Inside the ELA Classroom

April 2019

Teachers are powerful. And almost everything we do improves learning (has an effect size above zero). Teachers can increase strength of student learning by knowing the impact of strategies they are using -- and by adopting strategies that work better.

Read this article by John Hattie to learn more about what he means by "Know thy impact." Investigate effect sizes Hattie's research has revealed for a variety of strategies that have been implemented in the classroom.


Encourage Students To Read

Research has shown that teachers struggle with motivating students to engage in more independent reading (especially for reading at home). Students either exclaim to not like reading or prefer their favorite video game. Find a few strategies below to motivate students to read more.

The website Bookopolis provides students a method to receive and provide recommendations from their peers. This site captures thousands of student-written book reviews.

Epic! Books allows students ages 12 and younger access to more than 10,000 digital books. The program is free to elementary teachers and librarians.

This online reading log motivates students to read more with extrinsic rewards. Students earn Wisdom Coins for logging reading, answering open-ended and reading comprehension questions. The coins are used to "buy" accessories for their Owlvatar.

Vocabulary Instruction in the classroom

"Vocabulary is the most important influence on reading comprehension."

"It takes 10 exposures to a word to learn it."

"The average child enters school knowing 5,000 – 6,000 words. Children learn 2,500 – 3,000 new words per year."

These above quotes from an article on vocabulary instruction by Marlene Asselin (2002), highlight the importance of vocabulary to students’ learning. Traditional vocabulary instruction includes distribution of vocabulary lists, student assignments to look up and copy dictionary definitions, and generate sentences for each word on the list. However, both experience and research show that sole reliance on these methods are not effective. In order for words to be truly learned (in long-term memory), there must be multiple meaningful exposures, and students must use the words in authentic engagement.

Here are suggestions to support vocabulary instruction:

1. Choose words for instruction carefully, focusing on words that are critical for understanding core content. Also consider the needs of the students; students with weak vocabulary may need instruction and support with words that they will encounter frequently. (Check the grade level Teacher Guidance for suggested key terms for teaching and learning specific to the ELA standards. ELEMENTARY MIDDLE HIGH)

2. Access students’ prior knowledge through discussion, comparing/contrasting, examples and non-examples. Helping students to make connections between a new word and related knowledge fosters in depth word learning.

3. Include frequent exposure to and vocabulary reinforcement routines that require the students to use the words. Use the words frequently and in different ways as you teach. Provide incentives for students to use the words and reinforce them when they do. Multiple exposures are required before a word enters long-term memory and it increase depth and breadth of word knowledge.

4. Model and teach students word learning strategies that they can use independently.

*** Teach students to evaluate their understanding of words they read and hear.

*** Teach use of contextual cues to predict word meanings.

*** Teach students that some common word parts are important to word meanings. Vocabulary in content subjects is dense in words with Greek or Latin roots, prefixes and suffixes. For example, understanding the meaning of prefixes like pre-, post-, pro-, anti-, bio- can contribute to understanding the large number of words that are built from these prefixes. Many dictionaries include lists of prefixes and suffixes and their meanings.

Five Suggested Classroom Vocabulary Routines

1. Students write definitions based on dictionaries or other sources/formats in words they understand. They generate sentences using the word. Word maps (a graphic representation that includes ‘What is it?, What is it like?, What are some examples?’) are an alternative or supplement to traditional dictionary definitions. Alternative activities encourage students to connect new vocabulary knowledge with prior knowledge.

2. Students complete exercises that require them to use contextual information to write the appropriate vocabulary word in a blank in a sentence or paragraph. This exercise can be even more powerful if students create and exchange the test sentences with the blanks, which their partners must fill in. Students can be asked to write an alternate word or synonym that would preserves the same meaning in each context. This provides additional focus on meaning.

3. Teacher uses and highlights vocabulary often, and students are required to identify and use vocabulary in reading, writing or class discussion.

4. Teacher selects one or two words from each vocabulary list to lead the class in creating a word web. The word is placed in the center and boxes for two or three categories (e.g. synonyms, types, attributes) are placed around it. Students then join in to contribute and discuss category examples. Students can then be assigned to work in small groups to create a web with another vocabulary word.

5. Teacher selects one or two words from each vocabulary list to teach about word parts and their meanings. For example, when middle grade classes study economics of countries, words with the Latin root ‘port-‘ (transport, import, export, deport) occur often. If students understand that the meaning of the root is ‘to carry’, they can use this information to understand and infer relationships between other words with this root. Another example occurs during a unit on the Vietnam War and anti- and pro-war responses in the United States. The teacher may lead the class in a discussion of the meanings of the prefixes ‘anti-‘ and ‘pro’ and work with the class to develop and discuss a web or list of related words that include these prefixes and their meanings.

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Content Area Vocabulary

Vocabulary lies at the heart of content learning. To support the development of academic vocabulary in the content areas, we need to find spaces to allow students time to read - intentionally selecting words worthy of instruction. What better way to teach non-fiction reading strategies than through interesting and relevant resources found in the social studies and science curriculum.

The demand on vocabulary knowledge intensifies as students matriculate through school. Vocabulary instruction could be leveraged through the interactions between the teacher, student, and text.

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Decodable Reader Protocol

Decodable readers are books that are designed to help students practice certain letter-sound patterns. Books like this typically have no storyline and may be nonsensical.They provide students with the opportunity to practice the phonetic knowledge and skills learned within a controlled text.

Student Achievement provides a Decodable Readers Protocol to demonstrate the different ways this type of text can be utilized in the classroom.

Achieve the

Fluency Resources

Achieve the Core provides a collection of fluency resources that help build and assess student fluency. Each fluency packet includes at least 40 passages.

Achieve the Core, Classroom Resources

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Read, Write, and Talk

Reading can be really engaging when it is a social act. Read, Write and Talk is a practice that gives readers opportunities to think, record thoughts, and then talk to others about what has been read. Use the STR approach - Stop, Think and React.

Teachers should model this approach with students. Take a text and read it aloud, Throughout the text, stop and think aloud about what you have read. Write thoughts or questions on a post-it note beside the text. Continue reading the text. Students can use this strategy, and then meet with a peer who has also read the text. They can compare and discuss their notes on the post-it notes. By talking with a friend, comprehension can be affirmed and new levels of interest can be gained.

The Georgia Milestones Assessment System (Georgia Milestones) is a comprehensive summative assessment pro​gram spanning grades 3 through high school. GMAS measures how well students have learned the knowledge and skills outlined in the state-adopted content standards in language arts.

Features the Georgia Milestone Assessment System include:

  • open-ended (constructed-response) items in English Language Arts (all grades and courses);
  • a writing component (in response to passages read by students) at every grade level and course within the English Language Arts assessment;
  • norm-referenced items in all content areas and courses, to complement the criterion-referenced information and to provide a national comparison;
  • ​technology-enhanced items including multiple part/multiple answer, graphing, drag and drop;
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GMAS EOG and EOC Grade Level Item Scoring Sampler (includes rubrics)

The purpose of the Item and Scoring Samplers is to provide examples of the type of constructed-response items that will appear on the End of Grade Georgia Milestones assessment. Use the rubrics and sample student responses as a guide to score student work. These samples should be used to inform instruction.

Grade 3 ELA Item and Scoring Sampler (complete document)

Grade 4 ELA Item and Scoring Sampler (complete document)

Grade 5 ELA Item and Scoring Sampler (complete document)

Grade 6 ELA Item and Scoring Sampler (complete document)

Grade 7 ELA Item and Scoring Sampler (complete document)

Grade 8 ELA Item and Scoring Sampler (complete document)

9th grade Literature (complete document)

American Literature (complete document)


Research has shown that the following 12 Words trip up students when used in questions on tests. In an effort to help students become familiar with and more at ease when faced with these terms.

Pedagogy Pause: How can these words be integrated in daily instruction?

Types of Comprehension Strategies

There are six main types of comprehension strategies (Harvey and Goudvis; 2000):

  1. Make Connections—Readers connect the topic or information to what they already know about themselves, about other texts, and about the world.
  2. Ask Questions—Readers ask themselves questions about the text, their reactions to it, and the author's purpose for writing it.
  3. Visualize—Readers make the printed word real and concrete by creating a “movie” of the text in their minds.
  4. Determine Text Importance—Readers (a) distinguish between what's essential versus what's interesting, (b) distinguish between fact and opinion, (c) determine cause-and-effect relationships, (d) compare and contrast ideas or information, (e) discern themes, opinions, or perspectives, (f) pinpoint problems and solutions, (g) name steps in a process, (h) locate information that answers specific questions, or (i) summarize.
  5. Make Inferences—Readers merge text clues with their prior knowledge and determine answers to questions that lead to conclusions about underlying themes or ideas.
  6. Synthesize—Readers combine new information with existing knowledge to form original ideas, new lines of thinking, or new creations.

Students quickly grasp how to make connections, ask questions, and visualize. However, they often struggle with the way to identify what is most important in the text, identify clues and evidence to make inferences, and combine information into new thoughts. All these strategies should be modeled in isolation many times so that students get a firm grasp of what the strategy is and how it helps them comprehend text.

However, students must understand that good readers use a variety of these strategies every time they read. Simply knowing the individual strategies is not enough, nor is it enough to know them in isolation. Students must know when and how to collectively use these strategies.

Taken from

Integrating STEM into the ELA Classroom

Use the science and engineering articles at to integrate STEM into the English Language Arts curriculum.


1st Grade

2nd Grade

3rd Grade

4th Grade

5th Grade

6th Grade

7th Grade

8th Grade

9th-10th Grades

11th-12th Grades


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The Trifecta! (Part Three)

This blog was developed based on a question posted by a fifth-grade teacher. "What do you think the three most important skills (regardless of the standards) an upper elementary student... should master prior to MS/HS?"

TGB responded to the question in three installments. From this post: "Strong verbs are important tools for maximizing the effectiveness of student writing; they allow writers to clearly and effectively convey the actions they're envisioning to their readers."

The Grammarian Blog (TGB)

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National Poetry Month

Whether reading poems written by some of the greatest poets of all time or writing poems of their own, students spend time studying poetry in the ELA classroom. While the figurative language and eloquent flow found in poems appear best-suited for ELA, poetry can become an integral part of student learning outside of the ELA classroom.

National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. It has since become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets. has a K-12 poetry collection.

30 Ways to celebrate national poetry month

National Poetry Month - readwritethink

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Poetry Assignments available on the Intranet

1. Poetry assignments suitable for a variety of grade levels, organized around 18 different types of poems. Each type is defined and illustrated with sample poems.

2. Writing Poetry LIke Pros provides assignments that evolved from literature studies.

3. 30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month

4. readwritethink activities to recognize National Poetry Month.

5. Using poetry to build vocabulary and comprehension at all levels of language acquisition

6. Using Poetry to Teach Reading

7. Poetry Lesson Plans (Grades K-12)

Why Teach Poetry in the Classroom

In the ELA classroom, poetry is one method used to teach students how to read, write, and understand text. Poetry fits into classroom themes, projects, and celebrations. Reading original poetry aloud in the classroom fosters trust and empathy within the classroom, while emphasizing speaking and listening skills that are often misplaced within the packed ELA curriculum. Introducing a poem of the week can be easily implemented to strengthen language arts lessons.

Why teach poetry? Poetry is often read aloud, repeated and shared in groups. In early elementary grades, poetry helps students build oral and listening skills. Though poetry, students learn to connect words and think about the words make meaning. Students strengthen their reading skills and build fluency through repeated reading.

Why teach poetry? Poetry often contains rhyming words. This is the opportunity to teach/review phonics, letter sounds, sentence structure, parts of speech, syllables and other grammar skills. As students are exposed to words they have not heard before, they are able to connect them in context which builds vocabulary.

Why teach poetry? With poetry, students learn how to choose words that create imagery and effect. Through poetry students follow patterns and utilize transferable skills. Well developed poetry would units include planning and brainstorming activities as well as templates to practice,

Why teach poetry? Poetry is a form of expressions that encourages students to connect to experiences. Through this process, students are encouraged look at things through multiple lens. There are instances where students who don't like writing essays could gravitate to poetry. All forms of writing positively benefit from the concise phrasing found in poetry.

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2019 Poet Laureate's Prize (9th - 12th grade students)

The Poet Laureate’s Prize contest is open to all Georgia high school students, grades 9 through 12. A winner and four finalists will be selected by the Poet Laureate and announced in early April 2019. The winning poet and finalists will meet the Governor and the Poet Laureate when they are honored at the Georgia State Capitol in the spring.

The winning and finalist poems will be published by Atlanta Magazine.

2019 Poet Laureate's Prize Entry Form


Georgia Barron Prize for Young Heroes

The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes celebrates inspiring, public-spirited young people from diverse backgrounds all across North America. Each year, the Barron Prize honors 25 outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive difference to people and the environment.


The Barron Prize welcomes applications from public-spirited young people who are, on our April 15 deadline:

  • between the ages of 8 and 18 (not yet age 19)
  • permanent residents of and currently residing in the U.S.A. or Canada
  • currently working on an inspiring service project or have done so within the past 12 months
  • working as an individual to lead their service work. The Barron Prize does not accept applications from large groups of young people.

The Barron Prize does not discriminate against its applicants based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, creed, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

Use the sample application for planning.

Write to Lead

This competition is designed to recognize girls of color primarily in 7th -12th grade. Last year Butterfly Dreams published the Girls Club Journal: Beauty Unmasked. It was a collection of short stories written by high school girls from Newark, NJ, and letters from women they consider to be “sheroes”. This year, the team is looking to expand the vision for the journal and include stories and poetry from participants of all ages.

There are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The submission should be 1,500 words or less
  • The story or poem should cover an issue that’s important to young women (i.e. self-love, physical and mental health, immigration, etc.)
  • All submissions are due by June 30, 2019

Butterfly Dreams will notify selected writers in July 2019, and the book will be published in October 2019. As of now, the committee estimates that 9 short stories and 3 poems will be selected for the journal. To scan last year’s Girls Club Journal, download a free copy of the first chapter.

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ELA Professional Learning Sessions


Tuesday, April 9, 8:15 - 3:30pm, Werz SD-1

Kindergarten Pacing Development Team

Participants will participate in professional development mini-sessions. All information should be redelivered to school level staff. The team will revise the pacing guide and develop appropriate resources to enhance instruction. ELA Ambassadors should complete the paperwork in CabNet and secure classroom coverage. (Elementary ELA Content Ambassadors)

Wednesday, April 24, 8:15 - 3:30pm

Grade 3 Pacing Development Team

Participants will participate in professional development mini-sessions. All information should be redelivered to school level staff. The team will revise the pacing guide and develop appropriate resources to enhance instruction. ELA Ambassadors should complete the paperwork in CabNet and secure classroom coverage. (Elementary ELA Content Ambassadors)

Tuesday, April 30, 8:15 - 3:30pm

Grade 4 Pacing Development Team

Participants will participate in professional development mini-sessions. All information should be redelivered to school level staff. The team will revise the pacing guide and develop appropriate resources to enhance instruction. ELA Ambassadors should complete the paperwork in CabNet and secure classroom coverage. (Elementary ELA Content Ambassadors)


Monday, April 22, Google Classroom

The Writing Revolution Book Study

In this professional learning session participants will read and discuss The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in All Subjects and Grades as it relates to the district SMART Goal and ELA Writing initiative. Participants will discuss theoretical and pedagogical frameworks and best practices to enhance writing instruction. -Chapter II and III


Monday, April 22, Google Classroom

The Writing Revolution Book Study

In this professional learning session participants will read and discuss The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in All Subjects and Grades as it relates to the district SMART Goal and ELA Writing initiative. Participants will discuss theoretical and pedagogical frameworks and best practices to enhance writing instruction. -Chapter II and III

Save the dates:

May 1st, Middle Grades Curriculum Pacing 8:30 - 4:00pm

May 7th, Elementary Writing Curriculum Planning

May 9th, Grade 5 Curriculum Pacing Meeting

May 14th, Grade 9 Curriculum Pacing & GCA Training

May 29th, Grade 11 Curriculum Pacing & GCA Training

June 12 - 13, ELA Writing Institute

June 18 - 19, Reading & Literacy Summer Institute

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Thank you for your enthusiasm and participation as we incorporate reading strategies across the content! Including the six strategies presented at the beginning of this newsletter, there have been 26 reading strategies introduced through the ELA newsletter.

We realize that problems in reading can affect performance across other academic content areas and functional skills used in everyday life. Good readers have a repertoire of comprehension strategies to help them construct meaning from text. Struggling readers know very few strategies. Through this initiative, we will introduce and model research based strategies in order to aid students in building their personal toolbox of strategies to understand text.

For March, April and May let's take the time to review the strategies featured in this publication and previous newsletters. It is imperative to provide opportunities for students to review previously learned strategies. In order for students to be successful using these strategies, it is important to incorporate time for spiral review through the reading strategies.




Because, But, and So

Input Skill: Fiction Reading/Organizer/Sorter

Titles Can be Telling


Syntax Surgery

Because, But, and So

activating Prior Knowledge

Compensating for Missing Prior Knowledge


Probably Passage

Building Stamina

It Says - I Say



Reciprocal Teaching


The Whole and Teeny Tiny Details


Add up facts to determine the main idea

Read, Cover, Remember, Tell

V.I.P. Comprehension Strategy

Scan & Plan

Sticky Notes


Plan & Label Non-fiction Strategy



Contact Dr. Paula Baker, ELA/Literacy Content Specialist with any questions, comments, or concerns.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

~Nelson Mandela