March 2019 Secondary ELAOK Newsletter

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English Language Arts

March 2019

In this issue:


How much do you know about dyslexia? My first memory of learning about this disability was an episode of The Cosby Show in the 80s when Theo Huxtable learned he had this condition. Last year, NPR ran a news story about a school district in Ohio that refused to identify students as having dyslexia. It's a quick four-minute listen.

Decoding Dyslexia OK

Decoding Dyslexia

Oklahoma has an advocacy group to spread awareness about dyslexia called Decoding Dyslexia OK. Their website has some resources for educators if you would like to learn more.


Bookshare makes reading easier. People with dyslexia, blindness, cerebral palsy, and other reading barriers can customize their experience to suit their learning style and find virtually any book they need for school, work, or the joy of reading.

Infographic of a Dyslexic Teen

The Understood website has a great infographic illustrating a day in the life of a teen with dyslexia.

Lexico App

A Norman (Oklahoma) father and former English teacher, Pierre Liebenberg, has developed an app to help people with dyslexia read. Read the full story from the Journal Record.

Beautiful Minds

Dyslexia Exhibit

Oklahoma Science Museum in Oklahoma City currently has an exhibit about dyslexia called "Beautiful Minds." 

The exhibition explores the minds, art, and successes of people past and present who have or had dyslexia—from well-known entrepreneurs, artists, authors, and scientists like Steve Jobs, Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, and Agatha Christie to contemporary artists including John Gill of Alfred, New York, Mark Wittig of North Little Rock, Arkansas, and Holly Wilson of Mustang, Oklahoma.

“Many people have the wrong idea about what dyslexia actually is — in ‘Beautiful Minds’ we are using art, among other things, to show that dyslexia isn’t necessarily a learning disorder, but a learning difference,” said Scott Henderson, director of SMO’s smART Space galleries.

“Beautiful Minds – Dyslexia and the Creative Advantage” will be open through July 14, 2019, and is included with general admission.

Oklahoma Poetry Exhibit

Red Dust Oklahoma logo

The University of Oklahoma is celebrating the poetry and poets of Oklahoma from pre-statehood to 1941 with an exhibit calledRed Dust Oklahoma: A Poetic History.

Drawing from the Western History Collections’ unexpectedly rich resources about Oklahoma’s poetic past, the exhibition celebrates the achievements of Oklahoma poets, featuring published works and unpublished manuscripts. Thirty-four poems are on display.

Red Dust Oklahoma: A Poetic History opened in October 2018 and will run through June 2019. It is located on the third floor of Monnett Hall on OU's campus at 630 Parrington Oval in Norman. The exhibit is open from 8am to 8pm, Monday through Friday. There is no admission fee. For more information about tours, see the Exhibit Tours page.

Red Dust Oklahoma highlights Oklahoma’s poetic history through six themes:

  • OU’s role by professors and students in the shaping of the Oklahoma literary landscape
  • the burgeoning oil industry and Oklahoma’s geological past
  • Native American responses to changing times and advocacy for Native expression
  • the Oklahoma landscape as it transitioned from a territory to a state
  • military service, including during the Civil War and World War I
  • expressions of love, including love of nature

Tulsa LitFest

Tulsa LitFest

Save the Date: April 11-14, 2019

Tulsa LitFest brings together diverse literary artists and writers to collaborate and inspire, enriching the Tulsa community. This year's schedule will be announced soon. I will feature it in next month's newsletter.

Oklahoma Organizations

K20 Logo

K20 Learn

The K20 Center for Educational and Community Renewal is a non-profit education research organization housed at the University of Oklahoma that is focused on providing the highest quality services to education partners across Oklahoma and the United States. 

K20 LEARN is their ever-expanding repository of 115 instructional strategies, pre-built 5E* lesson plans, and professional development activities. Currently, there are 83 ELA lessons. All of these resources are available at no cost.

Here are a few sample lessons to check out right now:

*5E: Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend, & Evaluate

Inspiration for Instruction

Inspiration for Instruction

Inspiration for Instruction is a non-profit organization
dedicated to supporting Oklahoma educators
through free, high-quality professional development. Their goal is to equip and encourage Oklahoma's educators.

Some of their website's pages include:

Go Poems

Go Poems

Next month is National Poetry Month, and it's not too early to start planning! Perhaps you would like to celebrate by starting each class day with a poem. Brett Vogelsinger has a blog, Go Poems, just for this purpose. He has kept the blog for two years with a third year coming soon. I have guest-edited a post each year with an upcoming one on Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese." Here are my past blog posts for Go Poems:

Writing Next Recommendations

Along with reading comprehension, writing skill is a predictor of academic success and a basic requirement for participation in civic life and in the global economy. Yet every year in the United States, large numbers of adolescents graduate from high school unable to write at the basic levels required by colleges and employers. Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High Schools, commissioned by Carnegie Corporation of New York and published by the Alliance for Excellent Education, discusses eleven specific teaching techniques that research suggests will help improve the writing abilities of the country's 4th- to 12th-grade students.

Writing Next logo

Eleven Elements of Effective Adolescent Writing Instruction

This report identifies eleven elements of current writing instruction found to be effective for helping adolescent students learn to write well and to use writing as a tool for learning. It is important to note that all of the elements are supported by rigorous research, but that even when used together, they do not constitute a full writing curriculum.

  1. Writing Strategies, which involves teaching students strategies for planning, revising, and editing their compositions
  2. Summarization, which involves explicitly and systematically teaching students how to summarize texts
  3. Collaborative Writing, which uses instructional arrangements in which adolescents work together to plan, draft, revise, and edit their compositions
  4. Specific Product Goals, which assigns students specific, reachable goals for the writing they are to complete
  5. Word Processing, which uses computers and word processors as instructional supports for writing assignments
  6. Sentence Combining, which involves teaching students to construct more complex, sophisticated sentences
  7. Prewriting, which engages students in activities designed to help them generate or organize ideas for their composition
  8. Inquiry Activities, which engages students in analyzing immediate, concrete data to help them develop ideas and content for a particular writing task
  9. Process Writing Approach, which interweaves a number of writing instructional activities in a workshop environment that stresses extended writing opportunities, writing for authentic audiences, personalized instruction, and cycles of writing
  10. Study of Models, which provides students with opportunities to read, analyze, and emulate models of good writing
  11. Writing for Content Learning, which uses writing as a tool for learning content material

Read the full report, which further explains all eleven elements.

Writing Contests


Korean Essay & Poetry Contest

The Sejong Cultural Society strives to advance awareness and understanding of Korea's cultural heritage among people in the United States by reaching out to the younger generations through contemporary creative and fine arts.

The 2019 Writing Competition is now open. There is an essay contest and a poetry contest. The essay contest is literary analysis in response to a novella or a folk tale, depending on the student's grade. The poetry contest is a sijo, which is like a longer haiku.

This is a nationwide contest, and winners receive cash prizes of hundreds of dollars. There is even an adult category if you teachers would like to participate. The deadline is March 31, 2019.

green Write the World logo

Op-Ed Writing Contest

Write the World's March writing contest is an op-ed. Students ages 13-18 are eligible to compete. The contest prompt and details follow:

Do you ever feel like you have something to say but nowhere to say it? A worthy opinion that needs to be shared? This month, we’re giving you the floor. The op-ed is founded on the idea that every person has a voice worthy of a public platform. What change would you like to see in the world? In your country? In your community? From your school’s elections to your country’s leaders to climate change; we want to hear your opinion about something that matters . . . to you.  
Writing Form: Opinion 
Subject Areas: Civics, Economics, Journalism, Literature/English, Science, Social Studies 
Length: 600–1,000 words  
Competition Opens: March 4, 2019 
Final Entries Due: March 19, 2019

The First Line

First Line typewriter

The purpose of The First Line literary journal is to jump start the imagination--to help writers break through the block that is the blank page. Each issue contains short stories that stem from a common first line; it also provides a forum for discussing favorite first lines in literature. The First Line is an exercise in creativity for writers and a chance for readers to see how many different directions we can take when we start from the same place.

2019 First Lines

To celebrate twenty years of publication, The First Line is going to revisit the past. There are no new first lines for 2019. Each issue will be comprised of original works based on past first lines.

Were you inspired by the fall 2008 first line (Roy owned the only drive-thru funeral business in Maine.) but didn't see the sentence until 2015? Or maybe you started writing a story for the spring 2005 issue (Life would be so much easier if I were a cartoon character.) But you never got around to submitting it. Or maybe you sent a story that just missed the cut and you reworked it and want to try us again. Well, now is your chance to make up for missed opportunities.

The following is the schedule of first lines for the 2019 issues. In all, there are 60 prompts left for this year! Please be aware that The First Line is a literary journal for an adult audience, so not every first line may be appropriate for your classroom. Please use your discretion. If anything, you could use these first lines as story starters with your students, even if they don't submit anything to the journal.

Summer 2019
All submissions must begin with one first line from: 
Volume 6, Issue 1 to Volume 10, Issue 4.
Due date: May 1, 2019

  • Vol. 6, Iss. 1: There were five of them, which was two more than I'd been expecting.
  • Vol. 6, Iss. 2: "Why are you always so cynical?"
  • Vol. 6, Iss. 3: I was born Rosa Carlotta Silvana Grisanti, but in the mid-Eighties, I legally changed my name to Eve.
  • Vol. 6, Iss. 4: The inside was dark.
  • Vol. 7, Iss. 1: Life would be so much easier if I were a cartoon character.
  • Vol. 7, Iss. 2: As the warrior guided [his/her] horse back home, [he/she] pondered what the future might hold.
  • Vol. 7, Iss. 3: Having little to his name when he died, the reading of Henry Fromm's will went quickly.
  • Vol. 7, Iss. 4: "That was the best game we've ever had!"
  • Vol. 8, Iss. 1: Mamma has always had a love for other people's possessions.
  • Vol. 8, Iss. 2: Tessa sent up a hasty prayer for forgiveness as she slipped on the dress Mamma had bought her in exchange for a promise not to marry Al.
  • Vol. 8, Iss. 4: It was her silent affirmations that kept her from going completely insane.
  • Vol. 9, Iss. 4: After nine years of marriage, Mary knew that the holidays were not a good time to ask her husband for a favor.
  • Vol. 9, Iss. 3: Calvin once complained that there were not enough _______ [fill in the blank] in the world.
  • Vol. 9, Iss. 2: My first impression of Phillip was that he was blessed with ignorance.
  • Vol. 9, Iss. 1: In Pigwell, time is not measured in days or weeks but by the number of eighteen wheelers that drive past my house.
  • Vol. 10, Iss. 4: While not the intended effect, the outcome was surprisingly satisfying.
  • Vol. 10, Iss. 3: Roy owned the only drive-thru funeral business in Maine.
  • Vol. 10, Iss. 2: Nick had considered himself a lucky guy, until now.
  • Vol. 10, Iss. 1: Sometimes the name they give you is all wrong.

Fall 2019
All submissions must begin with one first line from: 
Volume 11, Issue 1 to Volume 15, Issue 4.
Due date: August 1, 2019

  • Vol. 11, Iss. 1: Herman Sligo was a bit actor who played Uncle Emil in three episodes of the popular television series The Five Sisters.
  • Vol. 11, Iss. 2: For two weeks now, I've been trying to figure out if people are laughing with me or at me.
  • Vol. 11, Iss. 3: "My life is a sham."
    Vol. 11, Iss. 4: Waiting for change always seems to take longer than you would expect.
  • Vol. 12, Iss. 1: Working for God is never easy.
  • Vol. 12, Iss. 2: Paul and Miriam Kaufman met the old-fashioned way.
  • Vol. 12, Iss. 3: Three thousand habitable planets in the known universe, and I'm stuck on the only one without ___________. [Fill in the blank.]
  • Vol. 12, Iss. 4: Until I stumbled across an article about him in the paper, I never realized how much Walter Dodge and I are alike.
  • Vol. 13, Iss. 1: Sam was a loyal employee.
  • Vol. 13, Iss. 2: "We need to talk."
  • Vol. 13, Iss. 3: Edwin spotted them the moment he stepped off the train.
  • Vol. 13, Iss. 4: It had been a long year.
  • Vol. 14, Iss. 1: "There are a few things you need to know before we start."
  • Vol. 14, Iss. 2: Rachel's first trip to England didn't go as planned.
  • Vol. 14, Iss. 3: A light snow was falling as Charlie Reardon left the diner and made his way down Madison Street. 
  • Vol. 14, Iss. 4: Sometimes, when it's quiet, I can remember what my life was like before moving to Cedar Springs. 
  • Vol. 15, Iss. 1: On a perfect spring morning with flat seas and clear blue skies, Captain Eli P. Cooke made a terrible mistake. 
  • Vol. 15, Iss. 2: I started collecting secrets when I was just six years old. 
  • Vol. 15, Iss. 3: There must have been thousands standing in the rain that day. 
  • Vol. 15, Iss. 4: I came of age in a time of no heroes.

Winter 2019
All submissions must begin with one first line from:
Volume 16, Issue 1 to Volume 20, Issue 4.
Due date: November 1, 2019

  • Vol. 16, Iss. 1: Carlos discovered _______ [fill in the blank] under a pile of shoes in the back of his grandmother's closet. 
  • Vol. 16, Iss. 2: "Please, Sylvia, give me a moment to think."
  • Vol. 16, Iss. 3: Fifty miles west of Bloomington lies Hillsboro, a monument to middle-class malaise. 
  • Vol. 16, Iss. 4: We went as far as the car would take us. 
  • Vol. 17, Iss. 1: Fairy tales hardly ever come true for quiet girls. 
  • Vol. 17, Iss. 2: Laura liked to think she was honest with herself; it was everyone else she lied to. 
  • Vol. 17, Iss. 3: The old neighborhood was nearly unrecognizable. 
  • Vol. 17, Iss. 4: George pressed the call button and said, "Mrs. Whitfield, you have a visitor.
  • Vol. 18, Iss. 1: "Unfortunately, there is no mistake," she said, closing the file.
  • Vol. 18, Iss. 2: By the fifteenth month of the drought, the lake no longer held her secrets.
  • Vol. 18, Iss. 3: Mrs. Morrison was too busy to die.
    Vol. 18, Iss. 4: In the six years I spent tracking David Addley, it never occurred to me that he didn't exist.
  • Vol. 19, Iss. 1: Eddie tended to drift into whatever jobs were available that would pay the rent.
  • Vol. 19, Iss. 2: The plan suddenly made sense.
  • Vol. 19, Iss. 3: Frank Rooney had been the manager of the Shop & Save for thirty-eight years, and he wasn't retiring anytime soon.
  • Vol. 19, Iss. 4: "I'm tired of trying to see the good in people."
  • Vol. 20, Iss. 1: Leo massaged the back of his neck, thankful the meeting was finally over.
  • Vol. 20, Iss. 2: "I wanted you to be the first to know," Rowan tentatively confided in me.
  • Vol. 20, Iss. 3: The window was open just enough to let in the cool night air.
  • Vol. 20, Iss. 4: As she trudged down the alley, Cenessa saw a small _________________. [Fill in the blank.]

Monthly Features

Writing Prompt

character dates

Click the above graphic for the original blog post from the Writing Prompts tumblr, which includes a modified version of the prompt.

Reading Quote

DiCamillo Reading Quote

FlipGrid Video

green FlipGrid logo

The ELAOK Flipgrid board is an online space to share short videos in response to various prompts. You can visit past month's topics and leave a video. Or you can respond to this month's topic:

Who is one of your teacher heroes / heroines? Why?