen mucho más lento que cualquier otro coral del mundo.

A los científicos les resulta difícil reproducir estos corales lo suficientemente rápido. Necesitan corales nuevos para reconstruir los arrecifes del océano que están enfermos.

Los corales son animales marinos. Viven en el mismo sitio durante toda su vida. Algunos desarrollan un esqueleto que se queda en el mar cuando el coral muere. Los arrecifes de coral son bloques formados por corales vivos, esqueletos de coral y sustancias que provienen de otros animales. Suelen hallarse en aguas cálidas, muy cerca de la superficie.

VOCABULARIO: MEDIO AMBIENTE

  • oceano
  • corales
  • cientifico
  • reproducir
  • reconstruir
  • arrecifes
  • enfermos
  • animales
  • marinos
  • desarrollar
  • esqueleto
  • mar
  • bloques
  • sustancias
  • provenir
  • cálida/o
  • superficie

7. LISTENING COMPREHENSION (can be adapted to any level)

Choose one article in the appropriate level. The students should not be able to see the article. The teacher can then proceed to read the article in a loud voice to the whole classroom, making sure the speed is slower than normal reading.  The students should only LISTEN, not read. After the reading is done, the students can then access the QUIZ that corresponds to the article, and answer the questions. Once the QUIZ is finished and corrected, they can read the article as a final step, in order to make sure their listening skills are as good as their reading skills. This exercise can also be used as a test to evaluate the students’ skills.

8. ARTICLE RESEARCH (advanced levels)

This is a great exercise that can be assigned as an individual or team long-term project. Assign one article per team/student and give them enough time to do their research. Ideally you can create a text set or use an existing text set so the whole class works on the same theme. You must use the highlighting tool to underline all words or phrases that the students must research. You can also annotate instructions to guide the students, or direct them on how to perform their research work. Students can use resources in Spanish such as Wikipedia en español, CNN en español, Google en español, etc. After a couple of weeks, students must come back with their work, and present to the rest of the class.

9. THE NEWSROOM  (intermediate to advanced levels)

This is a fantastic way to get the students to practice their writing skills in a fun, creative way. The idea is to pretend that everyone in the class is now working for a Spanish newspaper. Therefore, each student needs to contribute with their own stories. You can create a text set, so that the whole class works on the same theme. Next step, select only the title and the sub headers of a specific article.

For example:

Select the following article:

¿Tanques o corrales oceanicos? Continúa la controversia sobre cuál es el mejor lugar para las orcas

Therefore the students should write their own paragraphs under each of these sub headings:

Las ballenas no serán completamente libres

Los corrales marinos pueden ser peligrosos

El parque quiere su programa para criar ballenas

Final infeliz para una orca liberada

Continúa el debate sobre qué es lo mejor para las ballenas

Once everyone is finished writing, they can read their stories in a loud voice and share with the rest of the class. Students can be very creative here and use their imagination to create their own “news stories”. The final step is to read the original Newsela article and compare to what the students have written

10. CREATING GLOSSARIES (adaptable to any level)

This can be a long-term project. It can be done individually or assigned in groups. Assign a text set to each group or student. Each group or student will then work on a specific theme (money, law, arts, science, sports, kids, etc). Next step, use the highlighting tool to choose all of the words that will be included in their glossary. Words can also be added throughout the year, and the glossaries can be later accessed in the classroom for reference by any student. The glossaries can be printed booklets, or uploaded as online resources.

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