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Newsela Launches New Nonfiction Library

Newsela has been one of the best dynamic online resources for teachers, and it just got monumentally more impressive.  If you’re not already using Newsela in your classroom, find it featured on Education World here and here. Leveled texts. Quizzes. The ability to create online classrooms. And now, “The Library” comes stocked with a whole new set of primary sources, biographies, famous speeches, and the “Time Machine”: original news articles, dating back 100+ years.

With the magnified focus upon text-based reasoning of the Common Core State Standards, ACT, and SAT, nonfiction texts—and a variety thereof—are likely at the forefront of every teacher’s curriculum planning this year. Newsela has brought the week’s news to our students’ fingertips for years now, offering impressively-differentiated texts, edited to match the needs of all of our readers. And yet, the call for literary nonfiction, deep speech analysis, and primary source studies has proven difficult to heed. How can we best help a struggling reader to access the complexities of the arguments made in Brown vs. the Board of Education? With Newsela’s new set of resources, it’s differentiated for grades 5, 6, 7, 9, and 12. After collaboration with multiple foundations, the Library takes complex primary sources, foundational documents, and time-honored speeches and brings them to the fingertips of every student in your classroom.

Education World was able to catch up with Newsela’s Chief Content Officer, Jenny Coogan, to learn a little more about the updates and how Newsela is able to keep up with the ever-changing educational landscape. “We have a team that compares different state standards and popular curricula,” says Coogan, “our associates participate in teaching conferences and councils throughout the year to connect with active educators in the field.” And all that networking has paid off. With the new update addressing high demand across the nation for a larger variety of nonfiction texts, Newsela clearly understands the immediate needs of the classroom teacher.

And as any educator knows, finding content that will keep student engagement high, whilst tackling rigorous state standards is no easy task. Newsela tries to make that search much simpler. “When choosing content, we try to connect readers to topics that are high-interest, but also closely tied to the required curricula,” says Coogan, “we try to choose texts that are both authentic and varied.” This means that when the Newsela crew looks at the daily news, they’re looking for your curricular connection. Studying the Labor Movement in your US History class? Here’s a recent piece on the Fight for 15. How about World War II or Women’s Rights? Here’s the skinny on a new bill to end discrimination against WWII female pilots. All differentiated for your varied class abilities, all easily accessible to all students.

One of the reasons Newsela is a fan favorite historically is due to how quickly they seem to be able to get updated news content on the site. Leveling texts for differentiated publication takes a firm understanding of such complex variables as Lexile, content-specific vocabulary, background knowledge, word count, and sentence variety. How does one tackle all that for this morning’s news? Accounting for their impressive swiftness and consistent precision, Coogan noted, “we use a combination of qualitative and quantitative means. We certainly make smart use of modern computer systems in combination with our hard-working team of editors and professionals.” Up-to-date, differentiated texts on recent events likely pumping through their social media networks make for incredibly engaged students in your classroom.

And now, the Library is allowing our students to go back in time! The Library’s “Time Machine” provides access to original news articles from key points in our world’s history. Read coverage of the Lincoln-Douglas debate at Freeport, Illinois in 1858. An 1896 account of Nikola Tesla harnessing the waterpower of Niagara Falls for electricity. The 1898 US Invasion of Puerto Rico. Immediately, students will be transported through history with those that witnessed it themselves as their guides. This is exactly the kind of primary source work our students need to access, and couldn’t have arrived at a more perfect time.

These resources will continue to grow to meet teacher and student needs. “Most recently, Newsela was able to partner with the King Center to create resources for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail and I Have a Dream,” mentions Coogan, “and we’ll continue to add new genres of writing and new collections.” Included in these much anticipated expansions are the debatable Bloomberg QuickTakes and a whole new partnership with Smithsonian. 

If you’d like to do a QUICK TOUR of some of the new resources, check out these pieces below:

Primary Sources

Olaudah Equiano describes the Middle Passage, 1780s

Andrew Jackson's Message "On Indian Removal"

The Bill of Rights


Musicians: Aretha Franklin

Philosophers: Confucius

Entrepreneurs: Jay Z

Famous Speeches

Cady Stanton's Address on "The Destructive Male"

George H.W. Bush's Announcement of War in Iraq

Elie Wiesel's "The Perils of Indifference"

Time Machine

1889: Oklahoma Land Rush

1845: The Oregon Trail

1916:  First Woman Is Elected to Congress

Issue Spotlight

What to Eat

The Sharing Economy

Bee Blight


Written by Keith Lambert, Education World Associate Contributing Editor

Lambert is an English / Language Arts teacher and teacher trainer in Connecticut.