Over the last two weeks, at almost any point during our reading block, you could walk in and hear students involved in heated but respectful conversations. Reading, annotating, and discussing Newsela articles is a normal part of our reading block. As a part of this routine, we have been working all year on how to discuss an article before, during, and after reading it.
Students select a partner to read with and then select an article to collaborate on. They begin by reading and annotating the article independently. After the first read, they discuss together with a focus on their annotations, questions they each had, and vocabulary they need to clarify. The last step they take is to complete the Newsela quiz questions together. This routine is a favorite and, even though I only require them to complete this with one article each week, students often read, discuss, and quiz on multiple stories. Introducing my crew to Students Vote 2016 on Newsela was a no-brainer!
We kicked off Students Vote 2016 by watching the Brainpop movie “Primaries and Caucuses”. This opened up a great discussion; many students had already read about the Iowa caucus as well as other articles on Newsela about the presidential election. After the discussion, I shared the Brainpop game, “Win the White House”, which immediately got the students engaged. They were primed and wanted more information. This led perfectly to introducing the Election Text Set on Newsela.
Currently, we are entrenched in reading about the election and the conversations are fantastic. I am most impressed with how well the students are doing at disagreeing respectfully. Students are naturally using discussion stems for disagreeing, affirming, and holding the floor – advanced conversational turns that some adults still struggle with.
Through these discussions they have seen their quiz scores soar and truly understand how we select our presidential candidates. My fifth graders completely agree that understanding civic literacy should not wait until they turn 18 and they can’t wait to Rock the Vote as New Jersey holds its primary.
Victoria Ruane is a fifth grade educator in Edison Township schools. Stay tuned later this week as one of her students gives her take on Students Vote 2016 in the classroom!