NCE News: I Hosted a Newsela Meetup
Like many schools, my school has a hard time getting relevant, quality nonfiction texts into the classroom. Newsela provides that quality content that students love, and the Newsela PRO platform helps our teachers personalize learning for each student. We’ve looked at other content programs, but they’re much more expensive than Newsela. The cost-benefit for Newsela PRO makes it an easy sell to district curriculum supervisors and a no brainer for teachers to use. As a leader in my school district, I wanted to ensure that all of our teachers knew about Newsela and the impact it could have on their instruction. I decided to host a meetup to spread the word about Newsela PRO.
My approach to Newsela PD
Last year I became a Newsela Certified Educator (NCE) by completing an online course and exam. This allowed me to gain expert knowledge in content and feature applications in addition to other professional learning opportunities. Newsela offers several great ideas for self-directed professional development, and a meetup made the most sense for me. A Newsela Meetup is a teacher led and teacher choice PD focused on sharing Newsela PRO applications. As a NCE, I was able to apply for a Newsela Educator Scholarship to support my district Meetup. I used the Newsela scholarship money to purchase food for the event and gift cards to use as prizes. The first step I took was to get it on the calendar. Next, I polled my teachers to see what they knew about Newsela and did the same for teachers within our district. Based on their knowledge level, I created a professional development plan that allows teachers to walk away with Newsela classrooms set up and assignments delivered. During the session I had teachers create student accounts and walked them through from student perspective—signing up, annotating an article, taking a quiz, and completing the writing assignment. To add a bit of competition, I awarded the teacher who did this the fastest a gift card from Starbucks. Next, the teachers created all of their classes, a Text Set, and assigned them to their classes. Again, Starbucks gift cards were on the line.
Teachers gave Newsela high marks for practicality and relevance on their meetup feedback surveys. They seemed to enjoy the PD and were able to walk away with ready-made lessons. For those teachers who did not have access to Newsela PRO, I gave them one of the free 60-day Newsela Pro accounts I was given for hosting the meetup and suggested they share the data and strategies collected during that time with their curriculum supervisor to help bring Newsela PRO to their own school communities. I also provided other tips to share with their school leaders. For example, the adaptive part of Newsela PRO is the biggest win as a teacher and school district because it allows every scholar to read the same content at the level that’s right for them. A second tip that was key to making our decision was being able to see which Common Core standard individual students and groups were struggling with. After the Meetup I offered to mentor them through the experience and share evidence to prove that Newsela PRO is a must-have resource.
Takeaways for next time
While it was good to have outside teachers at the event, the best use of time would be to have only school district teachers with school district emails at the event. Some teachers were not able to get in and really use the program and all of its features. Our session could have been improved by having participants log in the night before to ensure access. Also, the teachers could have used more time exploring the website and the reports that are available through Newsela PRO. By giving your teachers more time to explore the reports, your teachers will be more likely to see the value of the platform and the potential impact.
Read more about becoming a Newsela Certified Educator.