Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook.

Lesson Plan


For students to practice creating works-cited-list entries in a low-stakes environment

Total Estimated Class Time

None (done outside class)

Additional Outcomes

This exercise gives students experience citing works in unusual formats and emphasizes the flexible nature of the new MLA style guidelines. It also encourages students to think thoroughly through the meaning of the elements of a works-cited-list entry.

Course Work or Assignment Underway

Students will already have been introduced to writing blog posts for the class. This assignment should be given after students are introduced to the elements included in a works-cited-list entry and will prepare them to create an annotated bibliography.

Work Completed before Class

Read MLA Handbook, part 1.

In-Class Preparation

1. Discuss each of the MLA core and optional elements (pp. 20–53).

2. Walk through creating a works-cited-list entry for a few examples that draw on several different features of the style with students. For ideas, see the student sample. Useful examples might include

  • items that students may not have considered citable, like this Dominion card
  • items with more than one container, like this comic book
  • items that can be cited in more than one way, like the works-cited-list entries for “4,722 Hours,” shown in the student sample

Give students the blog assignment.

Follow-Up Discussion

In preparation for the discussion, the instructor should read students’ blogs and respond to each by leaving comments on the posts. The instructor should make a list of the questions students had and the things they identified as difficult, consolidating the list for classroom discussion.

In class, comment on students’ blog posts, answering their specific questions.

After the follow-up discussion, post the list of questions on the blog along with the answers.

Reflection on the Lesson’s Success or Alternative Approaches

I think it’s important to have an exercise that emphasizes to the students that they should be able to cite just about anything. However, it’s also important to be able to address some of the questions that this will bring up! A lot of things students might want to cite don’t include all the elements, so it’s worth discussing the minimum criteria for creating a valid citation: it should identify the source consulted by including an author, if there is one, and the title or a description of the work. It should also list all relevant elements on the template. (Point students to page 36 of the handbook for a minimal entry and an expanded entry that provides supplemental publication history.)

This is also a great way to generate specific questions to discuss in class.

Lesson Materials

Student sample, with instructor’s key

Blog assignment

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Nancy Foasberg

Nancy Foasberg is the humanities librarian at Queens College, City University of New York.