March 2020 Secondary ELAOK Newsletter

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English Language Arts

March 2020

In this issue:

ELA Summer Academy Application

The State Department of Education is pleased to announce the topic and dates for the 2020 ELA Summer Academy. The academy will be from June 9-11 in Oklahoma City with the topic of providing feedback on writing. The first day will engage participants in a deep dive of the OSDE writing rubrics. The second and third days will feature a guest speaker who will discuss the history of rubrics and how to use stories instead of scales to guide student writers. The academy can hold 60 teachers, 30 elementary and 30 secondary. Attendees will receive $25 per hour of professional development provided at the academy. Participants must attend the entire academy to receive the stipend.

Apply online on this Google form today!

All applications are due by 5 p.m. March 31. Notification of acceptance will occur via email no later than April 14, 2020.

Selected applicants will be provided information regarding the process for hotel reimbursements, which will be issued to school districts upon complete participation of the full academy, hotel receipts, and demonstration that the participant lives beyond 65 miles from the event location.

OLA Annual Conference

The Oklahoma Literacy Association will have their annual conference on Saturday, April 4, at Oklahoma City University. The keynote speakers are the dynamic duo of Kylene Beers and Bob Probst, authors of Notice & Note and Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters. In a post by the International Literacy Association, seven lessons from Kylene and Bob about reading are shared:

  1. Reading should be transformational.
  2. Give choice with direction.
  3. Focused silent reading is key.
  4. Relevance reigns.
  5. Competence starts with confidence.
  6. Create understanding--don't check for it.
  7. Nonfiction ≠ not false and not false ≠ not true.

Read the full post on the ILA website.

kylene bob

Register today for the Oklahoma Literacy Association's annual conference at the OLA website. Register by March 27 to be guaranteed a lunch.


A Way to Teach Spelling

scrabble this

I recently sent a hurried email to my pastor, and when she responded, I glanced back at what I had written. To my dismay, I noticed I had typed the word verses as vereses, and I felt embarrassed. Thankfully, she made no mention of this mistake in her response to me. In our fast-paced world where we send hundreds of text messages and emails, a typo or two is bound to happen.

We want our students to know how to spell. Beyond the fact that our state standards (6-12.2.W.5) require our students to "use resources to find correct spellings of words," our world unfortunately tends to judge others for poor spelling. Whenever a Thai restaurant menu has a misspelled word, though, I think the cuisine is probably going to be delicious and authentic. In my book, people who don't speak English as their first language get a pass for an occasional misspelled menu ingredient. English has some wild spellings. But what can we do to effectively teach spelling to our students?

In my own experience, I had weekly spelling tests when I was in elementary school, but what really helped me to learn words was to read. I devoured series such as The Boxcar Children, Ramona Quimby, and Encyclopedia Brown. My teachers must have taught me some spelling rules, but I don't remember any lessons in particular. My mother always corrected my grammar, and she must have helped me with my spelling as well.

In my first year of teaching sophomore honors English, I was required to give a weekly spelling test. The words were complicated, and my students  complained. Even without their whines, I knew something seemed wrong. How was giving a weekly spelling test doing my students any favors? I was merely assessing, not teaching. Looking back, I should have done a lot of things differently.

Enter a literacy brief from the International Literacy Association (2019): "Teaching and Assessing Spelling." This 14-page document explains how English spelling works, six different threads of the spelling tapestry, the repertoire theory for teaching spelling, and how to effectively use spelling assessment to drive instruction. I think you'll find this document interesting, illuminating, and inspiring!

As for my Thai restaurant example, the menu item that is served with "steam" spinach (instead of "steamed" spinach) indicates the menu writer would benefit from instruction in morphemes, specifically the suffix -ed. But that is just one of the six threads of the spelling tapestry!

Literary Devices & Elements

In last month's standards revision survey (which garnered 222 responses), a teacher requested progression charts for literary elements and devices. Those charts are now available on their respective literacy progression pages on the ELA Curriculum Framework. I've also included them below.

Lit Elements

Lit Devices

Shakespeare Resources


A recent post in the #ELAOK Facebook group introduced me to a new resource for teaching Shakespeare.

myShakespeare has interactive full text with a modern English translation, interline gloss, and audio performance. Popup notes feature information about literary devices, wordplay, and references. Videos include character interviews, performances, and discussion. Teacher materials provide comprehensive curriculum for teaching Shakespeare's plays, including lesson plans, act-by-act resources, ideas for essays and projects, and tips for teaching Shakespeare.

Current plays available include:

  • Romeo & Juliet
  • Julius Caesar
  • Macbeth
  • Hamlet
  • The Taming of the Shrew
  • Midsummer Night's Dream
6 plays

No Fear Shakespeare

One of my English teacher heroes is Kelly Gallagher, author of Readicide and Write Like This and co-author with Penny Kittle (another hero) of 180 Days. Years ago Kelly tweeted that he used the No Fear Shakespeare adaptation to teach Hamlet or Macbeth to his students. His rationale was that slogging through the original text was taking too much time and that a Shakespeare play was meant to be enjoyed even by commoners.

I got my colleagues, department head, and principal to agree to the plan, and the next school year, I taught Julius Caesar with the No Fear version. For some important speeches, we read both the original and the modern translation, but we mainly stuck with more modern version. My students were able to understand the play more easily and enjoy it more. No Fear Shakespeare is available free online, or you can purchase books from Barnes & Noble. I eventually acquired a class set.

Wills plays

The Adroit Prizes

adroit journal

The Adroit Prizes are awarded annually to two students of secondary or undergraduate status. The Adroit Journal receives exceptional work from emerging writers in high school and college, and the best of the best will be recognized by the Adroit Prizes.

The 2020 Adroit Prize for Poetry will be selected by Jericho Brown, author of The Tradition (2019) and The New Testament (2014). The 2020 Adroit Prize for Prose will be selected by Kristen Arnett, author of Mostly Dead Things (2019).

  • Click HERE to submit poetry.
  • Click HERE to submit prose.
  • Read the webpage for guidelines and to sign up for updates.
  • There is a $12 submission fee.

Earth Day Poetry Contest

Children + Earth

KidsPost is marking the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and National Poetry Month with an Earth Day Poetry Contest.

Kids ages 6 to 14 are invited to submit an original poem related to the environment--why they care about it, what worries them, what encourages them, what they’re doing or anything else related to the Earth.

Any form of poem--sonnet, haiku, limerick or whatever--is acceptable.

A panel of judges will select as many as 10 poems for publication on Earth Day (April 22) in the printed KidsPost and on

Entries must be received by April 1.

Submit entries on the contest website.

Teen Book Festival


The North Texas Teen Book Festival strives to connect our reading community, adding dimension to the reading experience through diverse author panels and dynamic discussions in a safe and fun environment.

March 7, 2020

Irving Convention Center
500 W. Las Colinas Blvd.
Irving, Texas

Are there some Oklahoma teachers who would make the drive? I'm guessing yes--especially if they teach in the southern part of the state. This free event would also make for a fun field trip.

book covers

EngageOK on the Road

Engage OK

Save the date! The State Department of Education will hit the road again this summer to bring free conferences to five regions of the state. I will present a number of sessions at each conference.

  • July 13: Woodward
  • July 14: Jenks
  • July 15: Durant
  • July 16: Clinton
  • July 21: Oklahoma City

Monthly Features

Writing Prompt

Jason Reynolds

After reading YA author Jason Reynolds' "Ten Things I've Been Meaning to Say to You," write your own version of this piece. Pick your audience--whether that is your students, a family member, a friend, a significant other, an inanimate objective--and then write a list of things you have been meaning to say to them.

Reading Quote

reading quote