March 2023 Elementary ELAOK Newsletter

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ELAOK: Elementary

March 2023 

Please note


The email distribution list for this newsletter has been updated. The ELAOK Elementary newsletter is intended for those connected with literacy instruction in Pre-K through 5th grade. If the content of this newsletter is not applicable to your role, then you may unsubscribe at the end of this email.

Reflections from Plain Talk for Literacy and Learning Conference - Building Language Comprehension

Plain Talk

In March, I attended the Plain Talk for Literacy and Learning conference. I will be sharing resources and information from the conference in this and future newsletters. 

The first session I want to highlight is Language Comprehension Components Necessary for Reading Comprehension by Maria Murray.

In this session, Dr. Murray provided a summary of comprehension strategy instruction, the role of background knowledge and vocabulary in comprehension, and interventions to build vocabulary and comprehension.

Dr. Murray began by providing an overview of science of reading research behind language comprehension including the simple view of reading and the reading rope.  These models illustrate that comprehension depends not only on decoding words correctly but also having the language comprehension, including vocabulary and background knowledge, to attach meaning to the words. 

“Even the best phonics-based skills program will not transform a child into a strong reader if the child has limited knowledge of the language, impoverished vocabulary, and little knowledge of key subjects.

(Davis, 2005, p. 15) 

Dr. Murray then addressed comprehension strategies such as predicting, summarizing, visualizing, etc. which have been commonly the central focus of literacy curriculums. Comprehension strategies should be taught and modeled to deepen thinking and activate prior knowledge but if the student does not already have the necessary prior knowledge, then comprehension strategies are not beneficial. Dr. Murray states that comprehension strategies should be taught but not to the exclusion of building content knowledge and vocabulary.

"What makes vocabulary valuable and important is not the words themselves so much as the understandings they afford. The reason we need to know the meanings of words is that they point to the knowledge from which we are to construct, interpret, and reflect on the meaning of text. (Adams, 2010, p. 8)

Recommended Resources: 

This information related to another one of my Plain Talk sessions entitled Beyond the Basics: The Science of Reading, Knowledge, and Comprehension by Dr. Daniel Willingham and Dr. Sonia Cabell.  This session gave an overview of their Knowledge Matters  article which describes 10 ways a teacher can build knowledge through language. Daniel Willingham’s short video, Teaching Content is Teaching Reading, summarizes the importance of building background knowledge and vocabulary to support comprehension.

How do we help students who are struggling with language comprehension?

  • Use  complex read-alouds to build language comprehension. See this webinar by Dr. Murray for an overview of effective practices 
  • Use Text Talk procedures to build vocabulary, oral language, and background knowledge by utilizing a daily read aloud. Below are steps and this link has Text Talk lessons. Here is the procedure:
    • Choose 2-3 Tier 2 words from the text
    • Ask open-ended questions to elicit multi-word responses and monitor the student understanding.
    • Discuss vocabulary in the context of the story, across other contexts, and then ask students to use the word. 
  • Use 30-Second Conversations from 50 Nifty Speaking & Listening Activities by Dr. Judith Dodson by picking a few students and having 30-second conversations with them each day for a series of days.  Use these conversations to expand on vocabulary.
  • Use concept maps to help students organize and connect information. 

I hope this information is as beneficial to you as it has been to me. Please reach out with any questions or ideas to

Oklahoma Literacy Association Annual Conference

The Oklahoma Literacy Association (OKLA) invites you to attend the 2023 OKLA Annual Conference on Saturday, April 1, 2023, at Oklahoma Christian University. The theme is Energizing the Reading and Writing Connection. 

Dr. Carol Jago will be the keynote speaker. Her keynote will be titled, Reading and Writing in the Digital Age.  Oklahoma author, Alton Carter, will be speaking at lunch.  Alton Carter lives in Stillwater and is the author of children's and young adult books including The Boy Who Dreamed Big and The Boy Who Carried Bricks.

There will also be vendor tables, prizes, give-aways, and breakout sessions related to content from pre-k through 12th grade literacy. Breakfast and lunch are included with the conference.

Register at this link by March 30, 2023.

For additional information, please email

OKLA Conference

Oklahoma Writing Project


Fifteen outstanding teachers will be selected to attend the Oklahoma Writing Project's 2023 Invitational Summer Institute to be held at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. Teachers of all subject areas and of all levels of instruction--kindergarten through university--interested in teaching composition or incorporating writing into their regular subject matter instruction may apply. The important consideration is a strong commitment to teaching of composition and helping students' understanding through writing.

Teachers who are selected should have these qualifications:

  1. Outstanding teaching record.
  2. Strong commitment to growth in teaching composition.
  3. Willingness to develop a formal presentation on topics related to writing instruction and to share those presentations with other participants at in-service workshops.
  4. Willingness to do the writing, research, and reflection that will be asked of all participants during the Summer Institute.
  5. Demonstrable success as a teacher of writing and promise as an equally successful teacher of other teachers.
  6. Willingness to be an active participant in the Oklahoma Writing Project and its professional and in-service programs.
  7. Above all, a strong and open approach to ideas.


  1. Creation and delivery of literacy presentation to be shared at your home school and with other Oklahoma teachers
  2. Portfolio of your own writings as you experience the writing process and best classroom practices
  3. Your published writing in the 2023 Summer Institute Anthology
  4. Collection of ready-to-use literacy strategies and best classroom practices aligned with Oklahoma Academic Standards
  5. Over 45 hours of professional development
  6. Become part of a network of teachers focused on improving literacy practices with Oklahoma students 

Up to $750 stipend for each participant who completes all the required components of OWP Summer Institute

March 27, 2023.
 Applicants invited to interview will receive an appointment confirmation by email by March 29, 2023.


  • Start saving your student writing samples now. You will need student samples for your interview and during the Summer Institute. Be sure and save high/low ability examples from your writing lessons. Originals are great, but copies are fine.

  • At the interview, you will bring your resume and some of your student writing samples.

The online application has further details, including the dates of the summer institute, if you are interested.

Please contact Dr. Crag Hill (director) at, Patty Coleman (co-director), or Sandi Hebert(co-director) at, if you have a specific question about 2023 OWP Summer Institute.

Read Across Oklahoma 2023

Read Across Oklahoma 2023 on April 11, 2023, will feature the book That is a Hat by author and illustrator Betty Selakovich Casey.  See this link for a variety of virtual activities your class can participate in to celebrate Read Across Oklahoma.

Read Across Oklahoma

Unraveling The Rope: Intensive Literacy Practices

SSIP Conference

This one-day conference will be held at Metro Technology Springlake in the OKC Metro on August 1st, 2023, and is intended to support all educators who work with K-3 students, specifically early literacy instruction. The OSDE is hosting this event as a program element of the State Systemic Improvement Plan through the Office of Special Education (SSIP). There will not be a registration fee for this conference. However, attendees will need to provide lunch on their own. 

More scheduling, programming, and registration information will be available on the SSIP website in the next few months. Please reach out to Alexa Hudak at for more information.

Oklahoma City Zoo Art Contest

Zoo Art contest

Calling all Oklahoma educators, the Oklahoma City Zoo invites your students, K-12, to get creative for conservation and a chance to win wild prizes including having their design on a Pepsi vending machine at the Zoo by entering the Pepsi Vending Machine Art Contest!

Now through April 23, students can enter their original designs inspired by the contest theme, “Make Oklahoma Litter Free for Wildlife”.

Students are encouraged to share their ideas about how to keep Oklahoma clean and green!

Illustrations must be submitted on an official contest entry form found here.

Entries are due Saturday, April 22, 2023. Learn more at