Newsela 101: Speed Dating

Speed dating is my go to activity when it comes to having students discuss content material in class. What I love about the activity is it is a quick and easy way for students to practice their oral communication skills in a non-threatening situation. We all want our students to be able to effectively communicate with people, but when are they practicing these skills or seeing these skills modeled? Social media? The news? In order for our students to grow as communicators, they have to practice these skills like any other class skill. Speed dating provides a safe environment that allows students to to practice having sustained discussions with their peers about intelligent, content related topics. The activity is adaptable to fit almost any content area or grade level. What’s great about incorporating Newsela with this activity is that you as the teacher can feel confident that students are reading articles at their grade level, which allows them to access the same content as everyone else in the classroom so they can all participate in the discussion.


Students will engage in sustained and focused conversations about content material.


The goal of this activity is for students to practice having engaged content-based discussions with their peers. When all students have read the article have them pick a partner and form two columns in the classroom sitting directly across from their partner. You can also do this activity with students standing across from their partner. Once students are set up, choose which side will rotate and which will stay still.  Then, set a timer for how long you’d like them to talk to one another. One minute is usually a good starting point. Once the timer goes off, have the predetermined side rotate to the next person and repeat the process for as many rounds as you feel are needed. The goal is for students to talk about their article for the entire time each round. While the process is repetitive, it is great for practicing sustained conversations and gives students the opportunity to talk to lots of different people. Speed Dating provides a quick, informative way to measure how well students are understanding a topic as well as their ability to sustain a content driven discussion. Before starting this for the first time, take time to discuss with students what you, as a grader, are looking for in the activity and also what a quality and engaged conversation looks like. Below is a student created rubric from my class. It allows me to walk around the room and quickly jot down scores based on what we discussed as a class. Students can also communicate what kind of conversation they’re having, based on the rubric they helped create, by quickly holding up the number of fingers that correspond to the rubric.

Tips and Suggestions:

  • Feel free to work in random questions for certain rounds to break up the repetitiveness.
  • This also works great with pairing texts with novels and having discussions about both.
  • Pre-discussion is a great time to talk about what engaged discussions look like and involves students in how to evaluate a quality discussion.


Newsela 101: Speed Dating
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