Classroom Application Strategy Guide for Election Issues Text Sets

Election Issues Texts Sets


Annotations              Use Newsela’s interactive color coding feature to Highlight and Annotate, monitoring and posing responses to keep the conversation going.

PRO Tip: Share Annotations with students to begin a digital dialogue on the article. These shared Annotations can also serve as ways to further scaffold and provide accommodations for learners. 

Answer the Writing Prompt  

Use Newsela’s thought-provoking Write prompts to assess student responses and even offer revision feedback to keep the conversation going.

PRO Tip: Edit the default Write prompt to customize the question to your lesson or curriculum needs. 
Argumentative/Persuasive Writing  

Have students take a side on an issue. Develop a CLAIM (main argument). Provide CONTEXT leading into a piece of EVIDENCE (paraphrased or properly quoted). Give 2-5 points of EVIDENCE. Include a CONCLUSION.

Have peers evaluate one another based on questions used as constructive feedback toward revisions: What is the author’s main argument? Do you think the argument is effective? Explain. What would make the argument more effective?

Asking Questions    This activity can be used at multiple levels to deepen comprehension, during “first, second, third-draft” read-throughs, or to expand students’ written responses as they ask questions of the text and endeavor to answer them for deeper understanding. Whether or not students are able to generate answers to their questions, questions are a valuable addition to written responses and lend voice and depth to a piece.
Current Events (aka News Reports)  

OPTION 1: Ask students to choose an article from the Presidential Text Set, or from related sets such as Politics in the Classroom Text Set or PRO/CON Articles. Paragraph 1 is an organized summary of the article. Paragraph 2 is a well-developed, opinion; a PRO or CON on the subject with sound reasoning.

OPTION 2: Same strategy as OPTION 1 but Paragraph 2 is a compare/contrast connection to either another article in the same text set or a presidential bio.

After reading (and rereading) the Text Set article, taking notes on topics of interest, prepare for whole-group or small group debates to teach students about the process, as well as its various roles, rules and procedures. Debating is an effective way for students to examine different perspectives through role play. Suggested activities include:

  • Lincoln-Douglas Debate
    • Two Cards / Two Fingers
    • Fishbowl
    • Think-Pair-Share
    • Four Corner

Lincoln-Douglas Debate Strategy (Small Group-to-Small Group)

  • Small groups assign roles of Moderator, Debater, Cross-Examiner, Cross-Examine Responder, Rebutter, Summarizer (for smaller classes, teacher may serve as Moderator)
  • Start with statement of purpose/policy (ex: Homework should be banned in all schools.)
  • Affirmative position presents first (6 min.)
  • Negative position cross-examines (3 min.)
  • Negative position presents points (7 min.)
  • Affirmative cross-examines (3 min.)
  • Affirmative provides rebuttal (4 min.)
  • Negative provides rebuttal (6 min.)
  • Affirmative provides second rebuttal (3 min.)


Two Cards (whole group debate): Provide each student with two cards (Comment, Question). Once a student has made his/her Comment and Question during the debate, (turning in their respective cards), he/she can no longer participate until all students have used their cards. (*This variation can be done with a show of fingers for participation rather than cards*)

Fishbowl: In this variation, the middle of the room is the debate stage or “inside” of the fishbowl, while the perimeter observers remain “outside” the fishbowl. Observers remain involved by judging or tracking debate points as they watch more confident debaters on the inside.

Think-Pair-Share: This strategy is useful for information-gathering as well as for debate variation. Students have ten minutes to independently gather information on a topic. For the next ten minutes, students pair up to share and combine notes. Each pair then partners with another pair for further note gathering and deeper group discussion. The pairing process can continue until the whole class has gathered back together, or small groups of partner pairs can end with debating the issue at hand.

Four Corner: In this variation, each student takes one of four stances on an issue: strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree. A recorder for each corner takes notes on a poster during group discussion. After reporters share opinions whole group, students may switch corners if persuaded otherwise. In the next round of timed discussion, all students take notes. From their notes, students independently write a position paragraph that includes their 3-4 strongest supporting points.   
Discussion   This activity can be used at multiple levels (“first, second, third-draft” read-throughs) and pairs well with practicing Reading Strategies.  
Evidence   Every presidential profile and text set article is an opportunity to teach students about multiple forms of high-quality textual evidence, the difference between paraphrasing and direct quotation, and the proper punctuation used. A handful of evidence strategies include: historical example, contemporary example, hypothetical, reasoning by example, analogy, and statistical evidence. 
Freewriting (Write From A Word)   Tell students that this timed activity enhances their writing stamina and generates writing ideas. The goal is to avoid self-censorship; to not stop writing or typing, to not even pick up their pencil or pause their fingers, until time is up. Sometimes it’s easier to generate a list of keywords from the biography or article first. Students can focus on a keyword for the freewrite. 3, 5, 7 or 10 minutes are some suggested timeframes. Afterward, have students highlight or star ideas or phrases they find interesting. 
Gallery Walk  

A Gallery Walk around the classroom sparks conversation and critical thinking. It can be used before and / or after reading (or writing.)

Small groups of 3-5 students work together to share ideas and respond to questions, documents, images, quotes, or scenarios. The teacher creates a set of questions or prompts about the current topic, writing each one on chart paper placed at stations around the room. Student groups begin at different stations. Assign a Recorder per station to write for the whole group or use colored markers for each student. (For individual accountability, have each student record their own responses on a separate sheet.) Rotations should be timed (ex: 3-5 minutes). Before responding, groups must read and discuss previous responses charted. The teacher monitors, available to clarify or offer hints when needed. When groups return to their original station, they should read through all responses. End with a whole-group discussion about the experience.

Responding to “Point of View Shift” prompts based off an article or biography allows students to consider multiple perspectives and would also pair well with a follow-up activity on argumentative/persuasive writing.

Gallery Walk Variations

“I Like, I Wonder, Next Steps”: This strategy is useful for gathering peer feedback. Students record one thing they like about the work displayed, one thing they wonder about it, and one thing the creator could do next or improve. Tri-colored sticky notes work well for codifying each category.

“Gallery Run”: This strategy works at a faster pace because questions posed are lower level, geared to assess comprehension. Teachers are able to increase the quantity of questions posted to expand student practice. 
Listening & Notemaking  

Have partners read a biography or article out loud to one another while alternating notetaking, listening carefully for major versus minor points. Repeat the exercise with the same material or a different source. As a whole group, discuss whether material was easier to understand the second time around and whether students took better notes the second time.

PRO Tip: Students can Highlight and Annotate their notes directly on the article. Each student can pick a color and the teacher can see comments in the Binder.
Nonfiction Leads  

This activity would lend itself well to a Gallery Walk strategy. Small groups can each be responsible for a set of articles within the text set or a set of presidential biographies, taking note of the various styles of nonfiction leads discovered, with thoughts on each one’s effectiveness. (Perhaps students create their own rubric for leads either whole-group or small-group.)

PRO Tip: Share a Text Set with students that incorporates a collection of articles on your unit of study.
Notemaking (Column Notes/Cornell Method)  

This specific style of note making is best used for test preparation of the short-answer or essay variety. Column Notes, when printed, are essentially a three-way notecard, enabling students to study from the following columns, written or typed left to right on the page:

*Try having students convert Newsela’s bold subheadings into conceivable test questions that begin with “How” or “Why”*


(date + rating)

(students create a rating system such as *, !, ✓, --, ? to mark their column notes next to each date studied)


(student generated based on subheadings, text patterns, key details, etc.)  


(bullet points)


(written like a topic sentence)

PRO Tip: Students can use this same method by Highlighting evidence that relates to a question or strategy and Annotating to explain reasoning.
Making Connections   This activity can be used at multiple levels to deepen comprehension, during “first, second, third-draft” read-throughs, or to expand students’ written responses as they make text-to-text (ex: other articles or bios), text-to-self, and text-to-world connections to the text. Connections are valuable additions to written responses and lend voice and depth to a piece.
Making Inferences & Drawing Conclusions  

Lean into the text and “read between the lines” to discover hidden layers of meaning. One suggestion is to develop a graphic organizer that helps students keep track of what the text says, what that means, and why it matters. In other words:


(Supporting details)


(in your own words, aka “inference”)


(why it matters or why we should care / the value or significance)

This activity can be used at multiple levels to deepen comprehension, during “first, second, third-draft” read-throughs, or to expand students’ written responses as they make inferences and draw conclusions based on textual evidence. Inferences and Conclusions are valuable additions to written responses and lend Voice and depth to a piece.
Outlining   Use articles or biographies to reverse the writing process, creating outlines from the material in order to decipher writers’ various organization strategies for nonfiction.
Parts of a Paragraph     

Use Newsela’s color-coding Highlighting function to practice identifying the essential parts of a paragraph. Have partner groups Highlight and color code an article to explore its organization section by section. This activity will pair well with Outlining. Suggested color functions could include:

  • Green: Topic Sentences and Concluding Sentences
  • Red:  Major Details/Points/Reasons
  • Yellow: Minor Details/Examples/Quotes/Explanations
  • Blue: for transition words and phrases
  • Purple/Pink: for any Hook used in the Lead

Reading Standards Focus

-What the Text Says
-Central Idea
-People, Events, and Ideas
-Word Meaning and Choice
-Text Structure
-Point of View / Purpose
-Arguments and Claims

  Utilize Newsela’s 8 Reading Standards Foci to target these eight essential skills one at a time through a single article/biography or through multiple. Incorporate any strategies suggested in this document to teach each reading skill. (Ex: color-coded Annotations, gallery walk, Write prompt, column notes, making inferences & drawing conclusions)
 Reading Strategies  

Any article or biography is an opportunity to practice a range of essential reading strategies.

  • Make a Prediction
  • Clarify/Interpret/Infer
  • Make a Connection
  • Ask a Question
  • Make a Comment
  • Draw a Conclusion
  • Reread and Retell
  • Visualize

Have students conduct research on a topic related to those read in the presidential biographies and / or text sets. A graphic organizer research template is recommended. On the organizer, consider breaking the Main Topic into 3-4 Sub-Topics with students asking 2-3 questions they must research in order to gather sufficient content for their report. 

 Summarization Practice  

Practice two summarization strategies as students read and reread their articles. Have students first Highlight and color code the article to find the answers to Who, What, When, Where, Why, How.

    1. 5-W, 1-Sentence Summary incorporating Who, What, When, Where and Why (*How is optional). The 1-sentence summary is the most basic information a reader has to know about a topic’s main idea and most important details. If students end up writing a summary paragraph, this first sentence should start that paragraph.
    2. “Keep-Delete-Substitute-Summarize” (or for fun memorizing purposes, “Keep Down Sassy Sound!”) When a 1-sentence summary just isn’t enough, this can be your go-to technique.
    • Keep the good stuff by underlining it. (*transitions count!)
    • Delete what’s unneeded by crossing it out.
    • Substitute words from the bio or article by writing your own version above the text (to avoid plagiarism).
    • Then Summarize by checking off key phrases and substitutions as you use them and/or stepping back to assess what big idea the key phrases are saying all together.

 Text Structures

-compare/contrast (within or b/t articles/bios ex: Politics in the Classroom Text Set or PRO/CON Articles)
-sequence of events
-main idea/detail or description


Presidential Biographies and Text Sets present an ideal opportunity to teach informational text structures. Have students do a “first, second, and third draft” read through of their chosen material over the course of 1-3 days, filling in a corresponding graphic organizer for whichever text structure you’re targeting. Utilize Newsela’s Highlighting and color-coding function to locate keywords or phrases associated with the text structure, then have students transfer their findings over to the graphic organizer.

Ultimately, students can build summary paragraphs from their notes. They can even create a compare-and-contrast piece based on another article or bio either within the same text set or in another one such as Politics in the Classroom Text Set or PRO/CON Articles. 

Track themes running through the articles and biographies you read. Use the Annotation and color-coding function on Newsela to keep track of keywords and phrases. On a separate document, have students explore themes by charting:

  • Highlight what the theme is in BLUE
  • Highlight what the theme isn’t in RED
  • Highlight connections so far (text-to-self, text-to-text, text-to-world) in YELLOW
  • Highlight questions  in GREEN
 Content Words  

Context clues and word association to guess at meaning of unfamiliar words. All variations of vocabulary strategy apply.

PRO Tip: Students can Highlight these words in RED on the article and teacher can review their Annotations in their Binder to reply and clarify meaning.  

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