| Written by a High School ELA Teacher |
Getting my high school students invested in English class can be a challenge. Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre may be fundamental reads, but it’s hard to compete with the flashy world of TikTok or an alluring vampire romance novel (no offense to the Brontës). As a teacher, little is more fulfilling than seeing my students engage with a text. Witnessing them connect with their favorite characters, find humor in Shakespeare, and think critically about a story is the ultimate reward. But that’s easier said than done.
There’s been a lot of media buzz in the last decade about literature and the humanities. My colleagues and I share catchy articles with titles like “The End of the English Major” or “Do Teens Read Seriously Anymore?” while still refusing to give up on Orwell, Salinger, and Steinbeck. I often search the internet for ideas to make literature more exciting while still meeting curricular milestones and elevating the classics. With Gale In Context: Literature, I found the support I needed.
Gale In Context: Literature is my go-to resource and new best friend—making it easier for educators like me to do their job and for students to succeed in English class. Literature provides the autonomy and context my high school students need to connect with the stories they’re reading. They’ll befriend Offred and navigate the changing world of adolescence with Esperanza Cordero. They’ll be unnerved by Shirley Jackson and get inspired by Malala. Literature is a comprehensive digital resource that guides my students through the story, providing critical analysis, related multimedia content, and helpful explanations. With Gale, my students are excited to read.
Give Students Choice and Voice
With Gale In Context: Literature, students can browse an extensive collection of traditional and non-traditional texts. No longer are they limited to the confines of the Norton Anthology. Whenever possible, Gale integrates links to public domain, full-text literature alongside their vast collection of related content. Students have thousands of resources at their fingertips (and don’t have to remember to bring physical books to class). By providing high school students with flexibility and options, I empower them to take control of their own learning and increase their individual buy-in.
Although I tend to start with recommended titles, I’m open to students reading any book within a given theme. One of my favorite things about the main page of Gale In Context: Literature is the “Bookshelf Browsing.” Titles are organized by topics and broken down into genres, eras, themes, and ELA essentials. This empowers not only students to pick books of interest to them, but it also makes it easy for teachers to pair traditional texts like Romeo and Juliet with a graphic novel like The Poet X. I encourage students to develop their own project ideas to demonstrate understanding of the story. Once, I even had a group perform a musical version of Hamlet (the captain of the swim team played a surprisingly convincing Polonius). Whether an essay, a book cover, a poster, a PowerPoint, a funny retelling, a song, or what have you, I simply look for evidence of their learning.
Know What’s Trending
Between developing lesson plans, facilitating class, meeting with parents, and grading, I don’t always have time to comb through every resource—let alone stay on top of the latest trends. I love teaching, but I’ll be the first to admit that it can be stressful. The minds behind Gale In Context: Literature make my life easier and reduce any late-night stressing by actively updating and vetting content for me. They continuously add new authors and literary portals designed for high-school curricula. In fact, more than a dozen new topics are scheduled to be added this semester. From novels like Last Night at the Telegraph Club to hard-hitting nonfiction works like Between the World and Me, I know I can rely on Literature for titles that engage and challenge my students.
Encourage Inquiry and Discussion
One of my favorite aspects of Gale In Context: Literature is the question prompts—there are more than 750 questions to spark curiosity and stimulate student thinking. First, I can leverage these as short essay prompts, whether for an out-of-class assignment or a quick in-person writing exercise, to get my students in the zone. I really appreciate that Gale doesn’t hold back. The essential questions are bold and provocative. For example, last year, my AP class tackled the complicated Toni Morrison novel, Beloved. The portal in Literature immediately touches on the story’s dark themes and twisted morality, including topics like infanticide and slavery. These compelling, pertinent questions immediately intrigue my students and encourage their curiosity about the selected literature.
Differentiate Learning to Meet Student Needs
Gale In Context: Literature is curated for readers of all kinds, featuring content available in various mediums and reading levels. My classes typically average 25 to 30 students, each with literary needs and personal challenges. However, since there’s only one of me, it’s especially challenging to provide one-on-one support when a student needs extra assistance. Gale’s databases are organized in a recognizable format that gently guides students from a topical overview to more enhanced critical-thinking exercises.
I have several students whose learning styles demand options outside the traditional page. Gale In Context: Literature makes filtering relevant content by formats that better meet their differentiated needs easy. For example, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn portal has podcasts and videos students can watch. Plus, more advanced content, like lengthy literary criticisms, always includes translation and text-to-speech features. Students can even download materials to their personal devices so they can take their time with the content outside of the classroom.
Pair with Gale In Context: For Educators
As a teacher, I am always looking for time-saving strategies. Gale In Context: Literature integrates with the new Gale In Context: For Educators platform. For Educators includes ready-made lesson plans and activity ideas for a range of themes. I can also embed my notes into the materials I assign to students and even coordinate with my colleagues. These helpful tools keep me organized and allow me more time to support the individual needs of my students.
Go Further with Gale In Context: Literature
I wish I’d always had Gale In Context: Literature in my classroom. Rather than rely on a traditional search engine or limited anthology, I can trust that Literature gives my students autonomy over their learning. They develop their research skills but have the freedom to explore the literary world and make their own meaningful connections. Gale provides a welcoming path beyond the pages of a textbook and fosters new ways for students to learn. It teaches my students to fall in love with books, the greatest lesson I could ever give them.
Are you interested in bringing Gale In Context: Literature to your classroom? Don’t just take my word for it. Connect with your school’s local representative to request a trial.