English Language Arts in a Changing World: Resources to Get Started


The world is changing—and so should the approach to English language arts. Here are some ideas on what reading, writing, and communications in the 21st century means, and how it can be applied in schools. 

Know the world and weigh perspectives
Students who read authors and literature from around the world will gain deeper perspectives on how the world works. This will serve them not only in school, but also in life. 

The following organizations are good resources for educators to consider when looking for international literature:

  • United States Board on Books for Young People publishes bibliographies of international books and selects an annual list of Outstanding International Books. 
  • International Children’s Digital Library Foundation is a collection of thousands of children’s books available free online from countries across the globe in native languages and in English. There is a free iPad application with access to children’s books in more than 50 languages. 

  • Words Without Borders is an online magazine dedicated to global literature in translation, and includes lesson plans, book reviews, and author interviews.  

  • Worlds of Words (WOW) is an online database of international books with strategies for locating and evaluation culturally authentic international literature. Publications include contributions written by educators and critical reviews.
  • First Book and Reading is Fundamental both provide books to children in low-income communities. The First Book Marketplace includes deeply discounted books, including those focused on diversity and global literacy themes, to schools, afterschool programs and other initiatives serving children in need.
  • Africa Access distinguishes the best books published in the United States about Africa (most by African authors) through the annual Children’s Africana Book award. They post reading lists and maintain a searchable database of books.
  • Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People is an annual list with categories covering international themes. The list is a joint project of the National Council for the Social Studies and the Children’s Book Council.
  • Afterschool KidzLit from Developmental Studies Center is a literacy enrichment program for children in grades K-8 built around engaging books. It is designed specifically for use in out-of-school settings, but is also successful in the classroom. A number of the units have global themes.

Tap Global Information Sources
Encourage students to read foreign news sources or literary journals online. Review your media literacy curriculum; does it need updating when considering sources from outside the United States?

  • News organizations from CNN to PBS and BBC offer round-the-clock news updates from around the world. Students can even set up reminders to be informed of breaking news or features tied to topics they are studying in school via RSS feeds. 
Time for Kids, CNN’s StudentNews, and NewsHour Extra, regularly cover international news and topics in a youth-friendly format.
  • Scholastic’s website has a wide variety of activities and teaching resources for youth of all ages, including social studies content on heritage, holidays and myths from around the world.
  • NewsHour’s the.News for teens has a special feature called the.Globe with video features covering international studies from around the world. 
Students can access web sites from other parts of the world, including international newspapers, to view perspectives other than their own on important issues and analyze them critically, an increasingly important skill.
  • At Providence Day School in Charlotte, North Carolina, media students compare headlines nationally and internationally from the Newseum’s Today’s Front Pages website.
  • Link TV brings diverse international perspectives to American views through its satellite television broadcasts and online streaming video. LINK:  

Communicate ideas 

In the 21st century, communications goes well beyond reading, writing, and speaking. Students must have a keen sense of synthesizing ideas, and publishing for the world that’s appropriate to different types of media. Educators should allow for real-world project learning, and an assessment system that encourages a portfolio system that reflects changing technologies. 

  • PEARL World Youth News Service is a partnership between iEARN and the Daniel Pearl Foundation. Working collaboratively, secondary students from around the world contribute to this online international newspaper. Any student can become a PEARL reporter after finishing an online training and certification course. 
  • ePals and iEARN are sites to help engage students in collaborative projects with other classrooms around the world.
  • In the Comic Book Project, children design their own path to literacy by writing, designing, and publishing original comic books. In learning how to make compelling comics, young people study the histories and genres of visual storytelling, including Japanese culture and art through manga, the Japanese tradition that has influenced the style of comics around the world.
  • Global Read Aloud, started by a fourth grade teacher, encourages elementary classrooms around the world to read the same book at the same time, then share student work about that book. 
  • Rafi.ki partners classrooms around the world. Your class can start a forum to be discussed by students in different countries. They also have education projects and ideas for teachers to use to make the lesson planning process easy.
  • School-to-School International has a pen pal program to connect U.S. elementary students with students in Guinea, West Africa.
  • Figment.com is a social networking site for young authors to write short- and long-form fiction. They publish their work, and find a community of readers and other writers with which to collaborate and friend. Figment allows students to write via mobile devices for instant upload. 

What's your favorite resource for the English language arts classroom?