Teaching MLA Format and APA Format in the Secondary ELA Classroom

Teaching MLA and APA Format in the Secondary ELA Classroom

If there is one skill that high school students struggle with the most, it is properly citing their quotes in either MLA or APA format. That is why it is one of the first skills that I teach when we write about literature.

Even though English teachers instruct students on how to embed quotations and cite their evidence appropriately, there might be a handful of students who still struggle with this. Plus, many students do not know the difference between APA and MLA format for essays.

Not only should high school students learn about APA and MLA format, but middle school students should too because it would benefit them in upcoming grade levels by knowing how to format in-text citations, reference lists, etc.

Learning MLA and APA Format is tedious for students to learn about APA and MLA, but there are ways to make it fun and accessible. Plus, you can bring in quotes for your students to practice with while doing APA and MLA exercises.

Teaching APA vs. MLA Formatting

In an ideal world, students should learn APA first because it is a little harder than MLA. Therefore, when students learn MLA, it will be a breeze. However, with the time constraints that teachers face, sometimes we only have time to get to MLA format. That's okay.

It is necessary to explain to students why APA and MLA are critical since you would be teaching your student's ethical responsibilities like fact-checking and giving credit when due. Following this discussion, you should write an example of an APA in-text citation and a reference on the whiteboard.

You can also engage your students by creating a mnemonic device to help them remember how to cite the material. For instance, APA can be Arthur Peter Ate. But for the in-text citation of APA is the last name of the author, the year of publishing, and page number making the initials NYP. The rhyme could be Nanny's Yummy Pasta, and adding the two together would be:

Arthur Peter Ate Nanny's Yummy Pasta.

That can be an exciting assignment for the students to do for homework or extra credit!

Another easy assignment would be for students to create a chart to separate the two formats and compare APA to MLA. That could help them with future papers and possible quizzes you could have for them. Their chart would have APA and MLA at the top of the page, and below would be the differences.

For instance, here are two citations of the two formats.
  • MLA: Anderson, Laura. Speak. Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999.
  • APA: Anderson, L. (1999). Speak. Farrar Straus Giroux.

To practice, it would be excellent to have students fill in the blanks. For example, you would take out the place of the name or year.

It might look like this:
  • Anderson, Laura. Speak. Farrar Straus Giroux,____.
  • Anderson, L. ____. Speak. Farrar Straus Giroux.
By examining the citations, students would know that MLA has the year last, while APA has it in the middle with brackets.

MLA Format Escape Room

Another fun and engaging way to teach your high school English students about MLA formatting is by turning it into a hands-on, engaging classroom activity. This MLA Format escape room is a great way to introduce students to the basics of MLA Format and proper citations while also challenging them to complete various tasks.

APA and MLA Format Mini Flip Books

Lastly, students might be interested in creating an APA Format Mini Flip Book or an MLA Format Mini Flip Book to use as a reference throughout the school year. After teaching the basics of each formatting style, students can easily refer back to these reference books when needed.

Teaching middle school and high school students about citing and formatting isn't the most exciting thing, but it is an essential skill that students need to succeed in the English classroom. But it would benefit your students in the end because they would be ready for high school and college.
Teaching MLA and APA Format in the Secondary ELA Classroom