April 2021 Secondary ELAOK Newsletter

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English Language Arts

April 2021

In this issue:

2020-2021 ELA Survey

This survey is intended for Oklahoma English language arts teachers. The Directors of Elementary and Secondary ELA will use the survey results to drive the supports they provide to teachers through their monthly newsletters, webpage, professional development, online modules, and more. Teachers will be able to remain anonymous. The survey will take around ten minutes.

Deadline: April 16, 2021

April Secondary ELA Meeting

The Secondary ELA monthly Zoom meeting will be on Wednesday, April 21, 2021, from 3:30-4:30 p.m. We will discuss wrapping up the school year, summer plans, and more. Click this Zoom link to join the conversation.

Poet Nikky Finney Virtual Events


Conversations with Poet Nikky Finney, April 6 & 7
a series of virtual events

Nikky Finney is a National Book Award winner, a newly elected member of the prestigious American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and a newly installed Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She is best known for her depictions of African American experience, "the graciousness of Black family perseverance, the truth of history, the grace and necessity of memory, as well as the titanic loss of habitat for all things precious and wild."

Tuesday, April 6, 2021
7:00-8:30 p.m. writing workshop for educators and poets. Register on EventBrite today. Space is limited!

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

7:00-7:45 p.m. open mic for area poet, guest-hosted by Poetic City

8:00-9:15 p.m. Nikky Finney reading her poems and in live conversation with guest interviewer Clemonce Heard. RSVP to watch the prime time webinar.

This program has been made possible by funding from the Thatcher Hoffman Smith Endowment Fund at Oklahoma City University and by a major grant from Oklahoma Humanities. Partners in this program include Poetic City, The Oklahoma Writing Project, The Oklahoma Arts Institute.

Joy Harjo Virtual Event


Sunday, April 25, 2021

2:00pm - 3:30pm

Join the Metropolitan Library System on Facebook as they celebrate National Poetry Month with Joy Harjo, an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She is serving her second term as the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States. Harjo is the multiple award-winning author of nine books of poetry, including her most recent, the highly acclaimed An American Sunrise (2019), which was a 2020 Oklahoma Book Award Winner.

This virtual author talk will feature readings from her work and a new anthology, plus a Q&A session. 

Please note that a Facebook account is not required to view this event on https://www.facebook.com/metrolibrary.

Register today!

Reading in High School English

teen reading

Last month in the #ELAOK Facebook page, I shared a link to an Edutopia article entitled "Even Older Kids Should Have Time to Read in Class."

from the article:

To nurture a love of reading, students also need guidance learning how to find a wide variety of books they might like; exercises that teach them how to engage and think deeply about what they’re reading, at least sometimes; and plenty of low-stakes opportunities for reflection that reduce the pressure students feel around reading, removing it from the stressful realm of more homework and grading.

Read the full article to learn more about:

  • daily time to read
  • book clubs
  • choice
  • low-stakes reflection

Project LIT

Project LIT

Project LIT is a grassroots literacy movement empowering readers and leaders in 1,700+ schools and communities around the world. Founded by Dr. Jarred Amato and Maplewood High School students in Nashville, Tennessee in 2016, Project LITs mission is to eliminate book deserts and promote a love of reading. A book desert is a geographic area where printed books and other reading material are difficult to find.

Kamrin Green, a language arts teacher at John Rex Charter Middle School in Oklahoma City, began Project LIT this school year. Project Lit is one of the most important pieces of my curriculum. It gives my students the opportunity to be introduced to high quality diverse literature, and it gives me a great list of contemporary novels to share with students, says Green. They are constantly adding novels to the list, and the community of teachers and librarians help and support each other in their efforts to provide meaningful literacy opportunities for students. Every novel on the list is high-interest, and many students can find those ‘mirrors or windows’ within the selections. It’s one of the best opportunities I’ve provided my students.” You can reach out to Kamrin with questions about her Project LIT experience at her school email.

If you would like to start a chapter of Project LIT at your school and join the Project LIT Community, you can apply today! Now is the perfect time as you make plans for the 2021-2022 school year.

You can learn more about Project LIT from their social media accounts:

American Life in Poetry

ALinP logo

Award-winning poet, author, and editor Kwame Dawes, PhD, published his first weekly column as American Life in Poetry editor last moth, and relaunched a new and engaging website to connect people to poetry through interests, geography, and representation.  

Along with a completely refreshed visual statement, the website features increased browsing and discovery capabilities, new photography, and an increased social media presence. The archive includes more than 800 poems, which can now be sorted by over 60 themes and 6 regions. (Oklahoma is included in the Southwest region.)

Dawes hopes new readers will connect with American Life in Poetry by finding columns that are approachable and speak to their interests, particularly for new poetry readers. With over so many different themes that can be applied while searching, users can find poems about animals, birthdays, coming of age, first love, pets, and more.

When I taught creative writing to my high school students, I used the poems from American Life in Poetry during my poetry unit. I gave students time in class to read through some of the poems. They each picked their favorite one. Then I put my students in small groups, and they all shared their favorite poems with one another. Each small group picked the favorite poem of the bunch, and that poem became a mentor text for the whole class. In all, we studied six to seven poems for craft moves that we could emulate in our own poetry. I liked this approach because students always picked different and surprising poems, and I could always find a way to teach a poetry skill like figurative language, line breaks, or even a craft move that did not have a specific name.

[Poetry Foundation press release]

Metro Library Youth Poetry Contest

Youth Poetry Contest
  • Entries Accepted March 15 - April 15, 2021

  • Winners Announced by U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo on April 25, 2021 (See earlier section.)

  • Must be a 4th - 12th grader during the entry period AND must live in or attend school in Oklahoma County.


There will be 1 prize winner for each of the following categories:

Grades 4-6

  • Wireless Headphones

  • Prize Pack with a journal, pen and poetry books

Grades 7-9

  • Amazon Fire Tablet

  • Prize Pack with a journal, pen and poetry books

Grades 10-12

  • Amazon Fire Tablet

  • Prize Pack with a journal, pen and poetry books

Best in Show

  • iPad

  • Wireless Headphones

  • Prize Pack with a journal, pen and poetry books


Eligible participants may submit a maximum of 2 works. A completed online entry form must accompany each submission. Ineligible or incomplete forms and/or entries will not be judged. Check the contest page for submission details and more.


The library also enlisted the help of some local writers and poets to teach some poetry lessons about the following topics:

2021 National Poetry Poster

The 2021 National Poetry Month poster was designed by a high school student from New York. You can request a free physical copy of the poster, or download a PDF on this webpage. The poster features two lines from Joy Harjo's poem "For Keeps":

There is nowhere else I want to be but here.
I lean into the rhythm of your heart to see where it will take us.

poetry poster

Joy Harjo, who is originally from Tulsa, is the current U.S. Poet Laureate and first Native American to hold this distinguished position. Here is Harjo's full poem "For Keeps."

Joy Harjo poem

This is a fine example of a poem whose titles appears in the final line of the poem. I notice that the poem is written in present tense. Most line breaks occur at the end of a sentence. The final three lines use repetition of "It is" at the beginning. (AP English teachers might call that anaphora.) I notice the power given to nature in this poem--the sun, the birds, the stars. What do you notice and wonder about this poem?

Monthly Features

Upcoming Dates

*Contest also open to teachers

Writing Prompt

There is nowhere else I want to be but here.

Borrow Joy Harjo's line from her poem above and see where it takes you. What is this place for you? Write for five minutes about this special place.

Reading Quote

William Carlos Williams quote about poetry