Expect Unexpected Engagement When you try Hexagonal Thinking in ELA


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When Kids Ask, “Why Does ELA Even Matter?”

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Ever had a kid ask, “why does this even matter? When am I ever going to use this IN REAL LIFE?”

You’re not alone.

It’s easy for students to focus on small things they don’t want to do, like analyze the character of Hester Prynn in The Scarlet Letter, and miss the big picture.

As they slowly and carefully build the skills of speaking, writing, listening, and analyzing, they might not realize just how fundamental every single one of these skills is to their future as a person, as a family member, as an employee, as a leader, as a citizen.

But what do you even say in response to their question?

You might talk about how learning to take part in a discussion respectfully and thoughtfully can help them in future board rooms. And on Twitter.

You might talk about how writing a concise explanation of the key theme in a work of fiction will help them write effective proposals and emails about their future ideas and projects at work.

You might talk about how combining imagery and ideas in a one-pager could help them create social media and advertising for their start-up some day.

But oh, shoot, they’re already walking away for their next class, and you’ve only scratched the surface of all that you want to tell them. And you’re still in your own head. You haven’t actually said a word yet.

This question – why does ELA matter – is so big and important, it’s hard to cover in a quick conversation.

So today, I want to suggest that you let your walls do the talking with a special display I’ve designed for you. Each of these pairs of posters covers one of the myriad ways that ELA will come in handy out in the real world, along with a QR code to send students exploring further. Hopefully they can help kids start to see just how incredibly relevant ELA IS to the world, and lead them to deeper conversations with you about this subject after they see your posters.

Let’s walk through them (and don’t worry, you can sign up for these free posters right here).

With over a million podcasts now live, it’s clear that podcasting (and alllll the ELA skills it draws on) is a big part of the communication industry now. Celebrities, big businesses, small businesses, and influencers alike are flocking to microphones to share their ideas with people all over the world.

Same goes for blogging, except it has been around even longer. There’s a blog for every subject – and probably more like a thousand – and the good ones need to combine a host of ELA skills to make it work.

When it comes to building, funding, and running a company, ELA is a core foundation for everything, even if that company is all about food, video games, fashion, or something else that has nothing to do with books. Founders have to convince others to fund them, follow them, work for them, buy from them. They need to communicate their vision, interview employees, create marketing, run social media.

Same goes for the nonprofit industry. If students want to make an impact on an issue they care about, they’ll need to help other people care too, and guess what skills they’ll need to get that job done? Speaking, listening, writing, and creating multimedia. Oh, and don’t forget research.

Here’s one that will hit home with many students. Advancing in the world of social media is all about content creation, and content creation is based on ELA skills. Would-be influencers and companies (large or small) that hope to reach more people, need to write great captions, email effectively with brands, plan collaborations with peers, research trends and create content that fits with them, and much more. Across industries, companies are searching for employees who understand social media and can use it as an effective tool.

Maybe you’ve got students who are passionate about the music industry, even hope to be in a band or work with artists some day. I love the podcast episode behind this QR code, in which MXMToon describes her process in creating, writing and recording her popular song, “Mona Lisa.”

ELA skills come in so handy when it’s time for an event. Writing press releases, advertising, working with influencers to get the word out, designing messaging for merchandise – all of these event requirements flow from ELA skills. And yeah, a whole lot of jobs involve events.

While I’m sure you and I could sit down together over lattes and take this much, much further, I think this is a good start! ELA skills show up EVERYWHERE in the world, and that’s the message we’d like to let our students ponder. And their parents. And all the visitors to our classrooms.


Remember, you can sign up for these free posters right here.

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I'm Betsy

I’ll help you find the creative ELA strategies that will light up your classroom. Get ready for joyful teaching!







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  • Fantastic blog! I work with gifted and talented students at a K-8 school and I like to refer to a quote by Alex Trebek, “Even if you are learning facts that you are not going to be able to use in your daily life, it enriches you-the fact itself just enriches you as a human being and broadens your outlook on life and makes you a more understanding and better person.”
    I’m going to print out your posters and hang them out in the hallway. Thanks for sparking creativity in me!

    • That’s a great quote, Leah! Thanks for sharing! And i’m so glad you like the posters. 🙂

  • I love these and will be printing them at school next week! Will you be creating more of them?


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