January 2023 Elementary ELAOK Newsletter

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ELAOK: Elementary

January 2023 

Happy New Year!


I hope that you all had a restful winter break and are having a great start to the new semester.  

Thank you to Melissa Ahlgrim, Director of Reading Sufficiency, for contributing her take aways from the International Dyslexia Conference  and to Brenda Beymer-Chapman, Director of Social Studies & Personal Financial Literacy, Gena Barnhill, Director of Elementary Mathematics, and Paige Kelpine, Director of Elementary Science & Engineering Education, for being great thought partners for the Power of Words article below. 

The Power of Words: Focus on Vocabulary

How to improve vocabulary

Words are powerful. They enable us to communicate with others, read about new ideas and express thoughts and information in writing.  A robust vocabulary increases listening, speaking, reading and writing skills in all contexts and subject areas. We have both a receptive (listening and reading) and expressive (speaking and writing) vocabulary that allow us to both understand and use language.

There are so many words and so little time!  How can classroom teachers effectively support vocabulary? See below of tips and resources.

Oklahoma Academic Standards for ELA: Vocabulary

Standard 4 in the Oklahoma Academic Standards for English Language Arts addresses vocabulary instruction for both reading and writing to help you focus on the appropriate skills for your grade level. You can find additional support in the OK ELA Curriculum Frameworks (click your grade level > objective analysis > standard 4 objectives). Vocabulary must work in conjunction with all of the other components of language comprehension to build meaning so be sure to include vocabulary in all aspects of instruction. 

Types of Vocabulary Instruction

Direct Vocabulary InstructionSome words require direct, explicit instruction using the strategies below. 

  1. Pick meaningful words  - Choose words that students may not know but would support the understanding of the topic or text. Understanding the vocabulary tiers can help with choosing meaningful words. Tier 2 words are usually the best place to begin. 
  2. Learn words at many levels - Have a procedure to talk about the word meaning, part of speech, spelling patterns,  meaningful parts, and demonstrating when the word would be used. Create a visual image or movement to represent the word. 
  3. Connect the words with other words - Make a list of antonyms, synonyms, examples, various meanings, or common confusions to help solidify the understanding. 
  4. Use the words - Use the words in a variety of contexts including conversations, writing, games, etc. so the words become a part of the student’s knowledge bank.

Indirect Vocabulary Instruction -There are too many words to teacher directly so indirect instruction may be used at times to ensure students are being exposed to a variety of words. 

  1. Words in Context - Pick a few challenging words and find synonyms or examples to provide students when the words are encountered in text.
  2. Use Sophisticated Vocabulary in Routines - Teachers can strive to incorporate higher-level vocabulary in the classroom. For example, have students sit on the "perimeter" of the rug or "proceed in an orderly fashion" down the hall. See a list of suggestions here

Considerations for the Content Areas

In Social Studies, Science, and Math, there may be times that students need to build knowledge through an experience before being introduced to the word. See some examples below...

  • Social Studies - Have students create classroom rules or expectations and introduce the word democracy
  • Science - Give students experiences with pushing and pulling and then introduce the word force.
  • Math - Have students create shapes with play dough and then introduce the words three-dimensional shapes

The Word Collector

Examples of Children's Books for Engaging In Word Meaning

  • The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds
  • Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster by Debra Fraiser
  • Fancy Nancy books 
  • The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter
  • Donavan's Word Jar by Monalisa DeGross


Bringing Words to Life

Suggested Professional Learning

If you have other resources to support vocabulary, please send them to me at sharon.morgan@sde.ok.gov.

Annual International Dyslexia Conference Resources

by Melissa Ahlgrim, Director of Reading Sufficiency

The International Dyslexia Conference was held this past November. Educators, advocates and experts in reading difficulties met in San Antonio to learn and discuss challenges around screening and testing for dyslexia, providing effective instruction and intervention, as well as ongoing research in this area.

One of the sessions I was able to attend that resonated was by Jack Fletcher. He focused on summarizing many of the different studies that have been done around early reading and dyslexia. Based on this, he pointed out some key observations:

  • Academic impacts from dyslexia can (often) be prevented.
  • Remediation for dyslexia requires more intensity.
  • Skills that prevent difficulties from dyslexia must be taught early in school.

Remediation after Grade 2 is demonstrably less effective, which is why it is so critical to catch and address reading difficulties early.

Fletcher pointed out that dyslexia is a word level reading disability. If students are not provided with proper instruction, students may show characteristics of dyslexia. Ensuring that all students receive explicit, systematic and sequential instruction in their core classroom instruction is the most effective way to reach most students.

The last point—that effective core classroom instruction is critical for the success of students—was a common theme in all sessions I was able to attend. This also supports the concept that all students, regardless of disability, are general education students first, and that special education should not be relied upon to address reading difficulties in isolation.

As an educator in Oklahoma, we have access to several resources to learn more about dyslexia and how to help students. The Oklahoma Dyslexia Handbook has information about identifying and addressing the needs of students with dyslexia. There are also several organizations with learning modules and fact sheets available for both educators and families. These include: 

I would encourage you to take a few minutes and explore one or more of these resources as we continue to increase our understanding and work to help our students in Oklahoma.

Reading League Oklahoma January Event

Reading League Oklahoma Logo

 On January 24th, the Reading League Oklahoma will have the Annual Members Meeting and guest speaker, Erin Pzinski. The meeting will highlight The Reading League Oklahoma's work in 2022 and share plans for 2023.

Erin Pzinski’s workshop will be Structured Literacy: What About Writing? This is free to all attendees. Members of the Reading League Oklahoma will receive the recording.

Member meeting -  6:00 pm central
Speaker -  6:30 pm
Register at bit.ly/TRLOK-JAN2023

AIM Symposium: Why is Reading Comprehension So Difficult to Comprehend?

AIM Symposium

The annual AIM Institute Research to Practice Symposium will be Monday, March 13 from 7:30am-2:30pm. This is a free, virtual event that will focus on the complexity of reading comprehension and provide educators insights for classroom practice. 

Website for more information: https://institute.aimpa.org/programs-research/research-to-practice-symposium/2023-symposium 

Registration link: www.aimpa.org/symposium 

Elementary Ed Chats

Stay tuned for information about more OSDE Elementary Ed Chats coming up soon.  See below for recordings from our previous Elementary Ed Chats.

If you would like to provide input about future topics, complete this survey

October 2022 - Meet the OSDE Elementary Team

See the recording and presentation slides to learn more about the OSDE elementary content directors and their favorite classroom strategies.   

December 2023 - Tackling Challenging Behaviors: Starting Fresh in the New Year

See the recordingpresentation slides and session notes to learn more about strategies to manage difficult behavior. The recording will be coming soon! 

Book Love Grants

Book Love Logo

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.

First Line Contest

First line Contest

Famous Author Claribel A. Ortega Needs Your Students’ Help!

Claribel A. Ortega 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.