Newsela is a great classroom resource because it motivates through the use of current issues in the news and it adapts by allowing everyone to read these stories at a level appropriate to their reading ability. Because Newsela offers many layering capabilities (highlighting and notes, questions and prompts), I intended to explore in my Kindle book on layering, I contacted the service and was grant permission to use screen captured images in the book. As I worked out what I would include, I decided to not include Newsela because the service provides both the layering tools and the content. Layering for learning is focused on services students and educators can use to annotate online content and video selected by the users. There are advantages in the approach Newsela takes and the service can probably do more sophisticated things because it provides tools and selects the content. The quantity and variety of content is also impressive.
Newsela provides both a free and a subscription (Pro) model. Annotation is available in both models, BUT the use of annotations in an interactive way between teacher and student is not. If as a teacher you are lucky enough to have access to a Pro account, the opportunity to share annotations with individual students is worth exploration.
Highlighting within Newsela is always enabled. When text is selected, a color palette should appear (Newsela encourages educators and students to use these colors strategically to indicate different things) and so does a “write something” prompt in the margin. I have found with several layering services that highlighting and annotating are potentially linked. I am considering one possibility here – asking each student to comment on a specific remark appearing within the text. The process (teacher to student) would work something like this. Identify and highlight a specific comment appearing within the text and ask a question relevant to this comment. Select the “share” link that should appear with the “write something” textbox. Just to be clear, within the same document, you can either highlight and annotate for personal use or to share with students. This makes sense as personal highlighting and annotating would be helpful in preparing to discuss an article with students.
When the article is assigned for students review, the highlights and comments designated to be shared will appear when the student reads. A text link appearing with the teacher annotations opens a text box allowing students to write a response to the teacher comment. Students do not see the responses generated by peers, but the teacher can view all comments.
The comment and response process can work in the other direction. Students can generate an annotation that the teacher comments on. So, students might be given an assignment requiring annotation and the teacher could provide feedback.
There is one tricky thing educators using this system will need to understand. The highlighting/commenting process must be performed on each “reading level” for a given article. This could be a little tedious, but a system that would allow highlighting of text segments that end up being stated differently for different reading levels would be asking a bit much of the service.