Newsela 101: Tutorials

Hey, take the day off and let the kids teach! Our newest post on Raff Street Cafe Blog is how to incorporate tutorials into your classroom. Who doesn’t want students having self-guided and content-based discussions??? While sadly, Raff Street Cafe did not pioneer or invent the idea of tutorials, we definitely stole it and adapted it to fit our classrooms. Warning: Running tutorials in your classroom where students take charge and have self-guided discussions takes time and work before the actual day. Establishing norms for respect and equity of voice, and learning how to develop discussion based questions are all things that have to happen before tutorials are attempted in the classroom. Other than that, they are an absolute blast to do in class!

The process is simple and takes 2 days of class time to complete. The first day is about research and developing discussion questions on the tutorial form. I always have one overarching discussion question that is used to set the framework for the sub-questions students will be addressing and researching. For example, last week the main topic question was, “How does the 1st Amendment impact Americans?” From there, students were able to research and create sub-questions based on their interests in the topic. Since I have Seniors, I allow them to use any source out there for their research. I love that many of them immediately went to Newsela to start! Newsela is helpful in the process because of the controlled research options you can have. Teachers can tell students they can only find research on the site or they can create a text set and have students pick certain articles to research. Also, using Newsela helps ensure that students are able to access the content at their reading level. Once students have completed the front side of the tutorial form, they are set to go for the actual tutorial on the following day.

Tutorial day is where all the fun happens! Depending on class size, I put kids in groups of 5 to 8. Each group has a whiteboard and marker and one group member is assigned to be the timekeeper. In 4 to 5 minute rounds, each student writes their questions on the whiteboard, presents the background of their research, and facilitates a discussion around the sub-questions they created. This process is repeated for each round. During rounds of discussion, the students who aren’t presenting are taking notes on the questions being asked and their thoughts on those questions.

Once every student has facilitated the discussion I ask them to do a reflection on the main question. I do this using Flipgrid. Each student reflects on the main question and the different topics that stood out to them. This works great as a way for students to review information before taking a test or before completing a project for the unit.

There you have it! Student-led tutorials: where you get to jump around from group to group and just enjoy the discussions students are having. Feel free to download the worksheet and mix it up however you would like! Also, if you do the activity in class we would love to hear your feedback on the process!

Newsela 101: Tutorials
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