November 2021 Secondary ELAOK Newsletter

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English Language Arts

November 2021

In this issue:

2 ELA Teacher of the Year Finalists

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In late October, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister announced the twelve finalists for Oklahoma’s next Teacher of the Year.  

“These twelve educators represent some of the best teaching talent in Oklahoma,” said Hofmeister. “These finalists are exceptional examples of the tremendous impact one person can make in the lives of kids. Each one of these teachers demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to the success of each of their students and are highly deserving of this honor.”  

All finalists were named teachers of the year for their districts or schools and selected after their applications were reviewed by a panel of educators, lawmakers and civic leaders.

Two of the finalists are teachers of English language arts: Shannon Altom from Bixby High School and Lauren Vandever from Bristow Middle School. Read on to learn more about each of them.



Shannon Altom

Advice to teachers during the pandemic:
Include lessons and activities that lift your students' spirits. Take time to do things that lift yours. 

Final thoughts:
To be recognized among teachers is an honor- to be so among many extraordinary Oklahoma teachers is also humbling! My choice to join this profession sprang directly from memories made in my childhood classrooms. I always knew it had to be the English classroom for me because reading and writing were my first loves in school. 


Lauren Vandever

Advice to teachers during the pandemic:
Offer yourselves and your students grace. We are all behind where we thought we would be due to the pandemic. Take time to escape into another world by reading a book with your students, by yourself, by listening to an audiobook, or by writing your own. Just remember we are all living through the same experience, and we all need a mental break occasionally.

Final thoughts:
I am looking forward to promoting literacy across the state and working to bring new literacy opportunities to the students of Oklahoma.

Accelerating Instruction with the Revised ELA Standards

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This fall I traveled around the state to present a workshop on accelerating instruction with the revised ELA standards. It was so nice to be in person with teachers again. I also gave a virtual option of this workshop, which is now available on YouTube. You can also access the links to the documents from the workshop, including the slideshow, in this digital landing page.

Whippoorwill Book Award


The whippoorwill is a bird known for its distinct song that fills many remote spaces. The Whippoorwill Book Award takes on this bird’s name as a way to honor young adult literature that sings the authentic stories of rural people and places.

​The Whippoorwill Award's mission is to advocate for books that portray the complexity of rural living by dispelling stereotypes and demonstrating diversity among rural people.

This award originated at Oklahoma State University and has been presented for two years now, 2019 and 2020. If you teach in a rural community, you might be interested in reviewing the titles on the award lists.

My Favorite Book Contest


Read! Write! Win!

Calling all teachers and students in grades 4–12.

The 2021 My Favorite Book Contest is officially open. Entries may be submitted now. Deadline to enter is December 17 at 5:00 p.m.

The Oklahoma Center for the Book invites readers in grades 4–12 to write a letter to the author of a favorite book, expressing how the book affected them personally.

Cash prizes will be awarded to first, second, and third place entries in three grade levels (4–6, 7–8, and 9–12). The winner of the first place entries will select their school library or public library to receive a cash prize of $1,000.

In addition to the Oklahoma Center for the Book in the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, sponsors include the Friends of the Oklahoma Center for the Book, the Kirkpatrick Foundation, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Find out how to enter

The contest page has official rules, instructions for students and teachers on writing and submitting letters, an FAQ, and a link to the online entry form. Plus, teachers and librarians will find downloadable materials to promote the contest.

Let the reading and writing begin!

Law Day Writing Contest

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Instill confidence and help create a better understanding of law by participating in the annual Oklahoma Bar Association Law Day Art and Writing Contest. The 2022 theme is "Toward a More Perfect Union: The Constitution in Times of Change." Cash prizes for winners and statewide recognition for schools and teachers. The OBA is excited to see the amazing works from your students and schools. Get contest materials and resources at the Law Day contest webpage.

Students will respond to a prompt based on their grade level provided below or may submit an essay based on a prompt relating to the Law Day theme. Each prompt provided has been tailored to align with the Oklahoma Academic Standards for Social Studies. Poetry and creative writing entries will also be accepted as part of the writing contest. There is no word-count minimum or maximum requirement.


World Geography: Western Hemisphere

Discuss a period of social change in U.S. history that led to a constitutional amendment (e.g., 13th, 14th 15th, 18th and 21st, 19th, 24th or 26th amendments). Compare that with how a similar change was handled in a country in the Western Hemisphere.


World Geography: Eastern Hemisphere

Discuss a period of social change in U.S. history that led to a constitutional amendment (e.g., 13th, 14th 15th, 18th and 21st, 19th, 24th or 26th amendments). Compare that with how a similar change was handled in a country in the Eastern Hemisphere.


Created the United States: Foundation, Formation and Transformation of the American Nation, 1754 to 1877

Describe the effects of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, including the purpose of the amendments and unintended consequences or challenges with enforcement of those amendments.


High School

Oklahoma History and Government

Compare the process of changing the Oklahoma Constitution with the process to change the Federal Constitution. Give an example of how each constitution was changed as a result of a contemporaneous social movement.



Describe how collective behavior can influence and change society and explain how that contributed to a constitutional amendment.


U.S. Government

Use an example (either historical or contemporary) to explain how the government has responded to a social movement and how that movement resulted in changes in law or the Constitution.


U.S. History

Examine the Civil Rights Movement and explain how that movement used 1st Amendment protections to advocate while advocating for changes in the law.


World History

Compare a social movement in the United States with a social movement in another country. Discuss how the protections of the United States Constitution either helped or hindered that movement compared with the other country.


World Human Geography

Compare the United States’ system of government with another country’s government. Explain how social movements in the United States are different from social movements in other countries because of the different types of government.

Deadline to submit entries is January 14, 2022.

Monthly Features

Writing Prompt

Since it is the month of Thanksgiving, this month's prompt is related to recipes.

  • Option 1: Tell the story of a favorite recipe. Maybe it's your grandmother's chicken and dumplings, or your best friend's taco salad. Or maybe it's a recipe you created. What makes the recipe so special to you? Write for five minutes.
  • Option 2: Write a recipe for something other than food. Pick a person, place, or thing, and write a recipe for it. Remember to include the ingredients as well as the steps for combining them.

Reading Quote

CLS quote

November is Native American Heritage Month. Cynthia Leitich Smith is the 2021 NSK Neustadt Laureate and a New York Times bestselling author of books for young readers, including Hearts Unbroken, which won the American Indian Library Association’s Youth Literature Award.