Inside the ELA Classroom

August 2018

New School Year, New Opportunities

School is back in session and excitement is in the air! This time of year provides new opportunities for both students and teachers. Now that your year is set for a wonderful start, please take a moment to review some updates and resources for English Language Arts.


UPDATE: Coweta County Curriculum Website

Updated Curriculum Pacing Guides and additional resources are available on the Coweta County School System's curriculum website. Check out the site! Return often for updates.

Learning Resources (Shared folders)

Click on the appropriate grade level, then click on "Open in Drive" to add the Learning Resources Folder to your Google drive. To access the drive, it is important to use your Coweta County email address.






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Learning never stops! Remember to join the Google Classroom designated for your grade band to interact with colleagues throughout the district.


A Nobel prize-winning physicist identified three simple steps to mastering any subject

The famous Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman understood the difference between “knowing something” and “knowing the name of something," and it’s one of the most important reasons for his success. Feynman stumbled upon a formula for learning that ensured he understood something better than everyone else.

It’s called the Feynman Technique and it will help you learn anything deeper, and faster. The topic, subject, or concept you want to learn doesn’t matter. Pick anything. The Feynman Technique works for everything. Best of all, it’s incredibly simple to implement. The catch: It’s ridiculously humbling.

Not only is this a wonderful method of learning, but it’s also a window into a different way of thinking.

There are three steps to the Feynman Technique.

Step 1: Teach it to a child

Take out a blank sheet of paper and write the subject you want to learn at the top. Write out what you know about the subject as if you were teaching it to a child. Not your smart adult friend but rather an eight-year-old who has just enough vocabulary and attention span to understand basic concepts and relationships.

A lot of people tend to use complicated vocabulary and jargon to mask when they don’t understand something. The problem is we only fool ourselves because we don’t know that we don’t understand. In addition, using jargon conceals our misunderstanding from those around us.

When you write out an idea from start to finish in simple language that a child can understand (tip: use only the most common words), you force yourself to understand the concept at a deeper level and simplify relationships and connections between ideas. If you struggle, you have a clear understanding of where you have some gaps. That tension is good—it heralds an opportunity to learn.

Step 2: Review

In step one, you will inevitably encounter gaps in your knowledge where you’re forgetting something important, are not able to explain it, or simply have trouble connecting an important concept.

This is invaluable feedback because you’ve discovered the edge of your knowledge. Competence is knowing the limit of your abilities, and you’ve just identified one!

This is where the learning starts. Now you know where you got stuck, go back to the source material and re-learn it until you can explain it in basic terms.

Identifying the boundaries of your understanding also limits the mistakes you’re liable to make and increases your chance of success when applying knowledge.

Step 3: Organize and simplify

Now you have a set of hand-crafted notes. Review them to make sure you didn’t mistakenly borrow any of the jargon from the source material. Organize them into a simple story that flows.

Read them out loud. If the explanation isn’t simple or sounds confusing that’s a good indication that your understanding in that area still needs some work.

Step 4 (optional): Transmit

If you really want to be sure of your understanding, run it past someone (ideally who knows little of the subject—or find that 8-year-old!). The ultimate test of your knowledge is your capacity to convey it to another.


Feynman’s approach intuitively believes that intelligence is a process of growth, which dovetails nicely with the work of Carol Dweck, who beautifully describes the difference between a fixed and growth mindset.

Copied from: This post originally appeared on Medium. If you want to work smarter and not harder, I recommend subscribing to The Brain Food Newsletter. You can follow Shane on Twitter and Facebook, and read more of his work at Farnam Street.


Free Sites to Practice Reading Comprehension

1. Newsela. Have you already tried Newsela? Articles are provided at different Lexile levels. You can assign the same news article to all classes no matter the level. Why? Newsela offers five different levels of the same news item. You just need to choose the levelled version you want to use.The site also offers a multiple choice exercise to test your comprehension of the article.

2. Dreamreader is a free website with more than 500 reading lessons. Every lesson comes with free audio, a free printable worksheet and a free multiple choice quiz. The site offers 5 categories to help enhance reading comprehension. One category provides lessons and quiz questions for beginner, low intermediate, intermediate, upper intermediate and advanced students.

3. GCF LearnFree has a wide variety of topics displayed at the top of the page. Choose the topic you want to read about and then at the bottom, select the kind of exercise to complete. If you want to practice reading comprehension, select “Text” and then from the two options offered, choose “Reading Comprehension”.

4. Teaching Kids News offers original news articles on topics that are “timely and relevant”. There are no comprehension questions; however, each article includes Writing/Discussion Prompts, Grammar Features, and a Reading Prompt.


New Features in has made several changes based on teacher feedback. Please see below for a quick summary of the program updates.

ReadWorks is a resource for reading passage and lesson plans for K-12 teachers. Texts include pre-made worksheets, quizzes, and other printable materials necessary to enhance the lesson. ReadWorks is free for teachers to use.

Featured texts include both fiction and non-fiction passages. Texts are sortable by keywords, grade, or lexile levels, or by the specific skill or strategy that a teacher would like to address. All passages are accompanied by related question sets.

The platform allows for teachers to maintain an online “binder” of materials used. All materials are printable.


Simple strategies to Use Daily

1. Ask students to reflect - During the last five minutes of class ask students to reflect on the lesson and write down what they learned. Have students consider how they would apply the skill or concept in the general setting.

2. Ask students to summarize - encourage students to summarize or paraphrase important concepts and lessons.

3. Ask students open-ended questions - Avoid yes/no questions and phrases like "Does that make sense?" To assist students while they grasp the skills and new concepts, ask open-ended questions that require them to write and talk.

4. Think-pair-share - Students think about the question, idea or prompt. After independent processing, the students compare and share ideas with a partner before large group or whole class discussion.


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Research based instructional strategies positively impact student learning. Each month new strategies will be featured. When using any strategy, teachers should (1) ensure students understand why the strategy is useful, and (2) describe explicitly how the strategy should be used. Demonstrate, model, and follow-up with independent practice opportunities. Remember to share the strategies with your colleagues in other content areas. We are all in this together!

PLAN & LABEL: Nonfiction Reading Strategy

1.28 effect size

There are seven (7) steps

1. Box in and read the title.

2. Trace and number the paragraphs.

3. Stop and think at the end of each paragraph to identify a key point.

4. Circle the key word or write the key point in the margin.

5. Read and label the key words in the questions.

6. Prove your answer. Locate the paragraph where the answer can be found.

7. Mark or write your answer.

Revised Edition-Research Based Strategies: Narrowing the Achievement Gap for Under Resourced Students

by Ruby K. Payne (Author), Ed.D. (Author), Bethanie H. Tucker (Author)

“Questioning is the strategy that propels learners ahead and keeps them coming back for more.” (The Comprehension Toolkit, “Ask Questions”, p. 17 ).

As educators we build enrich students' natural curiosity by encouraging them to ask questions when they read or are read to. Asking questions is empowering.

The questioning strategy easily becomes a pre-reading practice. Begin a unit of study by showing students images (maps, charts, diagrams) that relate to the topic, and simply ask them to jot down their wonderings (questions), as well as any other thoughts. This exercise provides a quick assessment of students' prior knowledge for the teacher. Additionally it activates the students' curiosity as they prepare to dive into the unit.