4 Tips for Keeping ELA Instruction Relevant and Engaging

Students in ELA class raising hands to engage with relevant learning content

Incorporating relevant, engaging content into your ELA instruction is a pivotal step in developing student literacy and critical thinking skills.

Learning to be a strong reader and writer takes a great deal of focus and determination. While this causes some students to feel frustrated or intimidated by English class, teachers can make ELA approachable to every learner by prioritizing the use of highly relevant and engaging content.

The best ELA teaching resources spark students’ imaginations, resonate with their lived experiences, and get them excited about learning. Here are four tips for keeping your ELA instruction consistently relevant and engaging:

1. Select texts that present a variety of compelling perspectives

Ideally, both works of fiction and works of nonfiction expand a student’s frame of reference while simultaneously affirming their place in the world. Teaching texts that strike the right balance between challenging students in appropriate, productive ways and presenting students with characters and narratives that reflect their own experiences ensures students remain engaged with your ELA instruction.

The hundreds of texts in NoRedInk’s library cover a wide range of genres, styles, and perspectives. From “Ode to Cheese Fries,” a playful poem in which José Olivarez reminisces on the items, places, and sounds that defined his youth, to “My First Classmate,” a personal essay NBA star Jayson Tatum penned in honor of his mother, these texts (and the pre-made writing activities that accompany them) hook students as soon as they start reading.

2. Use writing as a way to elevate student voices

As many seasoned authors have shared, it’s often best to write what you know. This nugget of wisdom is as instructive for aspiring authors as it is for students who are only starting to see themselves as writers. Just as reading and responding to texts that are relevant to their lives gets students excited about learning, focusing their work on topics they know and care about generates unparalleled enthusiasm for the act of writing.

Some students may be hesitant to participate in self-reflection and self-expression at first—particularly if you’re exploring potentially personal topics—but as long as you consistently emphasize the inherent value of their voices and ideas, words are bound to start flowing freely.

In addition to Quick Writes that promote the development of CASEL’s five core social-emotional competencies, NoRedInk features Narrative Guided Drafts that create opportunities for students to craft full essays based on their own experiences and relationships. Assigning activities like these that center student voices not only increases student engagement, but builds student confidence and self-worth.

3. Tailor instruction to student needs

One of the best ways to maximize the relevance of your ELA instruction is to make sure it meets students where they are. Even the most engaging content won’t resonate with students if it focuses on material that they already know like the backs of their hands or material that jumps several steps ahead of what they’ve learned thus far. While every student in your class has unique needs, assigning low-stakes, formative assessments can give you insight into how to effectively tailor instruction for individual students or groups of students.

At the start of a year or semester, a NoRedInk Planning Diagnostic will assess students’ familiarity with the standards-aligned skills you’re considering covering in the coming months. As you move into the start of a unit, a NoRedInk Unit Diagnostic will provide you with detailed data on each student’s understanding of the topics at hand that can be used as a point of comparison with the data you gather from a NoRedInk Growth Quiz at the end of the unit.

4. Embrace fun ELA resources

On a more straightforward note, it never hurts to inject a little fun into the proceedings. When created and positioned properly, highly engaging content needn’t detract from rigorous ELA instruction—laughing and learning are not always mutually exclusive.

For instance, NoRedInk asks students to select their favorite books, movies, musicians, athletes, historical figures, and more as they’re setting up their profiles. Then, NoRedInk takes these individualized interests and incorporates them into the skills exercises each student sees. Instead of trudging through exercises with generic subjects and objects, students get to determine whether a particular piece of evidence supports the claim that Olivia Rodrigo loves birthday cake or punctuate a list of Wonder Woman’s favorite pastimes.

Access thousands of engaging writing activities for free

Whether you’re looking for ELA resources that help keep your instruction relevant and engaging or you want a library of standards-aligned writing activities that promote key literacy and critical thinking skills, NoRedInk’s comprehensive online writing curriculum fits the bill.

If you’re interested in getting access to NoRedInk’s suite of ELA resources for teachers, sign up for free today!

Thomas collaborates with colleagues from across NoRedInk to craft stories that illustrate how NoRedInk ​​builds stronger writers. He holds a BA in Religious Studies from Occidental College.