January 2021 Elementary ELA Newsletter

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ELAOK: Elementary

January 2021

In this issue:

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year

As we launch into the second semester of our school year, I wanted to give some updates, resources, and opportunities that may provide you with additional insight or encouragement.  I hope that they help start 2021 off in the best possible way. 

Happy New Year!


READBowl 2021

READBowl 2021

Malcolm Mitchell, Super Bowl champion and author of The Magician's Hat and My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World, is hosting READBowl 2021! 

Beginning on January 11, 2021, the day of the College Football National Championship, READBowl culminates on February 7, 2021, with the crowning of the National Reading Champions on Super Bowl Sunday!  This FREE global reading competition for Pre-K through 8th grade students is designed to inspire students to read.  All school programs can participate – in school, distance, virtual, and hybrid.  For more information, or to register, go to the READBowl site.  And to learn more about Malcolm, go to his site:  Read With Malcolm.  

Digital Storytelling

Buffett Early Childhood

The Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska hosted a webinar on Digital Storytelling.  During the webinar, the panelists discuss the impact that storytelling can have on children.  The Institute's Professional Development for All site provides a learning guide as a companion piece to the video, as well as numerous other topics for grades PK-3.

Free Literacy-Based, SEL Lessons

Humane Heroes

Chicken Soup for the Soul and American Humane (the country's first national humane organization), have created Humane Heroes, a free series of e-books and companion curricula.

The stories center around animal rescue, rehabilitation, and humane conservation being performed at the world’s leading zoological institutions and each volume comes with an implementation guide with lesson plans tied to ELA and SEL competencies.  Lessons from Volume 1 (which received the national 2020 Teachers' Choice Award for the Classroom) include:

  • Elementary School Implementation Guide
  • A “Tail” of Two Friends
  • Lost on a Stormy Beach
  • Rescuing Nickel
  • Saving Our Undersea Forests
  • Understanding Gorilla Talk
  • Wings of Kindness

Each volume is geared for a different grade band.  Volume 1 is intended for Elementary, Volume 2 for Middle School, and Volume 3 for High School.  The free e-books are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the App Store, and Google Play Books.

Awareness to Action: Creating Trauma-Informed Schools Through Multi-Tiered Systems of Support

Join the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) on February 15th, 2021, from 8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m., for Awareness to Action: Creating Trauma-Informed Schools Through Multi-Tiered Systems of Support, a one-day, all-virtual summit. This free professional development event will expand upon OSDE's previous trauma summits by offering educators a framework for action.

The conference will unpack the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support and illustrate how this equitable framework can address the academic, behavioral, and mental health needs of all students.  Click here to register for this event.

Awareness to Action

Student Writing Exemplars for 5th Grade

The typed exemplars are now available on our Assessment Materials webpage under "Holistic Writing/Constructed Response Exemplars".  Catherine Boomer, Director of ELA & Social Studies Assessments, packaged the resources together, so when you click on one of the grade levels and modes, you will get a PDF that contains the reading passages, the rubric, the original exemplars, and the typed exemplars.  Each typed exemplar has the writing prompt and score summary included, so teachers can opt to just print the passage, rubric and typed exemplars and still have everything that they need to discuss the extended constructed response with their students. 

Holistic Writing/Constructed Response Exemplars for 5th Grade:




ELA Standards Update

The revision process for the Oklahoma Academic Standards for English Language Arts has gone through several phases over the course of 2020 and now into 2021.  Educators and stakeholders served on our writing and draft review teams to develop the draft that was available for public comment from October 27 through December 3.  Multiple teachers, teams, and organizations provided input on the draft during the public comment window, and now the writing teams are meeting again to address public comments.  The final version of the standards will be presented to the Oklahoma State Board of Education in late February for consideration of approval.  Upon approval standards will then be submitted to the state legislature for consideration.

I would like to express my gratitude to all of those that have played a part in this process so far.  The writing and draft review team members met virtually, often in the evenings, to get the draft ready for public comment.  And the amount of detailed insight we received from stakeholders across the state was both impressive and encouraging.  A task that has always been challenging was made even more so because of the pandemic, but Oklahoma educators accepted the challenge.  Thank you!

Monthly Features

Writing Prompt of the Month:  Readerly Explorations

I recently read an article entitled "Readerly Explorations:  Reimagining Reader Response Journals to Engage Readers as Placemakers".  The article proposed moving from reader-text transactions to reader-text-place transactions, requiring readers to link their reading to local places.  Here are some of the reader-text-place transactions the article suggests:

  • Select or create a place to read that reminds you of the text you're reading.  For example, read a mystery novel in a dark area or read about nature while outdoors.  Explain why you chose the spot you did and what it was like to read there.
  • Using your senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell), collect objects from different places you visit today that remind you of the text you read.  Write about them, or draw pictures of them, in your journal.

I think this could be a great way to increase engagement in both reading and writing.  I'm excited to try some of these out for myself!

Reading Quote of the Month

Tedd Arnold

Tedd Arnold, author and illustrator of the Fly Guy books as well as No Jumping on the Bed!, celebrates his birthday on January 20.  In an interview with Scholastic, Arnold had this to say about books:

"I learn more about the magic in the words---how a few pieces in the alphabet can create, shape, or change whole story worlds."