September 2020 ELAOK Newsletter

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English Language Arts

September 2020

In this issue:

Monthly Virtual Meeting

The September Secondary ELAOK virtual meeting will be on Wednesday, September 9, from 3:30--4:30 p.m. on Zoom. Click this link to join! In case you have trouble joining, the meeting ID is 998 4023 7990, and the passcode is 033409. (Please keep this information private.)

During the meeting, we will explore a portion of the Return to Learn: Launching Instruction for Secondary English Language Arts document. As always, bring your questions and issues, and we will work as a group to offer some possible solutions.

Online Engagement Strategies


Getting kids to contribute in virtual classrooms takes some work, it turns out. “We keep calling this generation digital natives as if they are simply whizzes at everything computerized. They aren’t,” wrote Tim O’Brien on Facebook.“They need personal support, scaffolding, and reassurance that technology does not provide. It is simply a tool, not a teacher.” To increase online student engagement, teachers could use use these eight strategies.

Synchronous Strategies for Online Engagement

  • Spider web discussion
  • Using chat to check for understanding
  • Flip your classroom to stimulate deeper discussion
  • Adapting think-pair-share to Zoom
  • A new twist on show-and-tell

Asynchronous Strategies for Online Engagement

  • Online forums create back-and-forth dialogue
  • Seeing and critiquing peer work through virtual gallery walks
  • Moving station brainstorming online

Learn about these online engagement strategies in this short article from Edutopia.

Digital Tools Resources

The OSDE has released a document called Launching Instruction with Digital Tools to support educators and school administrators as they plan for various instructional delivery models for the 2020-21 school year. This guidance document includes sections on selecting the appropriate digital tools and implementing with care, creating clear and effective communication strategies, building and maintaining a community with digital tools, empowering student choice through digital tools, digital tool guides and tutorials, and ongoing support for instruction.

This year many districts are using a new learning management system (LMS) or are asking teachers to integrate technology tools into their lessons. Did you know that the OSDE has an Educational Digital Tool Tutorial Database? There are tutorials for  Canvas, Google,  Pear Deck, Edpuzzle, Seesaw, Flipgrid, and many more!  It can even be sorted into user (teacher, students, parents) and level of user (beginner, intermediate, advanced) bundles. This is a great resource if you are looking for how-to videos on any of these tools.

Handling Books during COVID-19

Pernille Ripp

Pernille Ripp, a literacy teacher and speaker, recently shared some ideas on how to get books into students’ hands even in the midst of COVID-19.

Pernille's Suggestions:

  • A quarantine space for books that have been handled
  • A highly requested and read book cart
  • Touchless browsing
  • Lysol and Clorox browsing
  • Electronic browsing
  • Video book talks
  • A video tour of our library

Check out her blog post to read more about her ideas.

Teach This Poem


Produced for K-12 educators, Teach This Poem features one poem a week, accompanied by interdisciplinary primary sources and activities designed to help teachers quickly and easily bring poetry into the classroom.

As teachers and families prepare for distance, in-person, and blended learning models for the 2020-2021 school year, the Academy of American Poets has adapted its award-winning Teach This Poem series to help. Originally developed with an in-person classroom in mind, Teach This Poem, a free weekly email package, now includes tips and tools to accommodate each type of learning, in addition to new primary sources from the Library of Congress’ collection to provide contexts and prompt students’ inquiry.

As the nation’s leading poetry organization offering free educational resources, the Academy of American Poets looks forward to assisting educators working in all kinds of classrooms—distance, in-person, or blended—in bringing poetry and related resources into their lesson plans to enhance student learning. 

To receive Teach This Poem each week, sign-up for free at

To peruse other free poetry materials for the classroom, visit

Winning Student Writing

CW book

A scholarship program from Penguin Random House, the Creative Writing Awards (CWAs) are focused on encouraging the next generation of diverse and unique voices. We Need Diverse Books began partnering with Penguin Random House in 2019 on the CWAs, which distribute $50,000 in scholarships each year

Five students receive $10,000 each in these categories: fiction / drama, personal essay, poetry, and the Maya Angelou Award for Spoken Word. There is also a New York City entrant award, in recognition of the Creative Writing Awards previously being centered on New York City.

Read the five 2019 winning entries here, along with a selection of honorable mention submissions. You might consider using some of this student writing as mentor texts in your classrooms.

Monthly Features

Writing Prompt

Oklahoma singer-songwriter Ben Rector recently asked his Twitter followers, "What region do you think Oklahoma belongs to?" More than half of the 10,800+ people voted for the Midwest. Look at the map below that has divided America into 36 cultural regions. Oklahoma has portions in the Southwest, Southern Great Plains, The Ozarks, and Deep South. Regardless of which region you most identify with, you probably have some memories tied to that place. Reflect on where you come from, and write for ten minutes about the unique culture of that region. If you grew up outside of Oklahoma, write about that place's culture.



Reading Quote

CS Lewis reading quote