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10 Simple Ways to Add Creativity to ELA Lessons

You’re on a mission to add creativity to your lesson plans in order to engage students in meaningful learning. Excellent! Your students will thank you.

When we think about making lesson plans creative, it’s important to maintain the integrity of challenging students in ways that are developmentally appropriate. Creativity doesn’t equal fluff. Likewise, it shouldn’t mean we are stressing ourselves out to reinvent the wheel.

This week, I’ve gathered a handful of my friends to create a list of practical ways we can add spice to a middle or high school English lesson plan. The goal? Cover standards and captivate students – practically.

Let’s take a look at some possibilities.

Read about 10 simple ways to add creativity to ELA lesson plans #middleschoolELA #highschoolELA #lessonplans

1. Differentiate the Learning

Breathe life and personalization into vocabulary instruction by changing up the way you ask students to think about their words. Doodling, associations, games, and challenges make vocabulary memorable. Brain-based, differentiated vocabulary lessons have deepened my students’ appreciation for words as well as brought movement to the classroom. Plus, it works! Students remember the words. Try a lesson for free here.

2. Use QR Codes

Lesson plans aren’t the only thing you can add creativity to in the classroom. My friend Amanda from Mud and Ink teaching wrote a whole post about how she uses QR codes to transform her classroom management. It’s brilliant, and it got me thinking. Adding QR codes to a simple lesson plan is just one more way we can engage students with technology. For instance, I use them with vocabulary!

3. Make it a Manipulative

Creativity does not mean diminished learning, especially with grammar. My friend Lauralee from Language Arts Classroom says we should let students hold their language – and manipulate it, like this. Students benefit from being able to arrange language. It helps them see how they, as writers, can use words to craft powerful sentences. 

4. Spice up Discussions

Let’s face it. Some class discussions are boring. Students aren’t always interested enough to participate, and everyone walks away feeling less than inspired. Ashley from Building Book Love wrote a post detailing her favorite strategies to engage students during Socratic Seminars. Read about how you can use Flipgrid, socratic soccer balls, emoji stems, silent discussion opportunities, the 3-2-1 strategy, and BINGO to add creativity to your discussions here

5. Pair Unusual Texts

Are students tired of nonfiction articles? Try blending high-interest informational texts with poetry by asking students to write creative and symbolic pieces that blur the lines between verse and prose, like this. Or, add short films to poetry to create a unique experience with analyzing paired texts. Here are some film and poem pairing suggestions.

6. Play Chef

Project-based learning is a creative way to engage students in meaningful learning. Any time we can add food into the mix, students get excited. Try this free culinary symbolism project from Ashley at Building Book Love next time you want students to analyze literature. Want to take it further? Treat your students to a snack as they hone their literary cooking and baking skills.

7. Stage a Mock Trial

Citing textual evidence is an essential ELA skill, but it doesn’t have to be boring. A mock trial is a creative, engaging, and authentic way to practice this skill and many others, including close reading, persuasion and argument, writing, and speaking and listening. Mock trials usually work for any text with a death, crime, or moral debate (so, just about all literature, right?!).

If you’d like more information on how to set up your own mock trial, check out this blog post by Abby from Write on with Miss G. And, if you want ready-to-go resources, rubrics, instructions, and absolutely everything you need to facilitate a mock trial, this is a bundle that works for ANY text.

8. Add some Color

Coloring in the classroom has brain benefits for older students. Since many students struggle with grammar, Lauralee from Language Arts Classroom created Color by Grammar. Coloring is relaxing, it helps students refocus, and it increases creative thought. Adding a splash of coloring to any type of lesson can be beneficial. Read more about the research behind this approach here.

9. Try an Escape Room

When we finish teaching a novel or play, traditionally, we roll right into the assessment. To add a little bit of creativity to the same old routine of ending a story, try creating an escape room.  There are tons of resources online to help you get started, or, if you happen to be reading A Raisin in the Sun, Amanda from Mud and Ink Teaching has one made for you.  Here’s how it works:

  • The Place:  Chicago PD Headquarters.  
  • The Scandal: Willy Harris has run off with Walter’s money.  
  • The Task: Student detectives must use clues, close reading strategies and teamwork to track down Willy Harris before the bell rings.

10. Just Add Music

Music is my go-to when I need to add a little bit of pizzazz and creativity to an otherwise straight forward lesson plan. I use music with poetry, as a hook for a lesson plan on figurative language, as a paired text complement, and as an end-of-the-year reflection, among other things. Try asking students to make a playlist of their year or let them analyze song lyrics during your next poetry or analysis unit. Download this song activity for free!

Hopefully you’ve found some inspiration that will help you add creativity to your lesson plans. Keep your class fresh and engaging for older students by surprising them with something new – a brain-based learning approach, a lesson on symbolism, some QR codes, or an enticing discussion strategy. Playing with creativity can ward off boredom and burnout – for both teachers and students.

Looking for more creative teaching ideas? Check out these posts.

Creative Approaches for Teaching Vocabulary
Engaging Lesson Plans for Any Time of Year
Using the One Pager as a Creative Response to Reading
A Creative Music Lesson Plan for the End of the Year
Assessing Comprehension without Making Students Hate Reading