English Language Arts
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  • The premise of ELA
  • ELA, Common Core and Standards (and beyond)
  • Getting started with ELA — Practical applications
  • Blurring barriers towards empowerment and action

Ignore it at your own peril. But art is finding its way into more parts of your everyday life. Have you noticed how much stuff is out there in the world? How, maybe as long as you follow the right pages, content looks increasingly odd and quirky, often in thought-provoking ways?

It’s not just social media. Art is more present than ever in the content you consume, educational or otherwise. Of course, there is little doubt social media has played a dramatic role in making art commonplace. From Groningen, Hanze Universirty’s Research Centre Art & Society keeps dutiful track of these influences across the educational spectrum and beyond. From the role of music in elder care, to the contribution of literal hands-on activities in the achievement of educational competencies, to the way art has evolved thanks to the close relationships online tutoring makes possible.

Because as it turns out, in the war for your attention —or is it a war on your attention?— art wins the day. Only artistic sensibilities ensure creators and designers remain surprising and evergreen. Art rules on the engaging classroom and social media feeds. But this is scratching the surface. Creators often fail to see art education as more than means to an end.

Sure, an artsy thing can nudge your “likes,” “shares” and other engagement metrics. But it can be so much more. Art can be a source of awe, perspective and insight. Art can take the monotonous into the sublime.

English Language Arts, or ELA, might pave new ways we see and embrace art in an eLearning setting for benefits across the board. According to the Common Core Standards Initiative, ELA is the improvement and study of language arts. It has the added benefit of being already incorporated in most basic education curriculums. It might still be beneficial to consider implementing topics of art appreciation into general higher ed or corporate audiences, but at the very least the seeds have been widely planted.

For organizations like the National Council of Teachers of English, ELA is “vital” to the way current and critical issues in education are addressed. From inclusion, of both people and topics; to lifelong, professional development; to the development of inquiry and other critical thinking skills. Creating a space where ELA plays this role effectively is a matter of establishing an educational culture, supporting reachers appropriately, and encouraging interdisciplinary inquiry.

What’s encouraging —if also startling— is that comprehensive, systematically codified curricula for ELA exists. At the Common Core Standards Initiative website, Language teaching covers six general skills (PDF): Language, speaking, listening, reading, and the fundamentals of reading and writing. Throughout the modules, ELA is infused with science, mathematics and social studies topics.

Technologically speaking, quality support alternatives for ELA are admittedly hard to find. Notably, tools for English Language Learning are available, if a bit underdeveloped for their full ELA potential.

Regarding content providers, Newsela offers texts in varying levels, in English and Spanish. There is also the ThinkCERCA tool, which offers leveled texts for students reading at different levels. It includes audio versions of the texts. In addition, Khan Academy offers its users programs with 12 languages available.

As a teacher, you can get started with ELA in your English or arts curriculum. But if you teach other topics you can benefit as well. ELA can provide interesting foundations for effective and creative thinking in areas like communication, innovation, leadership, empathy, general analytical skills and more.

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