Helping my Medical Biochemistry students develop their literacy skills is a huge priority for me. Comprised of primarily 10th graders, the class revolves around interacting with professional, peer reviewed medical journals, many of which are written with an MD or PhD in mind, not a sophomore in high school.
Keeping the above in mind, prior to this phase of online teaching, students were interacting with ~ 2 major journal articles/unit. The COVID-19 Pandemic has made available a tremendous amount of literature for my students. The current online version of the class is closely following the race towards the development of a vaccine, and as one would imagine, deep reading of these articles has become a huge priority. Thus, the literacy skills mentioned above are even more important during this phase.
To address this, I have been linking articles IN a Google Form, and using the "Get Pre-Filled Link" option to force students into a summary template scaffold that I will eventually begin to pull back. I wrote more about this feature here. See screenshot below.
The above format has been working great. Then I stumbled across a site called "Newsela" that provides curated articles that can be formatted for various reading levels and also embed quizzes and writing prompts to promote literacy. I actually learned about this through my 5th grade daughter who's teacher as leveraging Newsela beautifully.
Given the need for the added literacy scaffolds above, I found a Newsela article on vaccine development, tailored it for my student's reading level, and pushed it out to them in today's "Check Out" form here, which includes this instructional video. I crossed my fingers.
Once students finished today's lesson (about 30 minutes ago), I visited the Newsela dashboard which is really slick! I was shocked to see that my students, who are all "Honors" level did very poorly on the quiz. Below is a screenshot snippet of their progress as seen on the teacher dashboard.
Shortly after checking all student scores I received the below email from a student. This student is one of the brightest and most thoughtful students I have EVER taught. This is my 20th year in the classroom.
I very much appreciate this email! Not because it provided a review of Newsela (which I may still use if appropriate), but because it forced me to continue to reflect on what it means to help students develop literacy, and the true role that technology can play in that process. I will be sure to share any updates on use of Newsela in my class as I still feel it can be a valuable tool for article interaction and reflection.