Elementary ELA Newsletter August 2021

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ELAOK: Elementary

August 2021

In this issue:

Welcome Back!

Welcome back

The calendar has turned to August, the temperature has crept towards the 10o-degree mark, and school supplies have flown off the shelves- it's time to head back to school!  

As you get started with this new year of learning and relationships, I hope that the resources in this month's newsletter provide some help and guidance.  There is a recap of summer professional development on the 2021 ELA Standards, more details about implementation documents and timeline, information on how the Family Engagement Framework can help with strengthening relationships with students and families, and upcoming learning opportunities.  

Here's to a fantastic start to your school year.  Welcome back!

Recap of OSDE's ELA Summer Sessions


This summer there were two different learning opportunities to help Oklahoma educators become more familiar with using the 2021 Oklahoma Academic Standards for English Language Arts (OAS for ELA).  

The sessions highlighted major shifts in the revised standards, as well as the creation/revision of several implementation resources including elementary and secondary crosswalks, vertical progressions (in grade bands of PK-5, 3-8, & 6-12), and an appendix.

To access any or all of these resources, including the implementation documents, training videos, and slide decks,  go the ELA Standards Page and scroll down to Implementation Resources. 

For more information on how and when to implement the 2021 ELA Standards, see the article below.

Implementation of 2021 ELA Standards

The Oklahoma School Testing Program (OSTP) will continue to be aligned to the 2016 ELA standards during the 2021-22 school year with the new standards being assessed in 2022-23.

Your district or school might already have a plan about how and when to teach the new standards. If not, here are several suggestions and considerations:

  • The 2021 standards are based on the 2016 standards and the revisions represent an improvement in clarity, coherence, and purpose.
  • You can use the crosswalk document to see the differences between the 2021 and 2016 standards.
  • You might identify a handful of the 2021 standards that you want to teach in the 2021-2022 school year in addition to the 2016 standards.
  • You could determine how much time, practice, and/or training you will need to implement the new standards.

Since the OSTP will be aligned to the 2021 standards in spring 2023, you will need to teach all of the 2021 standards in the 2022-2023 school year.

Family Engagement Framework: Strengthen Relationships

Family Engagement Framework

The Family and Community Engagement Department at OSDE has a resource called the Oklahoma Family Engagement Framework.  The framework includes four pathways to increase family engagement:  strengthen relationships, build leadership, focus on learning, and connect communities.  Each pathway has a corresponding guide that gives  Oklahoma educators ideas and practical steps on how to work together in their schools, districts, and communities to best help their students.  All four pathways have the same structure:  Plan, Do, Review, Pathway in Action, Resources, and Going Forward.

Below is a closer look at three of the sections from the first pathway, Strengthen Relationships.  

  • Plan:  The Oklahoma Family Engagement Framework establishes family engagement as a shared responsibility among families, schools, and communities to build relationships that support a child’s learning and growth from birth through college and career. With this pathway identified as a priority through your planning process, your next step will be to guide your team through the Do and Review steps.
  • Do:  These are just a few of the questions that teachers can reflect on independently or as a part of a team:
    • How many different types of communication (e.g., email, newsletters, home visits, text) do you use in your organization to engage with families? What types of communication are most accessible and best engage families (which may include parents, grandparents, extended family members, caregivers, or other responsible individuals)? Have you surveyed families to ask methods of communication that work best for them?
    • Consider your current two-way communication practices. Are they characterized by mutual respect, careful listening, and timely school responses to family questions, ideas, suggestions, and concerns? What practices and tools should you put in place to create authentic, two-way communication to listen to families’ hopes and concerns for their children’s learning and their feedback on experiences?
    • Are there ample opportunities for teachers and school leaders to “receive” communication as much as they “give” communication?
  • Pathway in Action:  This part of the guide gives educators real-world examples from some of the top leaders in the field.   The examples for this pathway include "welcome phone calls" or "good news phone calls" as effective relationship builders.

This is a brief snapshot of the Strengthen Relationships guide.  Click the link above to access the full document or go to the Family and Community Engagement page to access the full Family Engagement Framework with all four pathways.

Sequoyah Book Awards & Lists

Sequoyah Book Award

With this award, Oklahoma honors the Native American leader Sequoyah, for his unique achievement in creating the Cherokee syllabary. Sequoyah chose eighty-five symbols to represent all spoken sounds of the Cherokee language. In so doing, he created a way to preserve his people's language and culture.

The Sequoyah Committees are pleased to announce the winners of the Sequoyah Book Awards for 2020:

  • Children’s: Lifeboat 12 by Susan Hood
  • Intermediate: Front Desk by Kelly Yang
  • High School: Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

The 2022 Children's Master List is now available, along with the 2022 Promotional Materials.  One of my favorites in the promotional materials is the Readalikes list - additional book recommendations based on the book on the Master List.  

For more information about the Sequoyah Book Awards, visit the Oklahoma Library Association site.

Upcoming Learning Opportunities

Thinking Forward....Finding Solid Ground:  Saturday, August 21, 8:30-1:00

The Reading League Oklahoma

The Reading League Oklahoma is hosting a day of learning on Saturday, August 21, from 8:30-1:00 at Capps Middle School, 6400 NW 63rd Street in Warr Acres.

There will be a keynote address by Karin Chenoweth as well as sessions by Gwyndolynn Strong and Kristen Perez-Rickels.  For more information about each presenter's topic, check out the flyer below.  

To register for this free event, click here.

The Reading League Oklahoma August 21

14th Annual (Virtual) Reading Conference - Teaching Small for BIG Learning:  Friday, September 24, 10:00-2:45

Oklahoma Regents Higher Education

Don't miss this information-packed conference presented by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (OSRHE).  The keynote speaker will be Jennifer Serravallo, bestselling author of The Reading Strategies Book and the The Writing Strategies Book.  There will also be sessions led by Oklahoma State University's Dr. Sheri Vasinda and Melissa Ahlgrim, the Director of Reading Sufficiency at the Oklahoma State Department of Education.  Go to OSRHE's Reading Conference page for information on each presenter.

Early bird registration ends on August 31, but regular registration continues through September 22.  More information may be found on the flyer below, but to register click here.

OSRHE Reading Conference

Monthly Features

Writing Prompt of the Month

The Best Story

Author Eileen Spinelli will celebrate her birthday on August 16.  She has written many books, several of them becoming award winners, but my favorite book of hers is The Best Story.  A friend and colleague of mine shared it with me as a great mentor text for generating ideas, and I've used it ever since.  

The premise of the book is simple, funny, and incredibly effective.  Family members pitch in to help the main character win a contest by writing the best story, advising her to add action, humor, or something to make people cry.  But the narrator realizes that the best story is one that comes from her own heart.  

For this month's writing prompt, I encourage you to read this story to your students (and yes, I read it to my upper elementary kids) , have them write down things that are near and dear to their hearts, and then save the list.  This list, or "heart map", serves as an idea generator for future writing since students can reference this throughout the year for story starter ideas.

Reading Quote of the Month

Eileen Spinelli

Eileen Spinelli is also the featured author for this month's reading quote.  She had this to say about the importance of having books for children to read:

 "The book is my way of affirming the 'present' for children and of reminding them that each moment is precious and each season is beautiful."

For a list of Spinelli's books, visit eileenspinelli.com.