10 Refreshing Online Lessons and Activities for Secondary ELA

Online lessons can help teachers reach students at home, at school—with flexibility and fun.

If you’re looking for online lessons and activities to refresh your secondary ELA curriculum, this post will help. We have you covered with TEN digital lesson plans your students will enjoy.


Sketchnotes are an amazingly refreshing way to engage students in online learning while allowing them to pull away from the screen. Because everything students are getting this year via remote teaching is packed into a short time frame, sketchnotes are the perfect brain dump.

Teach your students how to take sketchnotes so that you can use them throughout the year! While listening to discussions, to reflect on reading, to show understanding of new words, to connect grammar and writing. Truly, the lit of possibilities is endless.

If you aren’t quite sure where to get started, this lesson plan is perfect for introducing sketchnotes to middle and high schools students.

Digital Grammar and Pictures

Students respond well to using pictures with grammar lessons. Why not? Including pictures provides a springboard, a starting point for students.

Once you introduce a grammatical concept like prepositions or commas, apply the rules and ideas to student writing. Show pictures (you or students can find them) and create goofy sentences or paragraphs.

Not only will you be applying grammatical concepts directly to student writing, you will be modeling writing together with students.

Media Literacy

With distance learning, pictures are our best friends. We need visual content that packs a lot of value. I use them in a million and one ways.

Whether you want to teach students to analyze photos so they can be more media literate, to make inferences, or to discuss social justice issues, visuals will work.

This media literacy photo analysis activity will help students consider the role of point of view. Photographers have context and a perspective, and how they choose to photograph their subject(s) influences the audience’s experience. Likewise, audience members bring their own biases and background experience when making inferences about a photograph, which results in a variety of different perspectives.

Diverse Literature

A goal of mine is to include diverse literature in my classroom. I suggest books such as How I Resist, Fresh Ink, and How To Be An Antiracist. I’ve been implementing new books with First Chapter Friday, through excerpts, and with lit circles.

As a culminating activity, I ask students to choose how to show their learning. With graphic organizers, students can outline their ideas and then conference with you. You can correct any misunderstandings and lead students to greater analysis. Finally, students can write a final essay, using the graphic organizer as a prewriting tool.

Mood and Tone

I’m always looking for unique ways to incorporate literary analysis. Mood and tone, for example, are recurring points for analyzing literary elements in secondary ELA. Yet, they are so abstract.

In an effort to make analyzing mood and tone more tangible for students, I created an extended metaphor: the music equalizer.

With this interactive digital and print activity, students consider how mood and tone change throughout each part of the story as well as how they impact other literary elements.

Writing Resources

When students and I return from winter break, we dive into a variety of writing activities.

During the first semester, we work on narrative and informative writing. We slightly touch on literary responses. (I realize every teacher presents the information differently!) The second semester, we work on advancing our literary responses and argumentative writing.

Since students need a variety of writing tools, I provide choice with graphic organizers, writing prompts, and revision activities.

Sentence Expansion

Sometimes students write basic sentences. Teachers get bored grading them. The structure is always the same. Students are not to blame. They may not have been taught.

Those sentences may have been an exaggeration, but they are exactly why I love teaching sentence structure. After I teach students about types of sentences and phrases, we have some fun with sentence expansion.

Students begin with a basic sentence and slowly expand upon it. When they are done, they analyze which grammatical elements added power to their writing and which they could have done without in that particular sentence. It’s fun, low stress, and easy to provide targeted feedback on digitally. Here’s the lesson!


I love teaching active and passive voice. Not only does the concept directly tie to student writing, but students and I can also explore how writers and speakers manipulate verb voice.

When I explain active and passive voice, I start with a pretest to determine if my students are familiar with the concept. I then move to direct instruction (using a presentation). Finally, I then use a variety of tools such as a graphic organizer, task cards, and worksheets.

Grammar worksheets can be part of a successful active and passive voice unit, but they should not be the only practice.

Vocabulary Activities

A new year brings new opportunities to renew word love with students. If you’re working with your own vocabulary list, you may want to incorporate some digital root word study or brain-based learning practice.

Routine is beneficial with vocabulary, and that’s why I make a conscious effort to make vocabulary more than an afterthought. I change up the type of routine regularly, but students are regularly interacting with words.

Infographics for Grammar

When I taught middle school, students and I covered parts of speech in a variety of ways throughout the year. To review when we returned from winter break, we covered information with a presentation and infographics.

Infographics are modern ways to sort information. Students can add images and graphics to better their understanding. Plus, students can flip through their finished products for review. Finally, students can submit their infographics to you, and you can create a master document to share with parents and students.

So, if you’re ready to get knee-deep into some new lesson plans that will refresh your online teaching perspective, we hope that you’ve found some inspiration here!

Online lesson plans for digital teaching in secondary ELA #DistanceLearningTpT #HighSchoolELA #MiddleSchoolELA

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