January 2023 Secondary ELAOK Newsletter

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English Language Arts

January 2023

In this issue:

The Promise of a New Semester

Dear English teachers,

As we embark on a new semester, I wanted to take a moment to express my appreciation for the hard work and dedication you bring to your classrooms every day. Teaching English is a challenging, yet rewarding profession, and you have chosen to take on the important task of guiding and inspiring your students to learn and grow.

As you begin this new semester, I encourage you to stay motivated and inspired in your work. Remember the positive impact you have on your students' lives and the valuable role you play in their education and development. You are making a difference in the world, one student at a time.

So as you start this new semester, embrace the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Have confidence in your abilities and the value of your work. And above all, keep believing in the power of education to transform lives.

With gratitude and admiration,


The Advent of Chatbots

Open AI

At the end of November, the company OpenAI released its chatbot to the public. Called ChatGPT, this chatbot uses artificial intelligence to create written responses to almost any prompt you give it. When I first learned about this new technological tool, I was intrigued. The website was so busy that I couldn't even log in. Over the winter break, though, I was able to experiment with it to see what all the fuss was about.

I asked ChatGPT to compare and contrast two characters from a novel I once taught my sophomores. The chatbot responded with some excellent points about the characters' differences, but it was unable to explain hardly any similarities. When I asked ChatGPT to compare and contrast two fairy tales, it was much more successful. When I asked it to apply the hero's journey to one of my favorite films, the chatbot deftly explained all twelve stages, from Ordinary World to Return with Elixir. When I asked it to write a short story about a high school freshman attending band camp, ChatGPT created a protagonist named Sarah who had trouble playing her flute. I asked the bot to change the conflict from flute playing to marching, and it quickly revised the story for me.

English language arts teachers might be concerned that students will use ChatGPT to write their essays for them, but there are a number of ways to leverage this technology to help your students become better readers, writers, and thinkers. This blog post has twenty ways to use ChatGPT as a tool for teaching and learning, and I am highlighting five of them here.

  1. Use it as a more complex, nuanced source of information than Google.
  2. Use it to provide students access to lots of good examples.
  3. After the bot creates some writing, have students score it using a tool such as a checklist or rubric.
  4. Take several responses and make a better product.
  5. Generate prompts and questions to facilitate discussions.

One more thing: I used ChatGPT to write my introduction to this newsletter. Could you tell it was written by a robot instead of me? The prompt I gave it was: "Write an inspirational message to English teachers about the start of a new semester."

If you use ChatGPT with your students this semester, I want to hear about it. Please email me at Jason.Stephenson@sde.ok.gov.

Writing Resources

OWL logo

Purdue University's Online Writing Lab, sometimes abbreviated to Purdue OWL, has been around since 1994. When I taught high school English, I told my students about this resource. Although it was originally made for college students, high school students can also take advantage of this free resource. This website has a number of categories, such as General Writing (e.g., writing process, grammar, punctuation), Research and Citation (e.g., conducting research, MLA & APA style, using citation generators responsibly), and Avoiding Plagiarism.

Other universities have developed free online writing resources that you may wish to explore and share with your students.

The Writing Center from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This resource is organized around the following categories:

  • Writing the Paper (e.g., evidence; introductions, thesis statements)
  • Citation, Style, and Sentence Level Concerns (e.g., commas, conciseness, passive voice)
  • Specific Writing Assignments or Contexts (e.g., annotated bibliographies, book reviews)
  • Writing for Specific Fields (e.g., literature).

In addition to text, some resources are short, helpful YouTube videos, such as "Writing Concisely."

Hamilton College Writing Center

This resource is organized around a variety of categories, including the following:

  • Guidelines for Writing an Essay (e.g., developing your thesis, paragraph structure, conclusions)
  • Discipline-Specific Guidelines (e.g., questions to ask while reading literature)
  • Grammar, Usage & Mechanics (e.g., common sentence errors, commonly confused words, common writing mistakes)
  • Citing & Using Sources (e.g., using sources, quotations).

They also have a 7 Sins of Writing poster series with explanations, examples, and corrections.

University of Wisconsin-Madison Writer's Handbook

This online guide is divided into the following sections:

  • Academic and Professional Writing (e.g., Research Paper, Quoting and Paraphrasing, Annotated Bibliographies)
  • Writing Process and Structure (e.g., Drafting Your Paper, Revising Your Paper)
  • Improving Your Writing Style (e.g., Tidy up wordy phrases, Reduce wordy verbs, Avoid using vague nouns)
  • Grammar and Punctuation (e.g., dashes, commas, semicolons, 12 common errors)
  • Cite References in Your Paper

Harvard College Writing Center

Although this resource is not as robust as others, this website features strategies for essay writing, including developing a thesis, summary, topic sentences and signposting, and transitions, and conclusions. They also have a six-page guide on writing an English paper.

Book Love Grants

Book Love

The Book Love Foundation seeks teachers who demonstrate a passion for promoting a hunger for books. These teachers recognize the diversity of every class of readers, and they challenge each student to build an independent reading life of increasing depth and joy. Teachers who apply for a Book Love Foundation grant must demonstrate that they are already committed to the support of readers through current classroom practices such as maintaining access to a range of books, conferring regularly and purposefully to understand and support students' changing needs, and sharing their own contagious passion for reading inside and outside of their classroom.

Read about the requirements for a grant, and then apply for either a classroom library or book clubs.

Student Podcast Challenge

NPR student podcast

NPR's Student Podcast Challenge is back – for a fifth year! Beginning in January and running through April, NPR will once again be hearing from thousands of student podcasters, all competing for their grand prizes and a chance to hear their stories on NPR.

This year's Student Podcast Challenge will open for entries on January 6, 2023 and close on April 28. As in past years, the NPR judges will choose winners in two categories: grades five through eight and grades nine through 12. Entries must be submitted by an educator or a student leader who's 18 years old or older.

Read this NPR webpage to learn more guidelines, explore helpful resources, and listen to past winning podcasts. To read about how Stilwell High School in northeastern Oklahoma became a 2020 finalist in this competition, read this article from StateImpact Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute


The Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute (OSAI) is an intensive 2-week residential school that provides professional training to artistically advanced Oklahoma high school students, including graduating seniors, in the visual, literary, and performing arts. They offer training in a range of disciplines, including creative writing. OSAI faculty artists include winners of the Pulitzer Prize and the Academy, Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Awards. Students will join over 250 students from across the state as they study their chosen field and attend or participate in performances, gallery openings, film screenings, poetry readings, and more. Optional activities include nature hikes, karaoke night, a talent show, and a dance.

The institute will take place from June 10-25, 2023, at the beautiful Quartz Mountain State Park & Lodge in southwestern Oklahoma.

Students are selected through a competitive blind audition process. Auditions are held online and throughout the state in January and February. All selected students automatically receive a full scholarship to the program.

To apply to the creative writing program, applicants may submit up to five (5) pages of writing. Up to three (3) pages may be previously written work and up to two (2) pages must be a new work created for this audition. The new work must include the following elements: a repeated or persistent sound, a type of shelter, and a food item. Writing submissions may be any combination of poetry, fiction, personal essay, and/or an excerpt from a longer work.

Deadline for Submission: Monday, February 13, 2023, at 11:59 p.m.

Learn more about the creative writing program on this OSAI webpage.

First Line Contest

SCOPE first line

Famous author Claribel A. Ortega needs your students’ help. She wrote three first lines to stories that don’t exist—yet. Choose your favorite line, and use it to write your own short story and enter the contest. Claribel will choose the winning story and two finalists.

Monthly Features

Writing Prompt

This month's prompt comes from the creative writing application for the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute, modified from above.

Write a piece of poetry or prose that includes one or more of the following elements: a repeated or persistent sound, a type of shelter, and/or a food item.

Reading Quote

Hepburn reading quote