Inside the ELA Classroom

August 2019

Greetings and Best Wishes for a Sensational 2019-20 School Year!

I hope everyone had a pleasant and rewarding summer filled with time to refresh, restore, and relax. The start of a school year is always a special time, with new students, new initiatives and exciting ideas. I am certain that this school year will be a year of setting and reaching attainable goals, working harder and smarter to take our students to the next level of greatness.

All signs point to an incredible and productive school year as we move forward with revised curriculum pacing guides and strategies to positively impact literacy instruction. Thank you to all who served diligently on the Curriculum, Reading/Literacy, and Writing development teams as we worked with this new school year in mind. Remember: Raz Plus and Vocabulary A-Z are Learning A-Z products available to all elementary students. Renaissance STAR Reading has an updated platform and is available to grades 1– 9! STAR reading measures students' understanding of multiple reading skills across a variety of domains. Your commitment to ensuring the success of our students is awe-inspiring.

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Updated Curriculum Pacing Guides and resources are available through the Curriculum Website. Check out the site! Return often for updates.

Direct links to the Learning Resources (Shared folders) and grade level pacing guides can be accessed by following the directions below. To access all information, it is important to use your Coweta County email address.



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

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The District Renaissance Place site has been upgraded to the new platform. Save the link below in order to access.

Renaissance LOGIN:

Don’t forget, we have the online support of Renaissance

  • Phone support: Call toll free (800) 338-4204. A representative will be available, Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. through 7:00 p.m. Central time.
  • Live Chat: The link for the live chat is in the upper right-hand corner of your Renaissance home page when you are logged in.
  • Email Support: Email us at
  • Renaissance Refresher: Subscribe to the bi-weekly E-Newsletter and stay informed about key updates. The newsletter includes tips and resources.

To sign up:

All passwords from the previous platform are now lower case.

Passwords will be case sensitive.

Do not change students' passwords. We will continue to use the student identification.

Directions to run a password report are available in the Student Accounts, Usernames, and Passwords video. The report can be grouped by class or grade.

All students accounts are automatically cleared (unlocked) after 5 minutes.

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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.

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.

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


Kaizena provides your students with fast feedback.

Review up to 75% faster than typing with Voice Comments. Embed explainer videos in three clicks. Track Skills with an auto-completed rubric.


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Juicy Sentence Guidance

The guidance outlines some ideas for fostering conversations around “juicy sentences.” The juicy sentence is a strategy developed by Dr. Lily Wong Fillmore, specifically to address the needs of ELLs and accessing complex text, and it is a tool that is useful for helping all students learn to deconstruct and reconstruct sentences, and to understand how different language features contribute to meaning. The guidance includes:

  • Information on the value of juicy sentence work for supporting access to complex text for all students
  • A checklist of considerations for selecting a sentence for juicy sentence work
  • An annotated exemplar sentence
  • A model process

More information about Dr. Lily Wong Fillmore’s work can be found in this article.

District Writing Initiative


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Writing Ideas for August

With a new school year beginning soon, now is the perfect time to get kids back in the habit of regular reflection and writing. These special prompts for August are the perfect way to help students think about the places they’ve been—and more importantly, the places they’re going.

1. Write about some of your best experiences this summer. Remember to include details so that the reader can imagine being there with you.

2. Reflect on the last week of your summer vacation. What were some of the most exciting things you did? What are some of your favorite memories?

3. Write about a secret that you’ve kept for someone else. Is it hard to keep secrets? Have you ever told a secret that you were supposed to keep?

4. Think about the first few days of school and events that made you laugh. How do you feel when you write about these things?

5. Write about three things that you would like to see happen by the end of the year. What can you do to start making these goals reality?

6. Research the history of your favorite candy. Did you learn anything you didn’t know?

7. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech on August 28, 1963. In his speech he called for an end to discrimination. Beginning with the words "I Have a Dream," write a speech about your hopes for your class this school year.

8. Think about the past few months of summer vacation. As you get ready to start school, what parts of summer will you miss the most?

9. Write about a time when you set a goal and managed to complete it. How did you accomplish your goal? How did you feel when it was completed? Do you think this strategy would work with a new goal?

10. How do you feel when you finish a major project or task? Are you good at finishing things you’ve started or do you get easily distracted and move on to something else?

11. Share something about yourself that is unique. How does this character trait make you different from others? How does it feel to have a unique quality?

12. Write about a nice thing you did for someone else this week. Did you help someone or compliment someone? How did you feel while helping others? How do you think they felt?

13. Share something you’re afraid of. Where do you think your fear comes from? Do you think others share the same fear?

14. What is your favorite part of the school day? Why?

15. What five things did you learn in school last year?

16. Imagine the perfect summer vacation. Where would you go? What would you do?

17. Where did summer go?

18. August is the only month without a major holiday in it. Create a new holiday that will occur in August.

19. As August comes to a close, look back on the last month. How has journaling each day helped you? Do you feel more aware of your ideas and feelings? Do you feel like you’re a better writer? Why or why not?

20. Describe something you’re proud of doing. How did you feel when you accomplished it? Do you feel good when you reflect on the experience?

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Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious recognition program for creative teens in grades 7–12. Through the Scholastic Awards, teens in grades 7–12 (ages 13 and up) from public, private, or home schools can apply in 29 categories of art and writing for their chance to earn scholarships and have their works exhibited and published. Beyond the Awards, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers produces a number of programs to support creative students and their educators, including the Art.Write.Now.Tour, the National Student Poets Program, the Scholastic Awards Summer Workshops and Scholastic Awards Summer Scholarships programs, the Golden Educators Residency, and much more.

For the 2019 competition, students submitted nearly 340,000 works of visual art and writing to the Scholastic Awards; nearly 90,000 works were recognized at the regional level and celebrated in local exhibitions and ceremonies. The top art and writing at the regional level were moved onto the national stage, where more than 2,700 students earned National Medals.

Students may begin submitting work in September by uploading it to an online account.

American Foreign Service High School Essay Contest

The American Foreign Service Association’s national high school essay contest completed its twenty-first year with nearly 700 submissions from 41 states and five countries.

Age Group: 9th–12th grades

How to Enter: Each year a new prompt is published in September. Stay tuned to the contest web page so you can find it when school begins. Winners receive full tuition to the Semester at Sea program as well as a trip to Washington, DC, to meet with a leader at the Department of State.

John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest

Description: This annual contest invites students to write about a political official’s act of political courage that occurred after Kennedy’s birth. The winner receives $10,000 as well as a trip to Boston to accept the award.

Age Group: 9th–12th grades

How to Enter: Students must submit 700–1000 word essays by January 18, 2019. The essays must feature more than five sources and a full bibliography. Read the requirements and find the link for submission here.


  • The contest deadline is January 17, 2020 at 11:59 PM (EST).
  • Essays can be no more than 1,000 words but must be a minimum of 700 words. Citations and bibliography are not included in the word count.
  • Essays must be the original work of the student.
  • John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Edward M. Kennedy are not eligible subjects for essays.
  • Essays must describe an act of political courage by a U.S. elected official who served during or after 1917, the year John F. Kennedy was born. The official may have addressed an issue at the local, state, or national level. See Contest Topic and Information and Helpful Tips for Writing Your Essay for more information.
  • Essays about past recipients of the Profile in Courage Award will be disqualified unless they describe an act of political courage other than the act for which the award was given.
  • Essays about the senators in Profiles in Courage will be disqualified.
  • Essays must have a minimum of five sources.

Engineer Girl Annual Essay Contest

Engineer Girl sponsors an essay contest with topics centered on the impact of engineering on the world. Students can win up to $500 in prize money. This contest is a nice bridge between ELA and STEM and allows teachers to incorporate an interdisciplinary project into the curriculum. The new contest prompt is published in October. Check out the educator’s page for more information about how to support this contest at your school.

Age Groups: 3rd–5th grades; 6th–8th grades; 9th–12th grades

How to Enter: Students submit their work electronically. Word limit varies by grade level. Check out the full list of rules and requirements here.

Bennington Young Writers Awards

Bennington College offers a competition in three categories: poetry (a group of three poems), fiction (a short story or one-act play), and nonfiction (a personal or academic essay). First place winners receive $500.

Age Group: 10th–12th grades

How to Enter: The contest runs from September 1 to November 1, so stay tuned to the website for information about how to submit entries.

Each year, students in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades are invited to enter in one of the following categories with the following submission:

  1. Poetry: A group of three poems

  2. Fiction: A short story or one-act play (1,500 words or fewer)

  3. Nonfiction: A personal or academic essay (1,500 words or fewer)

A first, second, and third place winner is selected in each category.

Awards & Rules

First-place winners in each category are awarded a prize of $500; second-place winners receive $250; third-place winners receive $125.

  • All entries must be original work and sponsored by a high school teacher.

  • Judges include Bennington College faculty and students.

The competition runs annually from September 1 to November 1. Winning entries are posted by April 19.

The Ocean Awareness Contest

This competition invites students to use their creativity to make a difference for our planet. As the creators share on their website, “Our contest is a call for young artists, thinkers, and activists who are concerned about the future of our human and natural communities to use their creative voices to explore, express, and advocate for issues related to climate change and our oceans.” Students are eligible for a wide range of monetary prizes.

Age Groups: Ages 11–14 (Jr. Division); Ages 15–18 (Sr. Division)

How to Enter: Students may submit work in the categories of art, poetry, prose, film, or music which must always be accompanied by a reflection. Check out the contest details for a set of educator resources as well as the new contest prompt coming out in September.

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ELA Professional Learning Sessions


Thursday, August 8, 3:00 -4:15pm, Werz PLC

Elementary Phonics

In this professional learning session, attendees will review effective instructional practices for multisensory phonics instruction. Participants who attended the session on July 30th are asked to bring their flashcards.

Tuesday, August 13, 2:45 - 4:00pm

Grade 1 District ELA Meeting

In this professional learning session, grade 1 teachers will participate in mini-sessions that include discussion of the revised curriculum pacing guide, reading and writing instruction and available resources.

Thursday, August 15, 2:45 - 4:00pm

Grade 2 District ELA Meeting

In this professional learning session, grade 2 teachers will participate in mini-sessions that include discussion of the revised curriculum pacing guide, reading and writing instruction and available resources.

Date TBD

Ready Reading

The Educational Consultant from Curriculum Associates, Ready Reading will provide training for school representatives. Three two-hour sessions will be presented.

8:30 - 10:30 am

11:00 - 1:00 pm

1:30 - 3:30 pm

*The first session is designated for 1st grade teachers. Principals will receive a document to register participants.

Tuesday, August 29, 2:45 - 4:00pm

Grade 3 District ELA Meeting

In this professional learning session, grade 3 teachers will participate in mini-sessions that include discussion of the revised curriculum pacing guide, the targeted writing plan, reading and writing instruction and available resources.

Please review your Professional Learning Schedule for a complete list.


Wednesday, August 28, 4:00 - 5:00pm

Middle Grades District Department Meeting

All middle grades ELA teachers are invited to participate in the monthly middle grades department meeting. Discussion topics will include strategies to support instruction and inform pedagogy based on district trends found through the Assesslet Data Digs. Participants are asked to bring a Chromebook.

Monday, September 23, 3:45 - 5:00pm

Tech Tools for Secondary ELA Teachers

In this professional learning session, teachers will participate on site or virtually through live stream to explore dozens of free online tools that support students and teachers in the work of reading, writing, speaking, listening and research. Register here. There is no registration cost.

Please review your Professional Learning Schedule for a complete list.


Wednesday, August 21st, 4:00 - 5:00pm

GCA: Using the Item Bank

In this professional learning session participants will discuss steps and strategies to utilize the Georgia Center for Assessment Item Bank. Participants will collaborate to create mini assessments using the item bank.

Monday, September 23, 3:45 - 5:00pm

Tech Tools for Secondary ELA Teachers

In this professional learning session, teachers will participate on site or virtually through live stream to explore dozens of free online tools that support students and teachers in the work of reading, writing, speaking, listening and research. Register here. There is no registration cost.

Please review your Professional Learning Schedule. Dates are TBD based on submissions from your Department Chairs.

Thank you for your enthusiasm and participation as we incorporated reading strategies across the content for the 2018-29 school year! We agree that problems in reading can affect performance across other academic content areas and every day functional skills. Good readers have a repertoire of comprehension strategies to help them construct meaning from text. Through this initiative, research based strategies were introduced through modeling. This practice was designed to aid students in building their personal toolbox of strategies to understand text. Refer to the previous newsletters for details regarding the reading strategies introduced.
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Have you heard of "blank page syndrome?" This happens when students stare at a blank screen or paper. The cursor blinks, the pencil swings, or the pen twiddles without any words appearing on the page. Some research says that writing with fluency and volume is unnatural. Through the use of writing strategies, our objective will be to ease the stress of writing for our students.

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


Making a List

Select a time ( such as the first school day of each month), students work together in whole group, tables, or with partners to create a list of words that might be used in writing for the month. The lists could be displayed in the classroom for students to use. Words may be thematic, holiday, seasonal, and/or content related. By displaying the lists, teachers alleviate questions on ow to spell words while directing students to recognize terms that could be used throughout the month.

1. Take more time the first time this strategy is introduced by explaining to the class/groups/partners that the list of words will be used for multiple purposes throughout the month. Words may be thematic (use your curriculum pacing guide as a reference), holiday, seasonal, and/or content specific. Suggest to students they may want to think of words they find tricky to spell.

2. Model the Think-aloud by recording two or three words that could be used for the month of August. ( school, courage, discovery, football, informational, genre, etc.)

3. Ask students to suggest words to develop the list. Discussion could include content review of material from last school year.

4. Display list for student access.

5. Remember to direct students to the list throughout the month.

6. Repeat the development process each month.

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Quick Writes

This strategy build fluence and allows students to practice writing spontaneously from a prompt. Thi quick write can be used to reinforce specific areas of writing instruction. Once students understand the process, allow them to provide the prompt or select the prompt from a bag. This quick strategy could be extended when students are required to carry this writing through the entire process and public a complete piece.

1. Students have a pencil/pen and paper, or Google Doc ready to write.

2. Read the prompt. (one word, a phrase, a sentence - snow, football, sticky bubble gum, a large red box in the corner). Students begin to write based on the prompt that is read.

3. Give an exciting "GO" to signal for the students to start. Time the writing for one minutes, two minutes, five minutes, or ten minutes.

4. Alert the chapter when it is time to stop. Students may finish the final thought.

5. Volunteers can share their writing with the class.

*6. The writing may also center on a specific skill that was recently studied.


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

Nine-tenths of education is encouragement.

~Anatole France

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.

~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.