Dec 2020 Secondary ELAOK Newsletter

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English Language Arts

December 2020

In this issue:

December Virtual Meeting

The monthly virtual meeting for Oklahoma secondary ELA  teachers will be on Wednesday, December 9, from 3:30-4:30 p.m. We will discuss how instruction is going during the pandemic and share strategies for any problem areas.

Zoom link

Living Nations, Living Words


As the first Native U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo decided that her signature project should introduce the country to the many Native poets who live in these lands. "Our communities innately shared and share poetry from before the founding of the United States to the present," writes Harjo.

The “Living Nations, Living Words” project features a sampling of work by 47 Native Nations poets through an interactive ArcGIS Story Map and a newly developed Library of Congress audio collection.

Harjo’s project gathers a sampling of work by contemporary Native poets from across the nation to show, through poetry, that Native people and poets have vital and unequivocal roots in the United States. The poets included in “Living Nations, Living Words” chose their poems and commentary based on the theme of place and displacement, and with four touchpoints in mind: visibility, persistence, resistance, and acknowledgment.

NEA Big Read

6 books

Are you looking for support to bring your community together, share the joy of a good book, and find inspiration in new stories and ideas? Arts Midwest is now inviting applications for the 2021-2022 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Big Read program.

For nearly 15 years, NEA Big Read has inspired communities to come together over the joy of a good book. While people can’t all come together in-person this year to the extent they have in the past, Arts Midwest looks forward to supporting organizations as they test innovative ways to connect their audiences in virtual spaces, offer socially distant programs, and ensure that communities still have access to creativity, literature, and the important stories and ideas embedded in the six books pictured above and listed below.

Here are the 4 things you should know as you apply:

  1. Organizations can access up to $20,000 in support for community-wide reading programs, whether those are held in-person or apart.
  2. The deadline for grant applications is January 27, 2021.
  3. Eligible organizations include arts centers, arts councils, arts organizations, community service organizations, environmental organizations, fairs and festivals, faith-based organizations, historical societies, housing authorities, humanities councils, institutions of higher education, libraries, literary centers, museums, school districts, theater companies, trade associations, and tribal governments.
  4. There are six titles available for 2021-2022 programming and we’ll be sharing readers and teachers guides in Spring 2021 for each book:
    • An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo
    • Beloved by Toni Morrison
    • The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui
    • The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and Other Stories by Jack London
    • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
    • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Learn more and apply!

The Great American Read

Great American Read logo

The Great American Read is an eight-part series from PBS that explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the lens of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey). It investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience. 

This LearningMedia collection highlights books from The Great American Read that find their way into classrooms and onto summer reading lists. It includes additional resources across PBS partners that contextualize the authors and the impact these books have had on specific readers and throughout history.

Some of the middle school titles include:

  • The Call of the Wild
  • The Chronicles of Narnia
  • Little Women
  • The Outsiders
  • To Kill a Mockingbird

Some of the high school titles include:

  •  1984
  • Beloved
  • Bless Me, Ultima
  • The Book Thief
  • Catch-22
  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • The Color Purple
  • Frankenstein
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Jane Eyre
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • A Separate Peace
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Things Fall Apart
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

I really enjoyed the historical context and passionate readers that the videos I watched provided. If you teach one of these novels, you might consider using some of these Great American Read resources.

10 Tips for Conferring Online

student teacher laptop

Carl Anderson, the author of A Teacher's Guide to Writing Conferences (2018), acknowledges that even during online learning, "Writing conferences are still at the heart of teaching writing." In this handy guide, he offers ten tips for conferring with student writers online in this handout.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the important functions of your online platform.
  2. Make sure you have access to your students' writing.
  3. Digitalize your mentor texts.
  4. Make a schedule of conferences each day.
  5. Begin conferences by engaging students in a conversation about their writing.
  6. Have students share their writing so you can assess the work they're doing.
  7. Give students feedback about their writing.
  8. Teach by showing a mentor text or by doing a demonstration.
  9. Coach the student.
  10. Check back with students 5-10 minutes after each conference.

Read the guide for further guidance for each of the ten tips.

8 Counseling Techniques Every Middle School Educator Can Use

Phyllis L. Fagell, LCPC is the school counselor at Sheridan School in Washington, D.C., a therapist at the Chrysalis Group in Bethesda, MD, and the author of Middle School Matters (Hachette Book Group, 2019). She wrote the following:

"By the time Catie, 14, stormed out of her last class of the day, she felt disconnected from her emotions. She had no idea how deeply she'd been impacted by a minor fight with her mother on the way to school. In homeroom, she took offense when her friend Trevor made an innocuous comment about her weekend plans. At lunch, she felt rejected when friends turned her away from their full table. As the day went on, she was increasingly irritable. When her teacher chastised her for being chatty during seventh period, she yelled out to no one in particular that she always got blamed for everything, then ran out of class.

"I counseled Catie that evening, and it took a while for her to identify the precipitating event. It's easy for middle schoolers to get derailed by an argument, rescinded invitation, or ambiguous comment, but hard for them to connect the dots between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Tweens may think bad feelings stick around forever, struggle to interpret feedback, or have no idea how to make themselves feel better. All of this can interfere with their functioning at school, but educators can use the following eight counseling techniques to help kids navigate the highs and lows."

  1. Perfect the artful reframe.
  2. Challenge distorted thinking.
  3. Validate them.
  4. Be an active and reflective listener.
  5. Provide psychoeducation.
  6. Extinguish phobias with small exposures.
  7. Ask open-ended questions and make time to relate.
  8. Connect thoughts to feelings and behaviors.

Read Phyllis's article to learn more about each of the eight techniques.

AP Summer Institutes

This summer, the OSDE will partner with the University of Oklahoma and Northeastern State University to offer AP Summer Institutes. The Institutes will be offered online and are free to any Oklahoma educator. Both universities have worked to offer many different sessions and we hope to reach veteran and novice AP teachers. More information will be shared this spring. The OSDE will not reimburse teachers who attend an APSI out of state, so be ready to register for these in state opportunities. 

Essay Contest


The 20th Annual Student Essay Contest encourages students to reflect on how engaging in civil conversations have made a difference in their lives.

Students in grades 5-12 may participate and are eligible to win a cash prize and have the opportunity to be recognized at a ceremony in March, 2021. Over 550 essays from 34 states were submitted in this last year’s essay contest. Winning essays came from students in Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Illinois. More details, including a student registration form, are available on the museum website.

Essay Prompt - Grades 5 and 6

The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is leading an initiative titled Better Conversations in which community members meet together to discuss their opinions in response to challenging and important questions. These conversations are based on the belief that listening to others is important because it can lead to understanding and growth. Describe someone you know who is a good listener. What makes that person a good listener? Then describe a time when they helped you by listening to you. How did talking to them help you grow, learn, or change?

Essay Prompt - Grades 7 and 8

The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is leading an initiative titled Better Conversations in which community members meet together to discuss their opinions in response to challenging and important questions. These conversations are based on the belief that listening to others, even when we disagree, can lead to understanding and growth. In your essay, describe a time when you learned something important about another person by listening to them. What did you learn about that person? In what ways did hearing about their experiences change your beliefs or your understanding of an issue or of other people? Why is it important to listen to others even when we disagree?

Essay Prompt - Grades 9 through 12

The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is leading an initiative titled Better Conversations in which community members meet together to discuss their opinions in response to challenging and important questions. These conversations are based on the belief that, with the uncertainty of what is happening in our world today, it is more critical than ever to stay connected and work through difficult issues. It has been said that the mind is like a parachute, it only works when it is open. In listening to others, how important is it to remain open to opinions and beliefs different than yours? Have you experienced being open to another’s viewpoints and then changed your thoughts or attitude about a situation? How could this experience help a community or influence our world?

Writing Contest

The Oklahoma Writing Project's yearly writing contest is here. There are middle school, high school, and teacher divisions. The contest genres are:

  • descriptive paragraph
  • personal narrative
  • poem
  • short story
  • essay
  • writing across the curriculum
  • flash fiction
  • sentence

The deadline is January 19, 2021. Get the contest flyer with entry details!

Monthly Features

Writing Prompt

The next winter solstice for the Northern Hemisphere occurs on Monday, December 21, 2020 at 5:02 a.m. EST. The winter solstice is the astronomical moment when the sun reaches the Tropic of Capricorn, and we have our shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere in terms of daylight. Regardless of what the weather is doing outside your window, the solstice marks the official start of winter. [Source]

Most of 2020, to me, has felt like like a winter solstice--lots of darkness, not much light. But there are glimmers. My niece, Erin, was born. Delivering Meals on Wheels brings me joy. Oklahoma teachers revised the ELA standards over multiple Zoom meetings throughout the pandemic.

What are your moments of light as you reflect on this year? Make a list, pick one item from your list, and write about it for five minutes.

Reading Quote

Toni Morrison quote


story coaster

Source: Grant Snider