With the new year underway, you may be thinking about your future English language arts plans. Maybe you want to change the way you teach foundational skills, swap your units with something fresh, or take advantage of new technologies and teaching methods.

No matter your goals, it's important to stay up-to-date on the latest teaching topics to give your students the best education possible. Today, let's look at five trends you should consider when planning your curriculum for the 2023-2024 school year!

1. Artificial Intelligence in the Classroom

Will artificial intelligence (AI) be the next great disruptor of education? While the technology has been around for years, it's only recently become accessible to the average person. One AI model in particular, a conversational tool called ChatGPT, has a lot of teachers talking about AI and its place in the classroom.

ChatGPT can generate textual responses based on given prompts and can output nearly any type of written product, including short stories, poems, song lyrics, emails, essays, and even computer code. It's no wonder why many teachers are hesitant about this new tech. While it's easy to view tools like ChatGPT as vehicles for cheating, they do have educational benefits that you can use to your advantage.

In the ELA classroom, ChatGPT is great for helping students develop their writing skills, as ironic as that sounds. You can use the tool to easily create sample essays for editing practice. Students can review the text and correct any errors in grammar, punctuation, or spelling (and at this stage in its development, ChatGPT still makes mistakes). ChatGPT can also generate writing prompts that target different styles and themes, saving you valuable time. Check out this article on MiddleWeb for more practical ways to use ChatGPT for language arts learning!

2. Greater Interest in Teaching Word Roots

During these last few months, we've noticed an interesting trend emerging on our website. More teachers than ever before are searching for vocabulary resources that focus on word roots. (And luckily, we have the programs just for that—Growing Your Vocabulary and Vocabulary from Latin and Greek Roots!)

Why teach word roots? Thousands of English words are derived from Latin and Greek roots, prefixes, and suffixes. These linguistic building blocks are what give a word its meaning. With knowledge of word roots, prefixes, and suffixes, students can figure out the definitions of unfamiliar words just by breaking down their parts. For instance, if a student knows that the Latin root "oper" means "to work" and the prefix "co" means "together," they can deduce that "cooperate" means "to work with."

The more word roots students know, the better they'll be able to decipher word meanings on sight. Having this skill can make a world of difference when it comes to reading challenging texts, taking standardized tests, and even learning new languages.

3. The Popularity of Project-Based Learning

We've talked about the basics of project-based learning (PBL) on our blog before, and for good reason. PBL remains a popular instructional method in 2023 thanks to its hands-on approach to learning.

Not quite sure what PBL is? Here's a quick rundown. In PBL, students explore content by solving real-world problems or challenges, usually presented as open-ended questions they must answer. A PBL unit requires students to research their topic, analyze what they find, and develop a final product that answers the driving questions. This product can take many forms, depending on the assignment.

Part of PBL's appeal is its focus on student-led learning. As a teacher, you set the overall academic objectives and goals for the unit, but most of the "instruction" falls on the student. You act as a facilitator, guiding students as they explore the content, rather than the primary dispenser of knowledge. This approach encourages student engagement, as they're more "in control" of their learning process.

4. Book Bans and Reading Choices

Book challenges are nothing new, but over the past few years, the amount of bans and challenges has skyrocketed. The American Library Association reported that between January 1 and October 31, 2022, there were 781 attempts to ban or restrict library resources, with 1,835 unique titles targeted. Both statistics exceed the previous records set in 2021.

As much as we hate to say it, this hot-button issue shows no signs of slowing down in 2023. A number of incidents have already made headlines, including legislation introduced in several states calling for the removal of "harmful materials" from school libraries and other public places.

While these types of large-scale attacks are scary, they're not typical. Most book challenges occur at the local level, which is why it's so important to stay informed of any issues in your school and surrounding community. Should your school experience book challenges of any kind, it's important to have a plan in place. Last year, we shared some resources and tips for handling book challenges. Some of them may come in handy.

5. Building Social-Emotional Learning into Existing Lessons

Over the past few years, many school districts have pushed for social-emotional learning (SEL) programs in their curricula, as research has shown that having strong social-emotional skills leads to better academic performance, healthier relationships, and improved mental and physical health. SEL refers to the process of helping students develop key skills related to their emotions, relationships, and personal responsibilities. These skills include self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, responsible decision-making, and relationship skills.

But sometimes, standalone SEL activities can feel disingenuous. By focusing solely on improving these types of skills, some students might think there's something wrong with them that needs "fixing." Plus, if SEL activities aren't used in a culturally responsive way, they might not reflect the experiences and needs of students from diverse communities. In these situations, approaching SEL in subtle ways can be more effective.

Luckily, SEL can be easy to mix into ELA lessons. Literature is especially suited for exploring social-emotional skills. The universal themes found in books—overcoming adversity, coming of age, and friendship, to name a few—all relate in some way to the skills outlined in SEL. You can use the texts you teach as springboards for discussions that help students understand and process their own emotions and those of others. And if you're teaching literary analysis, you're probably already doing that!

Group projects, book circles, peer-editing, and other collaborative tasks are perfect ways to build social emotional skills organically. These activities help students develop important skills like teamwork, communication, and problem-solving while still meeting academic goals.

Here to Help, All Year Long

Whether you need advice teaching a particular topic, are looking for book recommendations, or would like to see samples of Prestwick House programs, reach out to our curriculum specialists! With years of experience in English language arts instruction, our team is happy to help you meet your teaching goals. Send an email to info@prestwickhouse.com to get started.