How to Teach MLA Format in the Secondary ELA Classroom

How to Teach MLA Format in the Secondary ELA Classroom

For students, MLA format can feel like another rigid set of rules for writing with reasons unknown. For teachers, it can be tear-your-hair-out frustrating to plan engaging and hands-on activities that teach proper formatting, works cited pages, and parenthetical citations.

As a teacher, I know how challenging teaching MLA (and even APA) can be, and I want you to know I’m here to help! In another post, I address the challenges of teaching both MLA and APA; but here, I want to provide some insight specifically into teaching MLA formatting for the secondary English/ Language Arts classroom. I’d also like to highlight several product pairings that are absolutely perfect and ready to roll out with little prep. I hope you find that they free up some of your precious and finite time, busy teacher!

What’s involved with teaching MLA format?

The main components of MLA include using direct quotes and paraphrases, documenting sources, and specific formatting guidelines including headers, headings, page numbers, margins, font size and style, and SO much more! I know it can be overwhelming, so let’s just focus on using direct quotes, formatting guidelines, citations, and documentation.

Embedding Quotes

When we teach argumentative writing, we want students to have their own ideas and arguments, and be able to articulate them well. To strengthen their claims, we also encourage students to seek outside sources, experts who support or agree with their claim. The research aspect of this is a whole other skill in itself, but oftentimes students struggle with how to artfully and properly embed direct quotes into their writing.

MLA Format Teaching Resources

Embedding quotes can seem like an art, a skill difficult to break down into manageable and teachable steps. To help students learn how to properly embed, cite, and explain quotes, I designed Embedding Quotes: a Common Core-aligned week-long unit that includes materials for direct instruction, individual and group brainstorming, practice worksheets, identify and correct worksheets, student resources and handouts, and even answer keys! Use it all, or pick and choose which activities work best for you!

Citations/Paper Format

Correctly embedding quotes is only one piece of the puzzle. They also must be able to correctly format the quotes and the entire document as a whole. This includes learning the difference between a header and a heading, where the title goes, what pagination means, how to add page numbers, how to cite sources in the paper, how to format a works cited page, and so much more.

It can be draining and overwhelming for both teachers and students, trust me. To increase engagement and get students moving, and having fun (as much fun as they can with research), I created two products that I think work perfectly!

Teaching MLA Format: Flip It! MLA Format Mini Flip Book

One activity my students always enjoy is the MLA Format (8th Edition) Mini Flip Book. This addresses MLA format, citations, electronic sources, modern sources, and print sources and comes with classroom directions. The best part is that it’s hands-on and interactive! There are several options for teachers to choose from for the first and last pages of the flipbook, so you can customize it to your classroom.

Teaching MLA Format: MLA Format Escape Room

To ramp up the fun and engagement, my students have to “escape” my room! In 
MLA Format Escape Room Activity, students must solve 5 different tasks to “escape.” Each task builds upon the previous one starting with a word maze and progressing all the way to the final task where students apply what they learned to a reading passage and format it for MLA and create parenthetical citations. This is a perfect way for students to review and apply MLA formatting while working together and having fun!

One of my goals as a teacher is to demystify complex literacy skills, break them down into manageable steps, and give my students the tools to be successful writers. I hope you’ve been able to find something that can help you do the same.

Looking for more? Check out these other writing resources!
Writing Spotlight Bundle: Teaching Writing in the Secondary ELA Classroom
Ultimate Writing Bundle- Secondary ELA Writing
How to Teach MLA Format in the Secondary ELA Classroom


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