October 2021 Secondary ELAOK Newsletter

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English Language Arts

October 2021

In this issue:

ShakeFest 2022

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Shakespeare Competition, 10:00-11:30 a.m.

Shakespeare Festival, 11:30-1:30 p.m.

Bixby High School Auditorium, Bixby, OK

Oklahoma ESU National Shakespeare Competition

High school students from across Oklahoma and Western Arkansas perform a 20-line monologue and a sonnet. The 1st place winner will receive an all-expense paid trip to New York City to perform at Lincoln Center. Cash prizes are awarded to the 2nd ($200) and 3rd place ($100) winners. There is no cost to participate.

Check in is from 9:30-9:45 a.m. The contest begins promptly at 10:00 a.m. and should be completed by 11:30 a.m.

Nationally, more than 36,000 young people have participated in the competition since its inception in 1983. Approximately 2,500 teachers and 20,000 students in nearly 45 English-Speaking Union branch communities participate each year.

Through the National Shakespeare Competition, students develop essential skills:

  • critical thinking
  • close reading and public speaking
  • increase self-confidence through reading, analysis and performance of Shakespeare
  • explore the beauty of Shakespeare's language and classic themes
  • bring the timeless works of Shakespeare to life and learn to express his words with understanding, feeling and clarity
  • meet local, state and national standards in English language arts and drama


Oklahoma Shakespeare Festival

Students from grades 6-12 will perform scenes, monologues, or other creative performances using Shakespeare’s language (maximum of 2 minutes x the number of actors with a limit of 6 minutes). They will also participate in a short performance-based activity. Collaborating with classmates to explore Shakespeare's language, and then sharing that experience with students from different schools and backgrounds, is of immense educational value.

This is not your typical drama festival. By design, this festival is also geared toward English classes and students who may have never acted before as well as drama students. For us, performance is a means to an end: making Shakespeare's language come alive.

Writing Contests

The writing contests page has been updated with deadlines for the 2021-22 school year. A few new contests have also been added. The contests are organized chronologically by their deadline, but they can also be sorted by clicking on any of the other headings: Name, Participants, Type, and Genre(s).  If you know of a contest that I can add to this page, please let me know. Read on to learn about three upcoming contests.

OKCTE Young Writers Contest

contest flyer

The Oklahoma Council of Teachers of English (OKCTE) has announced the 2022 Young Writers Contest: Celebrating the Voices of Students Across Genres.


  • Poetry
  • Essay
  • Comic
  • Art
  • Fiction
  • Personal Narrative
  • Descriptive Paragraph

This year, OKCTE will develop two Oklahoma student anthologies: one for writers in grades 6-8 and one for writers in grades 9-12. This change allows OKCTE to amplify the work of more writers and encourage writers to consider more closely their audience when writing to optimize the content for anthology readers. They hope the anthologies will be powerful mentor texts in classrooms across Oklahoma and beyond because this year they will publish the anthologies through Oklahoma State University Library to allow free open online access and paperback orders at printing cost.

Check out all the details in this virtual flyer.

Due Date: January 15, 2022.

2022 Scholastic Writing Awards

key with wings

The 2022 Scholastic Awards are now open for entries! Students and educators can create their accounts and begin uploading original works of art and writing. Participating in the Awards is easy—it takes just three steps to enter your work into the longest-running, most prestigious awards program for creative teens!

  1. Go to ors.artandwriting.org to create your account
  2. Upload your best art or writing
  3. Send in your entry form and your fee or fee waiver

That’s it! For more detailed instructions, please visit our How to Enter page.

Writing categories include:

  • Critical Essay
  • Dramatic Script
  • Flash Fiction
  • Journalism
  • Humor (new)
  • Novel Writing
  • Personal Essay & Memoir
  • Poetry
  • Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • Short Story
  • Writing Portfolio (graduating seniors only)

Oklahoma is part of the South region for writing, which has a December 6, 2021 deadline.

Monstrous Writing Contest

a monster comes

Gotham Writers' current writing contest is about describing a monster in 31 words or fewer. This is a perfect challenge for spooky season. The winner receives a free writing class from Gotham Writers. More details on the contest page.

Dashes in the OAS for ELA

As an English teacher, do you like to use dashes when you write?

An advanced form of punctuation, dashes are featured in two objectives in grades 11 and 12 in Standard 5 Language in the 2021 Oklahoma Academic Standards for English Language Arts:

  • 11-12.5.W.7 Students will use a colon or dash to reveal information in a sentence.

These objectives build on previous objectives about using colons to introduce quotations (grades 6-8) and to reveal information (grades 9-10).

  • 6-8.5.W.8 Students will use a colon to introduce a quotation from a source (e.g., According to National Geographic, meerkat homes are quite comfortable: “Each burrow is an extensive tunnel-and-room system that remains cool even under the
    broiling African sun.”).
  • 9-10.5.W.8 Students will use a colon to reveal information (e.g., The prince searched the castle high and low for his most prized possession: his guitar.).

Grade 11 and 12 ELA teachers can use mentor sentences to introduce dashes to their students, so they can see how real-world writers use them. After presenting a collection of mentor sentences to their students, teachers can ask them what they notice and wonder about how dashes are used in the mentor sentences. Students can then determine how to use dashes in their own writing, and teachers can give them time to experiment and share in small groups. A collection of mentor sentences with dashes—mainly from young adult literature—is included below.

Mentor Sentences

  • There's a piece of paper on one of the stands that catches my eye—neon orange, with the words "SET LIST" written in black Sharpie. (Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli)
  • In May, there was a day called "field day"—the worst day of my young life—traditionally when eighth-graders, who would be high schoolers soon, would get half the day off to hang out on the soccer field, eat pizza, and sign yearbooks. (¡Hola Papi! by John Paul Brammer)
  • There were so many ghosts in our house—the ghost of my brother, the ghosts of my father's war, the ghosts of my sister's voices. (Artistotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz)
  • The thing is, I only had five dollars, not nearly enough to pay for anything—not for photos, not for food, not for gas, not for a hot dog and soda pop. (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie)
  • You will remember there was no road—not even a pathway—between the castle of the Wicked Witch and the Emerald City. (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum)
  • I get out and check the whole car—check the doors, hood, bumpers, lights, front grill, and trunk to make sure I didn't get into an accident without noticing. (Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson)

Oklahoma Math Tutoring Corps Applications Now Available

The Oklahoma State Department of Education is seeking applications for a high-impact initiative designed to offer Oklahoma students free online math tutoring support.

The Oklahoma Math Tutoring Corps will provide students in grades 7-9 with real-time, virtual tutoring support from live tutors, three days a week for nine weeks starting in January 2022. Selected applicants will receive training and support to provide high-quality tutoring services to students in a virtual setting. Anyone with a current Oklahoma teaching certificate is eligible to apply. Certifications in math education are not required.

Tutor Responsibilities:

  • Complete 5 hours of asynchronous and synchronous training in December 2021 (Dates to be determined)
  • Provide 50 minutes of virtual tutoring 3 times per week for 9 weeks from January 2022 through March 2022.
  • Attend 3 coaching sessions for tutors (Dates to be determined) 

All training, coaching, and tutoring sessions will occur outside of regularly contracted school hours.

Selected applicants will be compensated $50 per hour for up to $1,800 for the 2021-22 school year. There is also an opportunity for selected applicants to serve as Lead Tutors. Lead Tutors will be compensated up to $2,550 for the school year. The application deadline is 5:00 p.m. on Friday, October 15, 2021.

Interested applicants can apply here. For questions, please contact Anthony Purcell, Director of High School and College Math Readiness by email at Anthony.Purcell@sde.ok.gov or by phone at 405-522-6575.

Monthly Features

Writing Prompt

inktober list

Inktober is an annual challenge for artists to draw a daily picture based on a one-word prompt. When I taught high school creative writing, one of my students, Sarah V., told me about Inktober. She suggested we modify the challenge for writing. Each day, we could take the assigned word and incorporate it into a short piece of writing. Alternatively, we could use each word as a title to a short poem. (One year I used the Inktober challenge to write a daily short poem as I mourned the loss of a relationship.)

Since this is meant to be only a 5-10 minute exercise, pick one word from this list, and write in response. For an added challenge, pick the word that shares the day you were born.

Reading Quote

reading quote


Book Fair comic