Our Approach to Teaching ELA

Facing History’s ELA program is an integrated curriculum and professional learning approach designed to support educators as they balance reading, writing, speaking and listening skills development with perspective-taking, ethical reflection, and cultivation of empathy in order to nurture students’ capacity for informed and engaged citizenship. It embeds equity, social-emotional learning, and civic education practices to create authentic and engaging learning experiences.

The program consists of a collection of thematic curriculum resources to support the most common instructional formats (Text Sets, Whole-Class Reads, Book Clubs); classroom-ready student handouts, texts, and journal prompts; foundational teaching strategies for establishing a reflective and respectful classroom community; and competency-based professional learning and ongoing educator support.

Modular and adaptable, our program can meet the needs of your students and the structure and goals of your curriculum.

Our ELA approach:

  • diversifies the range of stories that students experience
  • is rooted in the ethical, social, and emotional concerns of adolescence
  • helps students to actively read, write, and think, through authentic questions, learning experiences, and assessments
  • supports a deep exploration of moral dilemmas in literature and students’ lives
  • invites students to make real-world connections that explore historical and contemporary contexts in literature

Pedagogical Approach

Anchored by Facing History’s pedagogical triangle, our approach to ELA balances critical literacy and skills development with examination of the moral choices, systems of power, and issues of equity revealed in the text and encountered in the world.

Intellectual rigor, ethical reflection, and emotional engagement at each point of triangle with civic agency in middle.

ELA teachers who apply our pedagogical framework to the study of literature:

  • balance intellectually rigorous curricula with frequent opportunities for ethical reflection and ongoing emotional engagement
  • invite students into explorations of human behavior and decision-making
  • nurture students’ reading and writing identities
  • foster empathy, perspective-taking, and other social–emotional competencies
  • provide tools to help students enact positive change in their communities and the world

Program Values

Facing History's ELA resources and professional learning support educators to center students' identities and lived experiences, and to create space for students to explore complex ideas about human behavior, both individually and in collaboration with others. The following values and beliefs about teaching and learning guide our design process:

  • Reading Identities

    Students need a diverse range of complex stories to help them understand themselves and others. Our resources center voices that have traditionally been marginalized or excluded from the curriculum.

  • Writing Identities

    Frequent writing opportunities—including reflective, narrative, persuasive, and creative writing—boost retention, deepen students’ understanding of complex concepts, and prepare them to be creative participants in the world.

  • Student Voice

    Our approach supports teachers to develop student-centered classrooms where students grapple with complex ideas in small and large groups, prioritizing talk as a community-building and meaning-making activity.

  • Classroom Community

    Students need to feel physically safe and emotionally secure in the classroom before they can focus on learning. Facing History’s professional learning and curricular resources provide strategies and support to foster collaborative, intellectual, reflective, and brave classroom communities.

  • Student Choice

    Choice drives engagement, and when the curriculum feels relevant, students are more invested in their learning. Coming of Age in a Complex World offers authentic student choice and supports differentiation in response to students’ readiness, interests, and learning profiles.

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