Sent straight to your inbox


Sign up to receive 10 ready-to-use ELA resources your students will love! 


10 Free ELA Resources That Every Middle and High School Teacher Needs

Is there anything better than free resources for middle and high school ELA teachers? When feeling tight on time to plan, or curious about trying something new in the classroom, I love to lean on my bank of freebies, tricks, and tips. These include free reading and writing activities, as well as ready-to-print resources for grammar, poetry, or ELA skill-building lessons.

If you’d like to expand your library of free resources for middle and high school ELA teachers, I’ve rounded up ten of my all-time favorites for you! Here are some of my top picks:

1. Grammar Challenge: 

I find grammar is a trouble spot for many students. If you experience this too, an engaging resource can really help! In the Commas in a Series Grammar Challenge, students hone their comma skills by identifying how words, phrases, and clauses can be separated in a sentence. The activity is presented in the form of an escape room (which is always a winner in the classroom!). 

I like to begin by explaining the backstory of the fictional scenario. For this task, students take on the role of an anthropologist who has inadvertently stumbled upon a promising clue. It just so happens that this clue was discovered while hunting for treasure in ancient Mayan ruins. Next, in small groups, students examine task cards, identifying the numbers of commas missing in each example (remembering the Oxford comma, of course!). If they complete the task correctly, they can use the provided floor plan of the Mayan temple to track their way to the hidden treasure. If they don’t, they will need to start again!

Similar activities can be found in the year-long Grammar Challenge bundle. It contains 40 weeks’ worth of engaging lessons, stories, escape rooms, assessments, and other activities to help middle and high school ELA students brush up on their grammar skills.

Free Grammar Challenge Middle High ELA Resource

2. Comma Posters

Eye-catching posters are a great way to breathe life into your classroom decor. They’re especially helpful when they help to reinforce concepts from middle and high school ELA class! Grammar posters are a high-impact resource to support students during every stage of the writing process.

This free resource for middle and high school ELA teachers covers the eight different ways that commas can be used, including:

  • To introduce items in a list
  • Before co-ordinating conjunctions
  • After introductory elements
  • To set off appositives
  • And many more!

High-impact, easy-to-download posters can be printed in color or black and white, and look great in the classroom all year long.

Free Comma Rules Posters Middle High ELA Resource

3. Four Free Weeks of Bell-Ringers

Bell-ringers are such a game-changer for classroom routine. As the class works on short tasks that focus on essential ELA skills, it buys you time to complete attendance, collect forms, meet one-on-one with individual students, and start the day with a calm and relaxed outlook! 

The free download contains four one-week samples of a variety of bell-ringer activities for middle and high school ELA classrooms. They include high-interest tasks such as:

  • Figurative language practice
  • Critical thinking activities
  • Grammar and spelling skill-building tasks
  • Brainstorming prompts
  • Quotation analysis
  • Writing prompts

Interested in even more bell-ringers? Check out a variety of bell-ringer tasks for middle and high school ELA teachers here! (Don’t worry, elementary ELA teachers – there’s a bundle for you, too!)

Free Bell-Ringers Middle High ELA Resource

4. Nonfiction Article of the Week: 

Nonfiction articles can be a great way to boost middle and high school ELA students’ close reading, comprehension, inferencing, and critical thinking skills. I love incorporating nonfiction reading into students’ weekly schedule. One of my favorite passages is about hot dog eating contests (students love it, too)!

I begin the lesson by activating my students’ prior knowledge – I ask what they already know about hot dog eating contests. Then we read about the famous Coney Island hot dog eating contest together. Using a graphic organizer, students track their responses to questions about the reading, citing evidence from the text when needed.

For even more nonfiction reading instruction resources, check out the Nonfiction Article of the Week Program. This 40-week bundle for middle and high school ELA teachers includes high-interest articles, instruction slides, standards-based reading responses, videos, and creative assignments.

Free Nonfiction Activity Middle School ELA

5. Figurative Language:

If you’ve always wanted to test out an escape room-inspired activity in your middle or high school ELA classroom, this free resource is a great choice.

In the Figurative Language Escape Challenge, students practice skills related to close reading, critical thinking, and figurative language. Working alone or in groups, they begin by reading a brief passage that contains a variety of different examples of figurative language (simile, metaphor, personification, and onomatopoeia). As they identify the different types of figurative language using a color code, a key is revealed that allows students to “escape” the room!

Looking for even more escape room activities for middle and high school ELA? Shop the complete collection here.

Free Figurative Language Escape Room Resource

6. Poetry Discussion:

Poetry can be a tricky topic for middle and high school students, especially if you want them to dive more deeply into the analysis and interpretation of a poem. This is why poetry discussion task cards are one of my all-time favorite resources for guiding think-pair-share routines or small group work.

This printable free poetry discussion resource for middle and high school ELA teachers is easy to use with minimal prep! To get started, print the cards and cut them out, then distribute a few of them to different groups or pairs of students. Together, they can select the question they want to respond to, and move the discussion forward from there! Best of all, the questions are flexible enough to be used with almost any poetry you are already studying in your learning space.

I like to begin this activity by laying out the ground rules for respectful, productive, and on-task discussions. During this introduction, I also like to clarify expectations for how long the students should spend on this task, and what they should do when they are done (select another card and keep discussing poetry, of course!).

If you’re looking for even more ideas to make your poetry lessons more engaging and collaborative, check out my blog post on 3 Collaborative Poetry Challenges Your Students Will Love.

Free Poetry Discussion Questions Middle High ELA Resource

7. Reading Challenge:

Reading challenges are an amazing for helping to build essential ELA skills in a fun and engaging way. In this interactive escape room-style activity, students will put their vocabulary skills to the test as they work collaboratively to solve a series of riddles and clues to reveal a secret code!

Students begin by imagining they are visiting the Bibliotheca Alexandrina on a once-in-a-lifetime school trip to Egypt. While exploring, they lose track of time and find they are locked in the famous library! Using vocabulary, teamwork and logical reasoning skills, students need to examine a bank of words and identify synonyms in context. Once they have solved the puzzles, they take the first letter of each new word used to spell a secret message that allows them to leave the library!

If you want to make reading mysteries part of your regular literacy program, check out the full-year Reading Mysteries Program. It contains a collection of highly engaging resources to help improve comprehension, close reading, and inference skills.

Free Reading Challenge Activity for ELA

8. English 5-4-3-2-1

For a different take on bell-ringers in middle and high school ELA, why not try a free week of English 5-4-3-2-1?

This resource includes everything you need to support five days of ELA skill-building, including student handouts, instructional slides to clarify each task, and a teacher key. Here’s how it works:

  • 5 – On the first day, students read a short passage and identify five capitalization errors. 
  • 4 – To kick off the next day, students make inferences about the meaning of four vocabulary words, using context clues.
  • 3 – On the third day, students examine three underlined terms in a short paragraph, and offer suggestions for more interesting word choices.
  • 2 – As students move into the fourth activity, they identify and describe two different figures of speech from a brief passage of text.
  • 1 – Wrapping up the week, students reference a writing prompt to draft a well-crafted paragraph. Of course, it should contain a topic sentence, supporting details, and a concluding sentence.

Looking for even more bell-ringers, or a full year of English 5-4-3-2-1? Click here to check out the full range of 40-week skill-building programs for middle and high school ELA!

Free ELA Countdown Bell-Ringer Activity

9. Literary Terms Bookmarks:

For a quick and easy reference tool, nothing beats a printable bookmark! I love using Literary Terms Bookmarks in a variety of different ways, from independent reading to structured novel studies.

These handy free resources for middle and high school ELA can be printed on regular paper or on cardstock for greater durability. Conveniently, they are available in high-color, light-color, and black and white versions, depending on your resources.

Most importantly, each bookmark contains a reminder for students about the literary terms they will likely encounter while reading fiction. Terms included on the bookmarks include:

  • Plot
  • Setting
  • Atmosphere
  • Character
  • Narrator
  • Tone
  • Conflict
  • Theme
  • Foreshadowing

Free Literary Terms Bookmarks

10. Inference Mystery:

Generally, I find students need a bit of additional support to make inferences while reading. This is why this Inference Mystery Challenge is one of my favorite free resources for middle and high school ELA teachers!

In this engaging task, students need to take on the role of detective. The principal is missing and possibly kidnapped)! With this in mind, they need to examine the crime scene, and look through evidence, including emails, notes, and a resume. As they pore over the clues, they need to make inferences about who kidnapped the principal!

What I really love about this task is that students can work alone or in small groups. Best of all, the Inference Mystery Challenge is available in a fully digital version. This is great for remote learning and paperless classrooms!

Similar activities are available in the Inference Activities Bundle. It includes a variety of tasks to help middle and high school ELA students brush up on their inferencing skills.

Who Kidnapped the Principal Free ELA Resource

Whether you use them right away or save them for later, I hope these ten free resources for middle and high school ELA teachers support you in your classroom!

Looking for even more teaching inspiration? Join the Presto Plans: The English Teachers’ Lounge closed discussion group on Facebook!

share this post


sent straight to your inbox!

10 days of ELA TEACHER