May 2019 Secondary ELAOK newsletter

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English Language Arts

May 2019

In this issue:

Money for Classroom Libraries

James Patterson holding I'm back sign

James Patterson’s latest gift for literacy is a $1.25 million pledge to classroom libraries.

The best-selling author recently announced the fifth installment for his Patterson Partnership, formed in coordination with Scholastic Book Club. Patterson is giving $250 each to 4,000 teachers around the country to help purchase books. He is also distributing $500 each to 500 teachers with three years or less experience. Scholastic will match Patterson with gifts of 250 and 500 bonus points for its book club.

Teachers can apply for grants through The deadline is July 31.


thinkalong logo

Thinkalong is a learning tool designed for middle school students to build critical thinking, media literacy, and debate skills. Thinkalong asks students to put social issues under a microscope by evaluating sources, considering multiple sides of an argument, and engaging in respectful dialogue.

Thinkalong provides a framework for evidence-based discussion with its three-step process: investigate, contemplate, and debate. Students read, watch, and listen to credible news sources, analyze them with a media literacy lens, and debate the question with their peers.

Although Thinkalong was designed for middle school grades, the content could be used for high school students as well.

Some of the topics include:

topics thinkalong

Summer Professional Development

Check out these summer professional development opportunities! Engage OK on the Road is free to attend. The Literacy Readiness training is free, but space is limited. The digital literacy workshops from the Oklahoma Writing Project are also free, but space is also limited. The OSU Writing Project Foldable Day has a fee. Read on for more information.

Engage OK road

Engage OK on the Road

The Oklahoma State Department of Education will take its professional development conference on the road again this summer with EngageOK 2019. I will be presenting workshops related to secondary ELA, including teaching the six traits of writing through mentor texts and helping struggling secondary readers. Of course, there will be lots of other presenters and topics as well. We hope to see you on the road! Learn more and register now!

Save the date!

  • July 15: Woodward
  • July 16: Lawton
  • July 17: Durant
  • July 18: Bixby
  • July 23: Moore

SREB logo

Oklahoma Literacy Readiness Training

Literacy Ready & Ready for High School Literacy
June 3-5, 2019, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.


Literacy Ready & Ready for High School Literacy
Yukon Public Schools
801 Garth Brooks Boulevard
Yukon, OK 73099

Registration:                     Click Here to Register 

About the Training
This training will provide an overview and introduction to each of the SREB literacy readiness courses, Literacy Ready and Ready for High School Literacy.  The participants will be engaged in experiential learning regarding best practices for literacy classes and the disciplinary literacy approach.

Literacy Ready
This course is designed for high school seniors who aren’t prepared for college level coursework.  The course emphasizes disciplinary literacy, with units in ELA, History, and Science. Students are engaged in classroom activities to develop critical-thinking and communication skills.  For more information, visit

Ready for High School Literacy
This course can be used in 8th or 9th grade to prepare students for high school coursework.  The course emphasizes disciplinary literacy, with units in ELA, History, and Science. Students are engaged in classroom activities to develop critical-thinking and communication skills.  For more information, visit

OWP logo

Increasing Digital Literacy and Digital Stamina—Preparing Students for the Future

The Oklahoma Writing Project is partnering with four host sites to provide professional development to educators across the state.  This conference will provide hands-on literacy activities directly related to Oklahoma Academic Standards as well as generating ideas to how to increase digital literacy and stamina among students we prepare students for the future!


  • June 3: Moore Norman Technology Center Franklin Road Campus Norman, Oklahoma
  • June 4: East Central University  in Ada, Oklahoma
  • June 10: Duncan Public Schools  Duncan, Oklahoma
  • June 20: Clinton Public Schools Clinton, Oklahoma

All conferences will follow this schedule:

  • 8:45-9:00 Registration
  • 9:00-9:20 General Session
  • 9:30-10:30 Breakout Session 1
  • 10:45-11:45 Breakout Session 2

Breakout sessions will be divided by grade bands Kdg-2nd; 3rd-5th; 6th-8th and 9th-12th.  All sessions are prepared by OKWP  Teacher Consultants with experience in Oklahoma classrooms. Sessions will be interactive and everyone will leave with an idea to immediately implement. 

There is no cost for this conference. However, seats are limited. Register today!

Based on site and number of registrations, schools may be limited to number of registrants.  Breakout sessions may be modified to meet the needs of registrants. 

If you have questions, contact Audra Plummer at

OSU Writing Project Friday Foldables

The Oklahoma State University Writing Project is offering a day-long foldables class on June 7, 2019, at Willard Hall on OSU's Stillwater campus. ELA topics include reading, argument writing, and English learners. There is a $49 registration fee. See more information on the registration form and the flyer below.


OSUWP foldables

Poetry Recap

Alberto Ríos

In early April I got to spend some time with Arizona state poet laureate Alberto Ríos who came to Oklahoma City University as part of the annual Thatcher Hoffman Smith poetry series. During his workshop on revision strategies, Ríos suggested taking a paragraph and reversing the order of its sentences--just to see it from a new perspective. He gave an example from Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis:

"His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes. He was lying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his dome-like brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect."

Which is better: this reversed paragraph or the original? Maybe your students could experiment with this technique in a piece of narrative writing.

Tracy K Smith

I also traveled to Ada for the annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival to hear U. S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith read from her newest collection of poetry, Wade in the Water. Afterward, I got a book signed by her.

During her reading, Smith explained that her poem "Declaration" began as a sonnet about Thomas Jefferson, but she later decided to switch gears. Instead, she used the Declaration of Independence to craft a new poem. She lifted words and phrases from the original text to create something new. This is sometimes called blackout poetry, but Tracy called it erasure poetry. You can hear Tracy read "Declaration" on the Poetry Foundation website. Can you determine who the speakers of this new poem are?

Shakespeare Plays

The web comic Good Tickle Brain created a flow chart to discover which Shakespeare play you should see. In all, Shakespeare wrote 37 or 38 plays, depending on the scholarship you trust. How many of these plays have you seen and/or taught?

Shakespeare Flow Chart

Director of Elementary ELA

book spines

The OSDE is currently searching for a Director of Elementary ELA. Spread the word! The job description has been posted online.

Monthly Features

Writing Prompt

Artist Adam Ellis illustrated one of his favorite poems, "The Two-Headed Calf" by Laura Gilpin earlier this year. Find a piece of writing (prose or poetry) you like--whole or an excerpt--and break it into panels like a comic. Extend the activity by illustrating one, some, or all of the panels.

Two Headed Calf illustrated poem

Reading Quote

Jean Rhys