Newsela is a web-based program that allows you to change the lexile level of an article and assign it to students. Some also have writing tasks or quizzes, but the main benefit is the ability to customise for a class, or even for particular students.
It's also kind of fascinating how they take real articles from real news sources and level them down - the changes they make tell you a lot about how textual complexity is measured.
But back to Tuesday Newsday. Every Tuesday this trimester, I give students an article that covers a controversial issue. There was whale captivity, class size, getting rid of grades, and this week, whether video games are good or bad for teenagers.
Students read the article in pairs, and come up with the main idea. Then I have them make a list of pro/cons and each take a side. Then their puppets debate each other in a short video.
This gives students LOTS of practice finding the main idea and coming up with compelling arguments. Something I've learned from Jon Corippo is that students need lots of repetitions on skills they find challenging. Tuesday Newsday gives them that repetition with specific feedback.
And I've found that students actually like it - if you do a good job picking the article, it's fun to create an argument, and obviously puppets are fun.
With a shorter article, you can do this in 30 minutes. It takes about 45 most days. The key is to keep it fun so it doesn't become another boring task you have to force them to do.