Most Effective Way to Teach ELA Skills

As we go about everyday life, subject areas are not categorized and isolated for our students. It is all integrated in our world. Thinking about college and career readiness, our students need to be able to see how all the subject areas connect & work together. This will lead to students having higher order thinking skills and a deeper understanding of the material. Instead of teaching English Language Arts (ELA) skills in isolation, consider building background knowledge first with the content.

Research + Purpose

Research shows how important it is for students to have background knowledge. It creates familiarity and tells the brain it is previously learned information. This makes it easier to add on new knowledge and skills. Once we build background knowledge, for example, with science or social studies lessons – we can then apply ELA skills to instruction. This will take students from the unknown to the known.

In this way, we build comprehension with the content first and then we can take the abstract, complex standards and apply them to our content lessons. Let’s talk about how to do this.

Tip #1 Bridge Content and Language Objectives 

The best way to teach ELA skills is by using the content to teach it. The key to doing this is backwards planning and being strategic with designing your lessons. We encourage you to lay out your standards – content and ELA. From there, you can look at your timeline, what content are you teaching when? What ELA skills will you be teaching during the week? Once you have your content lessons developed, you can then process them and match them up to your ELA skills.

Tip #2 Process your Content with ELA 

In order to teach ELA skills, you need language. Instead of creating separate content for ELA, use the language from the content area standards such as math, social studies, science, and more. This will give students with more practice with the content vocabulary and a place to provide language to apply ELA skills. The more we integrate these pieces together, the easier it will be for students to make connections. Students will begin to see and apply ELA skills to all language.

Take any lesson that has rich language from your content area and process it with ELA skills.

Next Steps

You can focus on a different ELA skill every lesson or every other lesson, the pacing is up to you! Some teachers like to use the scope and sequence from their ELA curriculums, this is a great option if you have additional resources.

Lastly, remember to gradually release! Students can work in teams to write their own Big Books and Poetry and later on process their own writing with the ELA skills they learned in class.

The power of teaching ELA through content is extraordinary. Here is a picture that a 1st grade teacher shared with us. She had each student create a Sentence Patterning Chart:

You can see how the students started processing their own language with the ELA skills they had learned during poetry. Note how the students started identifying long vowels, short vowels, and other ELA skills in their writing.

Try it out!

Try these tips out in your classroom to teach ELA through content! Follow Be GLAD on social media for more ideas.

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