FAQs: How Newsela thinks about reading levels

Newsela’s open-leveling functionality gives teachers and students flexibility. Read the questions and answers below to learn how you and your students can make the most of Newsela articles at five reading levels.  

How can teachers use open-leveling to impact student achievement?

  • Teachers can guide students as they read at the more challenging instructional level by defining words, explaining concepts, asking students to re-read to verify comprehension, and more. Yet, to achieve maximum growth, students will also need to read texts at the independent level, which they can read with ease. With Newsela, teachers can have students reading at an instructional level and reading at an independent level within the same text, during the same class period. That’s the power of Newsela’s open leveling.

How can open-leveling provide opportunities to extend students’ learning?

  • Students have the ability to re-read an article at a higher level and take an entirely different quiz that’s specific to the content of the more challenging level of the article but also assessing the same reading skills as the lower level. In this way students have the ability to test their comprehension and build their skills by reading their way up the staircase of text complexity one step at a time. 

How can a student’s background knowledge of a subject affect reading level?

  • Reading level varies by interest level and background knowledge. For example, if a student has grown up reading about football and they read an article about concussions in football, they will likely have the background knowledge and interest necessary to understand what the article says about concussions. You know your students best, so you have the option to judge when students may need to level up for articles written about familiar subjects.

 What if my students bounce around to different levels? (That’s great! But we don’t want them to bounce around aimlessly)

  • We believe that beginning to understand what expertise looks like means having the opportunity to be exposed to it and to explore it freely. Consider allowing students to explore other reading levels, but encourage them to commit to reading at their instructional level when guided, and their independent level when reading on their own.

 What are some best practices for teaching students how to choose the appropriate reading level?

  • We strongly believe in students developing the ability to choose texts that are comprehensible, yet still enough of a challenge to allow for growth. Many teachers in our educator community have found that having frequent, transparent conversations with students regarding their reading goals and growth encourages them to read at appropriate reading levels. In addition, helping students create a plan of action to achieve their reading goals promotes the skill of choosing appropriate texts more than level-locking ever could. For a guide on how to have goals-based data conferences with students, check out this page from the Newsela Learning and Support Center: https://support.newsela.com/hc/en-us/articles/201399615-Data-conference-with-students

 What are some strategies that I can use with the open leveling capabilities of Newsela?

  • Ask students to read the same article at multiple levels. Consider having them work from lower levels to higher ones. When they read an article at one level and take the quiz, if they score 3 or 4 out of 4, ask them to level up, re-read and take the quiz at that level. As they continue to read, assess, level up and repeat, their confidence in reading, comprehension of each article, and their ability to exercise core reading skills will increase.
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