7 Must-Haves for your ELA Classroom



As we gear up to head back to school, it’s always inspiring to see everyone’s creative classroom setups. Here are some of our favorite ideas to design a space that is inviting, engaging, and student-centered!

1. Put Student Work on Display

What better way to showcase your students’ hard work and achievements than by displaying their work prominently in the classroom? Outstanding essays, heartfelt reflections, creative brainstorms, group projects – all of these (and more!) can be showcased in the ELA classroom. Putting students’ best efforts up around the classroom encourages them to take pride in their work and highlights what they and their peers are capable of — instant motivation boost: UNLOCKED! 

2. Set Shared Classroom Expectations

Middle schoolers know that their job in school is to learn, but having a little more structure and guidance about what’s expected in the classroom can really set them up for success. That’s where setting classroom expectations comes in!

Pro Tip: At the start of the new school year, have students brainstorm ideas for what they expect of themselves and their peers in the classroom. Consolidate the ideas as a class, and have students sign a “classroom contract”. This is a fun way to get students engaged and make reinforcing these expectations easier during the course of the year. Plus, students are more likely to follow the rules they’ve set for themselves – win-win-win!

3. A roll of anchor chart paper

What do a brainstorm session, a chapter review, and vocab lists have in common? They can all be done on anchor chart paper! One of our favorite classroom tools is a roll of anchor chart paper (and a bunch of colored markers!). A simple yet highly effective tool, anchor charts are an inviting way to get hands on in the ELA classroom. When they’re ready, tack them up around your classroom to brighten up the space while providing useful information for your students!

4. Flexible seating (if you can do it!)

Coming off of a year where students were learning from home, students have been able to learn from wherever they were most comfortable. Sometimes a beanbag chair, the kitchen counter, outside on the porch… we’ve seen it all this year. While flexible seating was trending before the pandemic, we believe it will continue to be helpful in providing an environment where students are in charge of their own learning. 

By offering a variety of seating options that students are free to adapt according to their mood, or the projects they are working on, flexible seating increases student engagement and agency. It also allows for more teamwork, collaboration, and stimulates creativity. And if you’ve never tried out flexible seating in your ELA classroom, don’t be afraid to start small and test it out in a section of your classroom, or with certain lesson types first!

5. Books, Books, and More Books!

And we’re not just talking about textbooks, workbooks, and notebooks! Having a reading corner with a variety of books from different genres in your ELA classroom is a must to promote literacy and independent reading. Books are also a great tool to boost students’ SEL skills and help them “see themselves” in the world around them.

Need some help deciding which books to include in your classroom reading corner? Check out our book recommendations for 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grade to get started!

6. Music!

“Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends.” – Alphonse de Lamartine.

Music in the classroom is such an underappreciated and underutilized tool. Not only does music help reduce stress and anxiety, it also promotes concentration and focus to keep students engaged and learning. Use music to change the mood in your classroom, create a positive learning environment, and get students in on the fun by letting them share their favorites too. Class-curated playlist anyone?

7. Introduce Friendly Competition

Nothing motivates students to do their best like a little friendly competition! With Read to Lead’s Million Words Read Challenge, sparking friendly competition in your ELA classroom will be a breeze. All you have to do is sign up for a free account, and assign your students their first game. As students complete each game (and read 5,000 words in the process!), they add to a cumulative tally of “words read” and boost their class ranking in the national leaderboard.

The best part? Track student progress and build agency with a specially designed poster to hang in your classroom. Students will love seeing their accomplishments on the chart, and challenging each other to read more. Download and print the Super Readers chart, or send us your info, and we’ll send you one in the mail!

Ready to empower the next generation of readers and leaders? Sign up for the Million Words Read Challenge today!

About Read to Lead

Read to Lead uses the power of game-based learning to empower middle school students to build literacy, life, and career skills. Teachers can sign up for a free account to get started!