Why Every Teacher is a Reading Teacher

Why Every Teacher is a Reading Teacher

This is a guest blog post from one of our Newsela Certified Educators, Lisa Neihouse.


The secondary classroom is a fusion of many things – people, curriculum, level of ability, motivation, engagement, and reading levels.  The biggest predictor and the biggest impact on achievement is reading ability. Why do so many students arrive at the secondary classroom deficient in reading?  A lot of students are excellent “surface readers” but cannot decode text, infer, predict, or critically think from a subject area textbook. They have not developed “reading stamina” – which means to slow down and think about surrounding text, infer, and reflect in order to communicate a deep understanding about a topic. Teachers just hope this problem will heal on its own – or they think since they are getting the student in a secondary setting – it is too late to remedy the situation. But we owe it to our secondary kids to try to improve their reading skills within our curriculum. Every teacher is a reading teacher.

In Physical Science, there are many physics and chemistry standards to cover.  The standards just in and of themselves can be “dry” to a 14 year old, unless real-world applications bring value to that standard. Newsela is a great tool to walk hand-in-hand with teaching these standards. It will also allow you to get a lot of reading, critical thinking, organization of your reading, and assessment in one place.  Newsela is such a great resource to support my Physical Science curriculum by having articles to make these topics relevant to a teen. Here are a few favorites:

Newsela also can be used to foster growth in reading skills by narrowing your choice of science articles based on a few key criteria. I monitor student growth on Newsela by seeing students score higher on a quiz, read more articles on their own, and adjusting their level as needed.  It also makes students take ownership of their learning and their reading growth.

Why Newsela is valuable to the secondary science educator:

  1. It keeps science from being rigid and boring.  Rigidity does not always equal rigor. Students get excited about Newsela articles and when they are excited – they are engaged.

  2. It leads to organization for students AND teachers.  Students don’t waste valuable time looking for their assignment or trying to find out why they missed a question on a quiz or assessment.  Instant feedback for the student. Also on the teacher’s end of the equation – the teacher is not wasting valuable time looking for a lesson or worksheet to cover a topic in science.  Everything is easily there and easy to navigate on Newsela’s website.

  3. It makes classroom management easier because students are engaged (see #1)!

  4. It helps teachers to assess a student’s progress quickly.  This is a good thing because then a student is having more than one attempt to master a concept – this helps students to not just give up and accept an “F” for work.   This kind of thinking means a paradigm shift for a lot of educators. But it is a good thing for all.

  5. Allows teachers to “grow” students one by one instead of just throwing information out there to the masses and hoping for the best.  The value of seeing an individual’s name on my PRO binder with their progress and reading strengths and weaknesses helps me to assess that student as an individual instead of as a “class” of 25.

I am in my 34th year of teaching science.  Online learning is only as good as its implementation in a real classroom of kids, as well as the ease for the teacher to use it without frustration or difficulty. Newsela, for me, has been the gift that keeps on giving in my class. The website is constantly improving and getting better – even when you think it is already the best there is out there.

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