April 2022 Secondary ELAOK Newsletter

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English Language Arts

April 2022

In this issue:

Poet Naomi Shihab Nye in OKC

Naomi Shihab Nye poster

Oklahoma City University will host public presentations by celebrated poet Naomi Shihab Nye on Wednesday, April 6, at 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. for the annual Thatcher Hoffman Smith Poetry Series.

Naomi Shihab Nye describes herself as a “wandering poet.” She has spent more than forty years traveling the country and the world leading writing workshops and inspiring students of all ages. Nye was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother and grew up in St. Louis, Jerusalem, and San Antonio. Drawing on her Palestinian-American heritage, the cultural diversity of her home in Texas, and her experiences traveling in Asia, Europe, Canada, Mexico, and the Middle East, Nye uses her writing to attest to our shared humanity.

Read more details on the event webpage.

Below, I have included one of my favorite Naomi Shihab Nye poems.

Valentine for Ernest Mann

by Naomi Shihab Nye

You can’t order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, “I’ll take two”
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, “Here’s my address,
write me a poem,” deserves something in reply.
So I’ll tell a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment 
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn’t understand why she was crying.
“I thought they had such beautiful eyes.”
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries 
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.

Multimodal Literacies Professional Development

The Oklahoma Writing Project is offering a free professional development opportunity on Saturday, April 30, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Brady Nash from the University of Texas will lead this virtual session called "Bringing Oklahoma Academic Standards to Life." Come to this session to learn how to incorporate multimodality across the writing process in ways that engage students and promote creative approaches to composition. 

The Zoom link will be sent to those who register.

Registration Deadline: April 28, 2022 

As a reminder, multimodal simply means a combination of two or more modes. Modes include:

  • alphabetic: written language
  • aural: spoken language
  • visual: color, direction, and viewpoint in still and moving images
  • spatial: proximity, direction, position, and organization of objects
  • gestural: movement, speed, and stillness in physical expression and body language

This Venn diagram resource from the ELA Appendix demonstrates how various modes interact to create different kinds of multimodal content.

Oklahoma Book Award Finalists

The following books have been selected as finalists in the children/young adult category in the thirty-third annual Oklahoma Book Award competition. To be eligible for this award, books can be set in Oklahoma, written by an Oklahoman, or be about Oklahoma.

Winners in each category will be announced at the Oklahoma Book Awards banquet on April 30, 2022.

book covers


  • Living Ghosts & Mischievous Monsters: Chilling American Indian Stories by Dan Sasuweh Jones
  • Planting Peace: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Gwendolyn Hooks
  • Opal’s Greenwood Oasis by Najah-Amatullah Hylton and Quraysh Ali Lansana
  • Run, Little Chaski! An Inka Trail Adventure by Mariana Llanos
  • The Little Blue Bridge by Brenda Maier
  • Night of the Amber Moon by Helen Dunlap Newton
  • Seekers of the Wild Realm: Legend of the Realm by Alexandra Ott
  • Dark and Shallow Lies by Ginny Myers Sain
  • Not Now, Cow by Tammi Sauer

Monthly Features

Writing Prompt

One of Naomi Shihab Nye's newest poetry collections, Cast Away, is about the things we throw away. In light of this topic, pick one of the following prompts, and write for five minutes.

  • Look in your classroom trashcan and find an item to write about. A Starbucks cup. A broken pencil. Invent its story. Where did it come? Who used it?
  • Have you ever accidentally thrown something away? What was it? Did you get it back?
  • Have you ever felt cast away by someone? It may be a tender topic, but if you're willing, write about it.
cast away book cover

Reading Quote

quote from mark twain
Photo by Nitin Arya from Pexels