May 2020 Elementary ELA Newsletter

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ELAOK: Elementary

May 2020

In this issue:

Virtual Meeting Updates for Grades 3-5


For the past several weeks, teachers of all grade levels and content areas have been meeting on a weekly basis.  Our goal was to provide relevant information and resources, as well as opportunities to gather with other Oklahoma educators to listen and/or be heard.  So many of you shared great ideas, honest feelings, wonderful success stories, and constant encouragement during our meetings.  We have been so impressed with your determination, creativity, and optimism during this time and we want to keep it going!

Starting in May,  our meeting for grades 3-5 will be on the third Tuesday of every month, at 4:00 p.m. Our goal will be the same as it was during the month of April:  to continue to provide you with resources and information that will aid you in your future planning and instruction, and also to give you a chance to collaborate with educators from around the state.  We want these meetings to be helpful for you; if you have a question, concern, or success story that you would like to see shared, please email me. (I'm still working from home, so email is the best way to get in touch.)  Meeting information, including the password, will be sent in a future newsletter.

Thank you again for taking time out of your busy schedules to be with us in the virtual meetings.  I look forward to seeing you again soon.

ELA Summer Academy: June 9-11

Maja Wilson

We are very excited that the English Language Arts summer academy is still on!  It will now be held virtually rather than in-person, which means that up to 600 Oklahoma English language arts teachers will be able to attend.

The summer academy will take place June 9-11, with teachers having the option to choose either morning or afternoon sessions. The topic for the academy is how to improve feedback on student writing. The featured speaker is Maja Wilson, author of two books: Rethinking Rubrics in Writing Assessment (2006) and Reimagining Writing Assessment: From Scales to Stories (2017).

Registration for this summer academy is open until May 31.  Click here for the online application.  Please note:  if you already registered for the in-person summer academy, we will need you to register again.  

The Reading League Event: May 8

The Reading League

The Reading League Oklahoma is excited to offer a great opportunity!  On May 8, 2020 from 12:30-3:30 p.m., Laura Stewart, National Director of The Reading League, will discuss the Science of Reading. Stacey Leitzel of Zaner-Bloser will also present on Research into Practice through Superkids.

This event is being offered at no cost thanks to the generosity of Zaner-Bloser! Registration is required. You can find more information or register at this link:

Free Webinar on May 5: Adapting Instruction for English Learner Students During Distance Learning

REL Southwest

REL Southwest is offering a free webinar on Tuesday, May 5, from 3:00 to 3:45 p.m. 

In this interactive webinar, Rachel Garrett, PhD, senior researcher at REL Southwest, will provide an overview of promising practices and resources to support remote instruction of English learner students. Afterward, Brenda Arellano, PhD, senior researcher at REL Southwest, will facilitate a question-and-answer session with English learner teachers and specialists. The practitioners will discuss ways that they have leveraged strategies and resources to engage English learner students in remote instruction. They also will explain how they have collaborated with colleagues and will offer ways that local school districts can support and build the capacity of English learner teachers.

Click here to register for this webinar.

Online Learning Opportunities from ILA


The International Literacy Association, or ILA, is offering free online events that might be of interest to you:

Sunday, May 3:   "Instructional Level or Challenging Text:  Too Hard or Not Hard Enough?" led by Timothy Shanahan.  If you would like to attend this webinar, click here to register.

Now until May 31:  "Creating a Culture of Literacy:  ILA Replay 2019"  featuring several different speakers, including Nell K. Duke and Donalyn Miller.  Click on this link to register for this event.

Oklahoma Excel

At the beginning of this school year, the Oklahoma State Department of Education launched Oklahoma Excel, a year-long professional learning opportunity for teachers from across the state. Oklahoma Excel harnesses the power of networked improvement - teachers implementing evidence-based instructional strategies and learning from each other - to increase learning outcomes for students. The 2019-2020 ELA Networked Improvement Community (NIC) includes 25 total teachers from seven districts across Oklahoma. The focus for this year has been on clarity and feedback in writing instruction, through the use of daily learning goals, criteria for success, and various quick and actionable feedback strategies. Teachers in Oklahoma Excel participate in multiple professional learning days throughout the year and receive instructional coaching from Instructional Specialists at OSDE. 

During the 2020-2021 school year, Oklahoma Excel will continue to focus on providing high-quality feedback to students on their writing, and will look to increase the variety of feedback students are receiving. Our network will include districts who participated in year one, as well as new districts that are interested in joining! If you have a team of three to five teachers in any grade, K-12, who are interested in joining Oklahoma Excel next year, or if you have further questions, please reach out to Oklahoma Excel’s ELA Instructional Specialist, Sam Eiseman at or the Director of Oklahoma Excel, Dawn Irons at

Patterson's Partnership

James Patterson

In the sixth year of his continued partnership with Scholastic Book Clubs, best-selling author James Patterson announced his personal pledge of up to$2.5 million to help teachers build their classroom libraries and give children a better chance of becoming lifelong readers.

According to the Teacher & Principal School Report, nearly four in ten teachers cannot update their classroom libraries more than every two years. The Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report: 7th Edition found that only 43% of school-aged children have access to a classroom library, and among them only one in three kids has access to a classroom library with enough of the types of books they like to read.

In an ongoing effort to make real change in those statistics, 5,000 teachers will be awarded $500 in individual grants matched by 500 Bonus Points from Scholastic Book Clubs to acquire books and other materials needed to enhance their classroom libraries. Due to the resounding response to the Patterson Partnership, and its proven successful track record, Patterson has doubled last year’s pledge, which drew more than 124,000 applicants, with hopes to reach even more teachers and classrooms across the country. Applications for 2020 grants are now being accepted through July 31, 2020 and winners will be announced in September.

 To learn more about the program, and to apply for a grant, please visit:

Sapulpa's Book and Snack Mobile

Sapulpa Book and Snack Mobile

This past February, I had the pleasure of traveling to Sapulpa for a meeting.  One of the highlights of the meeting was getting a first-hand look at the Book and Snack Mobile.  Julie Enlow, Instructional Coach and Title I Coordinator for Sapulpa Public Schools, was a driving force in seeing this project grow from an idea into a successful and thriving community partnership.

In 2017, a $37,000 grant from the United Way allowed the group to move from dreaming to doing.  They redesigned a bus, received another $5,000 from American Heritage Bank for books, and partnered with the Caring Community Friends to make the bus an official summer feeding site with the Summer Food Service Program.  From the very beginning, this community outreach was a success; in the first week alone 208 books were checked out and 60 meals were provided to children in Sapulpa.  

When talking with Enlow, it is obvious that the teamwork and collaboration between school and community is what made this possible.  She said,

"Again, the partnership between the community agencies has been the special aspect of this project.  We, as the school system, cannot do it alone.  This idea has grown into a beautiful collaboration for Sapulpa area families.  We have approximately 2,500 titles in our Book Mobile collection.  Last summer we circulated around 2,000 books, reaching students from sixteen different school districts.  We served 1,426 sack lunch meals with our partnership with the Eastern OK Food Bank, and provided numerous snacks and drinks from Caring Community Friends.  The Sapulpa Parks & Rec Department brought their summer physical education road show alongside the Book and Snack Mobile schedule as well."

Thank you to Julie Enlow for providing us with a tour of the bus, as well as an overview of this amazing outreach program!

Sapulpa Book and Snack mobile interiorSapulpa Book and Snack Mobile interior

The reading areas of the Book and Snack Mobile

Sapulpa book and snack mobile interior

The snack area of the Book and Snack Mobile

Monthly Features

Writing Prompt of the Month

Writing with Ralph

During this time of distance learning and working remotely, there have been a number of authors who set up regular times each week to share writing tips and tricks.  Ralph Fletcher hosts sessions called "Writing with Ralph".  These sessions, found on YouTube, focus on several different kinds of writing, including memoirs, descriptive stories using the five senses, and poetry. Fletcher shares some of his own writing as mentor texts, and then encourages writers to create something similar.

In one of the sessions, he shares a story about how he and his brother viewed school.  Ralph was a student who loved school, but his brother was not.  However, he shared that his brother was "a straight-A student" when it came to exploring the woods and identifying different kinds of woodland creatures.  His reason for sharing the story is that everyone is a straight-A student in something, whether it is a subject in school or an extracurricular activity.

His writing prompt for that day was "In what part of your world are you a straight-A student?  What are some examples of what make you so strong in that area?"  I encourage you to use this as a prompt for yourself and your students.  I think it would be a wonderful exercise to find out more about ourselves and others!

Reading Quote of the Month

Donalyn Miller quote