November 2018 Secondary ELA Newsletter

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English Language Arts

November 2018

In this issue:

Literacy Progressions Update

The Literacy Progressions page on the ELA Framework has expanded from 12 skills to 25! The literacy progressions show topics such as informative writing and literary elements in a vertical progression, grades Pre-K to 12, along with commentary explaining the shifts and implications of the changes in the language of the standards. These progressions are helpful in vertical and horizontal alignment conversations at the district level. There are now 15 reading topics and 10 writing topics. The new topics include:

  • Author's Purpose
  • Literary Devices
  • Parts of Speech
  • Plot
  • Resources
  • Text Structures
  • Word Parts
  • Citations
  • Editing & Revision
  • Multimodal Presentations
  • Punctuation
  • Research Papers
  • Sentence Types & Structures
Literacy Progressions page

Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute

OK Arts Institute Quartz Mtn

High school students can apply to study creative writing at Quartz Mountain next summer, June 8-23, 2019, at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute. The Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute (OSAI) is an intensive 2-week residential school that provides professional training to artistically talented Oklahoma high school students, including graduating seniors, in the visual, literary, and performing arts. Every accepted student receives a full scholarship. Registration opens in December. Auditions are held in January and February.

Creative Writing students explore writing techniques through practice, group discussion, and individual critiquing sessions with faculty. Emphasis is placed on developing a keen awareness of the sound, shape, and connotative possibilities of the written word. Various types of creative writing may be explored, but there will be a strong emphasis on poetry. Applicants should be aware that class discussions are on a collegiate level and may contain mature subject matter. 15-16 students are accepted.

Emily Fruendt, Class of 2017, had this to say about her time at Quartz: “My experience at Quartz Mountain was absolutely breathtaking. Not only is the location beautiful, but so are the values of the camp. You get to constantly create with people who feel as passionate about creative writing as you do, and you get to experience so many forms of art in just two weeks. It’s an incredible opportunity that I never thought I would be able to find in Oklahoma. I encourage anyone who is even remotely thinking about auditioning to do it! You never know if you’ll get the chance to focus directly on your craft and meet so many incredible young artists! Be ready to be constantly inspired and constantly impressed.”

New Writing Contest

OK Bar Association logo

The Oklahoma Bar Association presents the Law Day Writing Contest, open to grades PK-12. Students will respond to a prompt based on their grade level provided by the Oklahoma Bar Association Law Day Committee or may submit an essay based on a prompt relating to the Law Day theme. Each prompt provided has been tailored to align with the Oklahoma Academic Standards for Social Studies. This is a perfect opportunity to collaborate with a social studies teacher in your building. Poetry and creative writing entries will also be accepted as part of the writing contest. The deadline to enter is January 11, 2019. Find more information on the contest website.

  • Grade 6What influence did our separation from England have on the creation of the Bill of Rights?
  • Grade 7: Choose a country in the Eastern Hemisphere that has a Bill of Rights. Compare that with the United States Bill of Rights.
  • Grade 8: The First Amendment protects five rights. Discuss why each of those rights was included in the First Amendment.
  • High School [Choose one prompt]:
    • Compare and contrast the 1st Amendment of the Bill of Rights with the similar protections granted by Article 2, Section 22 of the Bill of Rights to the Oklahoma Constitution.
    • Choose and discuss a case that had a direct impact on the right of Free Speech.
    • What does it mean to petition for governmental redress of grievances, and how is it used in modern society?
    • Should the First Amendment be revised based on advances on technology and our changing society? If so, what changes would you recommend?
    • Who does the First Amendment protect and why is that important?
    • How did the right to peaceably assemble impact the civil rights movement?
  • First-place winners in 6th through 8th grades will receive a $100 cash prize.
  • Second-place winners in 6th through 8th grades will receive a $50 cash prize.
  • First-place winners in 9th through 12th grades will receive a $150 cash prize.
  • Second-place winners in 9th through 12th grades will receive a $75 cash prize.

Other writing contests are available on the ELA Resources page.

A Helpful Guide to Reading Better

Farnam Street Logo

This brief article from Farnam Street, titled "A Helpful Guide to Reading Better" includes topics such as levels of reading (elementary, inspectional, analytical, syntopical), what to read, taking notes while reading, remembering what you read, and reading more. These tips and advice work for both teachers and students. The article concludes with a series of links to further articles about reading.

Books as Symbols

Window, Sliding Glass Door, Mirror, Curtain

At the OCTE fall conference in October, I spoke in the closing session about the importance of diversity in the books available to our students. Teachers have the most control over the books that we book talk, followed by the books we include our classroom libraries, then books used in our curriculum, and last of all books in our school libraries. The scholars Rudine Sims Bishop and Debbie Reese developed these four metaphors for books:

  • When students get a good glimpse into a book’s world, they use the book as a window. “Window” books are important for students to learn more about the world and about people unlike them.
  • When student totally inhabit a book and its world, they are using it as a sliding glass door. “Sliding glass door” books provide complete immersion in literature, an important and sometimes rare event for some readers.
  • When students see themselves in the character(s) of a book, they are using the book as a mirror. “Mirror” books are important for students to affirm their own humanity and voices. When students repeatedly read books as mirrors, they develop a heightened sense of self. When students never encounter books as mirror, they begin to believe that their voice doesn’t matter.
  • When students read a book that misrepresents or appropriates another culture, their book has become a curtain, obscuring the truth. “Curtain” books are rare, but sometimes misinformation slips past book editors and publishers.

All in all, students needs to have a rich array of books--windows, sliding glass doors, and mirrors--in their curriculum, whether they be required whole class novels or self-selected books of choice.

Literacy: Envision Possibilities

The Oklahoma Literacy Association will present its annual conference, Literacy: Envision Possibilities, on Saturday, April 6, 2019, on the OSU-Tulsa campus. The featured speaker is Doug Fisher, author of Visible Learning for Literacy and Engagement by Design. The luncheon speaker is Oklahoma award-winning author Gwendolyn Hooks. Breakout session proposals are due by December 15, 2018, to For more information, visit the OLA website.

ShakeFest 2019

ESU Shakespeare contest logo

The National Shakespeare Competition provides teachers across the country with a performance-based program for the study of English Language Arts and Shakespeare. It is a school-based program serving grades 9-12. Through the competition, students develop communication skills and an appreciation of the power of language and literature. The competition has engaged more than 300,000 young people since its inception in 1983. Even if you don't plan to participate, the website has packets of Shakespearean sonnets and monologues from various plays for classroom use. Teachers could use them as introductions or warmups as part of a unit on Shakespeare.

Oklahoma's competition will take place on Thursday, January 31, 2019 at the Deer Creek High School Auditorium in the Performing Arts and Athletic Center.

  • Shakespeare Competition, 10:00-11:30 am
  • Shakespeare Festival, 11:30-1:30 pm

Check in is from 9:30-9:45am. The contest begins promptly at 10:00am and should be completed by 11:30am.

High school students from across Oklahoma and Western Arkansas perform a 20-line monologue and a sonnet. The 1st place winner will receive an all expense paid trip to New York City to perform at Lincoln Center. Cash prizes are awarded to the 2nd ($100) and 3rd place ($50) winners. There is no cost to participate.

Also, part of the day is the non-competitive English Speaking Union Oklahoma Shakespeare Festival. Students from grades 6-12 will perform scenes, monologues, or other creative performances using Shakespeare’s language (maximum of 2 minutes x the number of actors with a limit of 6 minutes). They will also participate in a short performance-based activity led by nationally recognized Shakespeare educators. Collaborating with classmates to explore Shakespeare's language, and then sharing that experience with students from different schools and backgrounds, is of immense educational value.

This is not your typical drama festival. By design, this festival is also geared toward English classes and students who may have never acted before as well as drama students. For us, performance is a means to an end: making Shakespeare's language come alive.  

For more information visit the event website or contact Paul Stevenson at  Online registration can be found here.  

U.S. Poet Laureate Coming to Oklahoma

Tracy K Smith

Tracy K. Smith, the U. S. Poet Laureate, will be in Oklahoma for the 14th Annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival held at East Central University in Ada in April 4, 2019. Save the date now! This free event will feature over fifty authors from Oklahoma and beyond. Winners of the R. Darryl Fisher High School Creative Writing Contest will also be recognized at the festival.

Smith has written four poetry books: The Body's Question, Duende, Life on Mars, and Wade in the Water. She has also written a memoir, Ordinary Light, which was a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction.

Monthly Features

Writing Prompt

Freshman College Task data

During her keynote at the OCTE fall conference, Penny Kittle included this data in her slideshow. When you reflect on this data, what comes to your mind? Does anything surprise you? Do you feel you are preparing your students for college and life beyond high school graduation?

Reading Quote

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
–Ray Bradbury