March 2022 Secondary ELAOK Newsletter

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English Language Arts

March 2022

In this issue:

Textbook Reviewers Needed

Each year, the state provides schools with State textbook allocations to purchase instructional materials for a range of grade levels and courses. To ensure the instructional materials are high-quality, the Oklahoma State Textbook Committee (STC) in coordination with the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) and Oklahoma content experts conducts an evaluation of instructional materials. Approved materials demonstrate alignment to certain academic criteria and are placed under a statewide purchasing contract to ensure districts can purchase approved materials at the best price.

Applications are now being accepted to be a member of the Content-Expert Instructional Material Review team for Secondary (Grades 6-12) English Language Arts. Individuals selected to serve on the Content-Expert Instructional Material Review Teams will receive training to review materials utilizing a rubric adopted by the STC and will receive access to all vendor-based materials to review for the subject area they will be asked to review.

Content Review Team members will meet according to the timeline below.

  • June 2022 - Two days of virtual training for instructional material evaluation rubric and review process.
  • July-October 2022 - Meet virtually, every two weeks and as needed, with other content review team members and OSDE staff, outside of school hours, to discuss and reconcile reviews of materials. 
  • October 2022 - Submit final reviews of instructional materials to OSDE staff.

Although all meetings are anticipated to occur virtually during the process, the Oklahoma State Department of Education will provide travel reimbursement (mileage, tolls, and/or lodging) and substitute reimbursement for scheduled in-person meetings as needed.

The deadline to apply is April 1, 2022, by 11:59 p.m. All applicants will be notified of their acceptance status by May 2, 2022. For additional questions about becoming a content-expert review team member, please email the Director of Instructional Materials at

Teacher of the Year Finalists Videos

In October 2021, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister announced the twelve finalists for Oklahoma’s next Teacher of the Year. 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. The OSDE has produced videos about each finalist. Click the images below to watch their videos.

Shannon Altom

Shannon shares a special token in her video that reminds her why she is a teacher. Think about a token, letter, or photograph that inspires you.

Lauren Vandever

In her video, Lauren says she is a lifelong learner. Reflect on the ways you engage in lifelong learning whether inside or outside the classroom.

Upcoming Writing Contests


2022 White Rose Memorial Essay Contest

The Tulsa Council for Holocaust Education’s fourteenth annual White Rose Memorial Essay Contest for secondary students is now open to all students in Oklahoma.

Consider the following: Elie Wiesel once said, “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” This year’s essay contest examines a period of time we know as the Holocaust when the world was silent in the face of great evil and injustice.

Deadline: April 1, 2022


Oklahoma Poem Contest

To celebrate National Poetry Month and Oklahoma, the Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry (ROMP) conducts an annual Oklahoma Poem Contest, with cash prizes and medals for the winners. Prizes are given out each year at Wonder City Wordfest in Locust Grove. Winners do not need to be present.

Deadline: April 4, 2022

To enter, write your own creative poem that honors or celebrates Oklahoma in some way. Contest guidelines are available on the ROMP website.


By now you have probably heard about the word game, Wordle, which has taken the country by storm. Wordle is a free web-based game that is now part of The New York Times. Here are the instructions.

  • Guess the WORDLE in six tries.
  • Each guess must be a valid five-letter word. Hit the enter button to submit.
  • After each guess, the color of the tiles will change to show how close your guess was to the word.

Do you play Wordle in your ELA classroom against your students? I have heard stories of students running into classrooms, announcing the Wordle word of the day before the teacher has had a chance to play. I have also seen an elementary teacher play online with their students as a whole class, which would prove difficult in a secondary setting with six periods a day since you can only play once daily.

Here are some similar word games that you could possibly use in your secondary ELA classroom.

Make a Custom Wordle is like Wordle, except your word is not limited to five letters. Get a shareable link, so others can try to guess your word. You can also choose “No Dictionary,” which allows guesses to be any combination of letters. Use this for a lesson warmup or brain break with the teacher choosing a word relevant to the lesson.

Word Master

Word Master is like Wordle, except you don't have to wait 24 hours to get a new word. You can play an unlimited number of games a day.

Hello Wordl

Hello Wordl is like Wordle, except you can choose to have up to 11 letters in the word you are trying to guess. You can play an unlimited number of games a day.

Wordle Together

Wordle Together is like Wordle, except you play against an opponent. Both of you try to be the first to guess the mystery word. You can be matched with a random player online or you can copy the link and invite a friend to play.


Lists of past Wordle words are available online. Some of the February 2022 words are listed below. If I were still teaching creative writing, I might challenge my students to pick a word from the list and use it as a title to inspire a piece of fiction or poetry. Alternatively, I could challenge my students to use 5-10 of the words in their piece of writing. Which of the following February words jump out at you?

February Wordle words

Monthly Features

Writing Prompt

This month's writing prompt is a unique poem from Leila Chatti called "Cootie Catcher." When I first saw this poem, it took me back to elementary school days when I would fold paper to form one of these creations. Follow the instructions below to make your own mini-poem. If you feel especially creative, you could start with blank paper and make your own cootie catcher poem.

cootie catcher poem

Download the printable version here.


  • Cut along the outside line of the cootie catcher. You should have a square when you’re finished.  
  • Flip your cootie catcher text-side down and fold each corner to the center of the paper, so that the color words now face you and are touching. You will be left with a smaller square: words (colors and nouns) on one side, and phrases on the other side.
  • Flip your cootie catcher over again so that the color words are facing down and you are looking at the phrases. Fold each corner toward the center. You will be left with a smaller square with the nouns now facing you.
  • Fold this square in half twice: first vertically, then unfold it, and then fold it again horizontally, to get it flexible.
  • Put your fingers under the tabs (the color words) and gently push your fingers together. With your fingers inside, the cootie catcher should now resemble a flower, with the color words meeting in a point.
  • To create your poem, pick (or have someone else pick!) a color. Write this down on a spare piece of paper. Then spell the color out, opening and closing the cootie catcher for each letter and alternating the direction each time (up and down/side to side). Once you finish spelling out the word, you should have it open to four nouns. Pick one, write it down on your paper, then spell out the word just as you did with the color. You’ll see four nouns again. Pick one, write that noun down on your paper, then open up the flap. Write that phrase down on your paper. You’ve got yourself a mini poem!

Reading Quote

EB White quote