ELAOK August 2019 Secondary Newsletter

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English Language Arts

August 2019

In this issue:

Back to School

August means a new school year is upon us. When I was in the classroom, I always got excited to start anew. I could build on my successes, but I could also try to rectify a lesson that had gone awry. I could greet students, new and old, with hopes for a year of reading, writing, and learning together. The night before the first day with students was always fitful for me. I would lie in bed, thinking about all the exciting possibilities of a new school year. What would my classes be like? Would I get along with my students? Which lessons would be on point, and which ones would need help? Would I ever have enough time to get everything done? Would I partially lose my voice after the first week of so much talking? By the time my brain turned off, my alarm was about to chime!

This month's newsletter is quite extensive, but I hope you take some time to find resources and information that will help you and your students. I have shared everything (and then some) from my EngageOK on the Road sessions. I've shared some professional development opportunities--virtual and in-person. I've also highlighted an Oklahoma student and some Oklahoma teachers. Finally, I'm introducing a new monthly feature: an advice column. The first Q & A will appear next month, so send me your questions regarding ELA, teaching, and more!


Engage OK on the Road Resources

Engage OK

Thanks to everyone who attended my workshops at EngageOK on the Road in Woodward, Lawton, Durant, Bixby, and Moore. It was lovely to have your spirited participation. I hope you can take what you learned and apply it to your classrooms this fall. You can access my presentations & handouts at the following links:

Southmoore EngageOK group

Six Traits of Writing through Mentor Texts at Southmoore High School

Teacher of the Year Finalists

5 women

L-R: Carlisle, Guthridge, Hoggatt, Lightfoot, Nelson

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister introduced the 12 finalists for Oklahoma’s next Teacher of the Year in a ceremony at Southmoore High School on July 23. 

“These 12 individuals represent the highest standard of education in our state and are exceptional examples of the tremendous impact one person can make in the lives of kids,” said Hofmeister. “Their use of innovative instructional strategies and their demonstrated ability to forge meaningful relationships with students and families demonstrate their commitment to the success of every child in their classroom. We are proud of their success, and they are deserving of this important honor.”

All finalists were named teachers of the year for their respective districts and selected after their application packets were reviewed by a panel of educators, legislators, and members of business and nonprofit organizations.

Five of the finalists teach English language arts:

  • Debbie Carlisle, Clinton High School
  • Terri Guthridge, Grove High School
  • Elizabeth Hoggatt, Norman High School
  • Pat Lightfoot, Weatherford Middle School
  • Jena Nelson, Deer Creek Middle School

You can learn more about these finalists in this slideshow I created. It features their favorite units, books, and some advice for the new school year.

The 2020 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year will be named Sept. 17 in a ceremony at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City.

Professional Development:

Mentoring Opportunity

two peeps

Are you willing to be a mentor? Do you want a mentor? Are you looking for another person to collaborate with? Sign up for the ELAOK Mentor program!

  1. Sign up on the ELAOK Facebook group.
  2. Once you sign up to have/be a mentor, you will have the opportunity to see other teachers who are interested in networking/working on the same topics.
  3. Click "message" next to the educator of your choice to start a conversation.
  4. Once the conversation is started, prompts will be sent to discuss, goal-set, and get to know each other.

This could be a great way to connect to educators across the state!

Oklahoma Excel


2019-2020 Academic Year

OSDE is proud to announce the upcoming launch of Oklahoma Excel, which is part of the department’s Champions of Excellence initiative.

Oklahoma Excel is a year-long professional learning opportunity for teachers. Participants will spend a year learning about, implementing, and refining high-leverage instructional strategies.

Oklahoma Excel will provide educators with:

  • Up to 54 hours of sustained year-long professional development in the areas of math, ELA, science, social studies, fine arts, and safe & healthy schools (held in the Oklahoma City metro area)
  • Additional on-site professional learning and instructional coaching
  • An opportunity to network with other educators from across the state
  • Practice in implementing evidence-based, high-leverage instructional strategies
  • Ongoing opportunities to collect and analyze data related to instructional practices
  • A chance to participate in a cutting-edge, nationally recognized endeavor

To learn more about how your district can participate in this exciting new opportunity, visit our Oklahoma Excel web page

If you have questions, contact Dawn Irons, Director of Oklahoma Excel, at dawn.irons@sde.ok.gov.

OKWP Writing Conference


The Oklahoma Writing Project's Back-to-School Conference will be on Saturday, August 10, from 8am to noon at Bryant Elementary in Moore Public Schools. When you register, use the code OKWPFY20A to attend for free. Click the green "Tickets" button and then the "Enter promo code" hyperlink. Enter the code and hit apply. The free OKWP TC option will be unlocked.

The conference session titles include:

  • Collaborative Writing in the Second Language Classroom: Taking the Monsters Out of Group Work
  • Using Novel Studies to Foster Critical Reading and Writing
  • The Power of Positive Peer Editing
  • Modeling with Mentor Text: Guiding Young Writers with a Love for Authentic Literature
  • Dear Wondrous Writers: Using Writing to Build Classroom Community
  • Compelling Input as Motivation to Write in the World Language Classroom
  • In Their Shoes: Developing Intercultural Competence Through Writing
  • Don’t Tell Me What You Think; Show Me What You Know
  • Fostering Creativity Through Student Choice
  • Using Critical Thinking to Enhance Descriptive Writing

OKCTE Fall Conference

OKCTE logo

The 2019 Oklahoma Council of Teachers of English fall conference will take place on Saturday, October 5 in Stillwater at Willard Hall on OSU's campus from 9am to 4pm. The keynote speaker is Antero Garcia, a professor from Stanford University who has written numerous books on teaching English. You can get to know him through his blog and Twitter

You can register for the conference now and submit a proposal to present.

conference info

Fall Arts Institute

Quartz logo

The Fall Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain is an annual workshop retreat in southwestern Oklahoma. Multiple courses are taught by renowned artists, and this year is no different. This year’s workshops include photography, poetry, audio storytelling, and writing.

Unlike other workshops, all meals and lodging are included in tuition. Educators currently employed in Oklahoma public schools automatically receive full scholarships to attend OFAI.

Two weekend courses are offered: October 3-6 and October 10-13. Registration begins August 13. Slots fill up quickly!

National Board

National Board

Education Leadership Oklahoma (ELO) is a challenge to Oklahoma teachers to participate and complete a process enabling them to reach the highest standards of their field: National Board certification.

National Board certification establishes the highest standards for a teacher to be judged by their peers as one who is accomplished, makes sound judgments about student learning, and acts effectively on those judgments. The ELO project seeks these qualities when choosing applicants to receive the grant provided for by the state legislature to proceed with the National Board certification process.

Currently, Oklahoma ranks eleventh in the nation with 3,117 National Board certified teachers.

In English Language Arts, teachers can get certified in Early Adolescence (student ages 11-15) or Adolescence and Young Adulthood (student ages 14-18+).

Administered by the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability, ELO funds candidate support for Oklahoma educators seeking National Board certification. Apply for a scholarship today.

Student Spoken Word Winner

high school girl

Sydney Dormir, a recent graduate of Lone Grove High School, earned an honorable mention in the 2019 Penguin Random House Creative Writing Awards. This was the first year the contest was open to students outside of New York. More than 600 high school seniors entered the competition from more than 30 states, and Sydney placed in spoken word poetry with “Disfluency.” You can read and listen to her poem in this Google Doc.

Poetry Institute Recap

Nine teachers from Oklahoma attended the Poetry Foundation's Summer Poetry Teachers Institute in Chicago in July. The five middle school teachers included Coquestia Ladd, Meredith Fuller, Vicki Brashears, JJ Steigel, and Christine. They attended the fourth-annual five-day event, which included seminars and workshops with some of today’s most compelling poets. Also, participants studied and discussed poetry with renowned poetry practitioners and expert teachers to develop lesson plans to bring back to their classrooms. The institute was held at the Poetry Foundation and at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The institute encourages conversations among teachers about past successes, challenges, and insights in bringing poetry to students in their various communities. The institute offers participants a fresh, energizing approach to reading poems, invaluable materials for teaching, and new ways to invigorate their instructional habits and practices. The central idea is that the experience of the poem should precede analysis. 


Meredith Fuller (far left in the above photo) had this to say about her experience: "For me, as a new teacher this year, this conference served to build my confidence in teaching poetry.

"I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and breakout time with my fellow middle school teachers; many were seasoned teachers and shared incredibly helpful tips and tricks for integrating poetry into a curriculum. Also, hearing from Peter Kahn about how to use The Golden Shovel Method in the classroom was invaluable!

"My biggest take away was the idea that there is a poem out there to meet every need, to appeal to every student, and with careful planning, poetry can, and should, be used as mentor texts with every single unit throughout the year!"

Outsiders House Museum

Outsiders House

The Outsiders House Museum unveils a behind-the-scenes layer that everyone loves: the trivia, the untold yarns, the story behind the story. Stepping into the museum gives fans, young and old, a chance to stand in the living room where Ponyboy and Darry quarrel, visit the kitchen and recall all the talk about chocolate cake for breakfast, see Dallas Winston’s leather jacket, hear about the mysterious disappearance and reappearance of Francis Ford Coppola’s Director’s Chair, and see rare, never-before-seen photos, movie artifacts, and more. Even if you’re a longtime fan of The Outsiders, you’re bound to see and learn something new.

The ribbon cutting is August 7. The museum is located at 731 N. St. Louis in Tulsa.

Writing Contests

5 pens

When students write with an authentic purpose and audience, they are motivated to craft powerful words into prose and poetry. The New York Times Learning Network has an article with ten reasons to send student work out into the world. The Learning Network also has a list of over 70 avenues for student publication of writing.

The 35 contests on this webpage—state, national, and international—are ways for students to submit their writing. The contests are organized chronologically by deadline. Start planning now for which writing contests you want to share with your students.

Want an overview of these contests? Check out the slideshow I created for Oklahoma Literacy Association's 2019 spring conference.

Voice of the Fair: Poetry Contest

OK State Fair

Friday, September 13, 2019

Check-in: 6:15 - 6:45 p.m. (NO LATE CHECK-INS)

Judging Begins: 7 p.m.

Location: Theater at Oklahoma Contemporary Arts

Anyone age 14 and above is welcome to enter. Registration will be limited to the first 30 entrants. A printed copy of the poem must be submitted at check-in. The Oklahoma State Fair retains the right to publish portions of the poems for promotional purposes. Poems may be up to 2 minutes in length. The performer will be warned at 1:50 and stopped at 2 minutes. Subject matter must be ‘G’ rated with no profanity. The style may be of a rhyming or non-rhyming scheme. Order of appearance will be done through a random draw prior to competition. Audience Favorite ballots will be distributed prior to the first contestant in each class. Those voting must be present for the entire contest.

The registration link is open now until August 15. The link is on the first page of the attached PDF.

Ribbons will be awarded through 10th place.
BEST OF SHOW..........................................................................................Rosette & $100
Peoples Choice ............................................................................................Rosette & $50
Most Inspirational.........................................................................1st Place Rosette & $25
Most Entertaining.........................................................................1st Place Rosette & $25

Sequoyah Reading Lists


With this award, Oklahoma honors the Native American leader Sequoyah for his unique achievement in creating the Cherokee syllabary. Sequoyah chose eighty-five symbols to represent all spoken sounds of the Cherokee language. In so doing, he created a way to preserve his people's language and culture.

The 2020 masterlists have been released! There is one for middle school and one for high school. Promotional materials are available such as annotated masterlists, smorgasbords, and bookmarks.

Each masterlist is created to appeal to children in a variety of situations, interests and reading levels.  The books on the masterlists are not intended to be an automatic recommendation of the books.  Since selection policies vary, one should apply the specific guidelines to each title and purchase those titles that meet individual selection policies.  The masterlists are not to be taken as recommendations that children be encouraged or required to read every title on a particular list. Teachers and other group leaders should carefully read and consider a title before reading a masterlist title to a class or group, or  assigning a title as required reading.  It is not the intention of the committees that every student must read every book on each masterlist.

Monthly Features

Writing Prompt

Time Traveler

Merriam-Webster has a resource called Time Traveler, which reveals the words first used in print the year of your birth. Take a look at your birth year's words and pick one as a prompt. Write about your understanding of that word or its significance to you.

I was born in 1982 and picked the term couch potato as an example. You can read my reflection in this Google Doc.

Reading Quote


FlipGrid Video

green FlipGrid logo

Flipgrid is an online space to share short videos with one another. In the classroom, this could be used to share book reviews, reflections on a literary text, and more.

This month, take some time to introduce yourself in the ELAOK Flipgrid. We had five teachers participate last August (plus me), and I'd love to have more of you say hello in this forum. It is more personal than a Facebook comment!

*NEW* Advice Column


Starting next month, I will an answer a question regarding English language arts, teaching, education, etc. It might be about a lesson gone haywire or the dynamics of a department in a new school. Whatever the question, I will do my best to answer it with sincerity and thoughtfulness. You can choose to remain anonymous. Send your questions to askelaok@gmail.com. I hope to hear from some of you soon!