Inside the ELA Classroom

May 2019

English Language Arts Curriculum Pacing

Thank you - thank you - thank you ! The ELA Ambassadors have been hard at work revising the Curriculum Pacing Guides (Scope & Sequence). The DRAFT documents are linked below for your grade level and vertical review. Check with your grade level representative to gain clarification on the revisions. Remember to submit any questions, comments, or concerns regarding the guide to your representatives by May 17th.


Grade 1

Grade 2

Grade 3

Grade 4

Grade 5 (meeting 5/9/19)

Grade 6

Grade 7

Grade 8

Grade 9

Grade 10

Grade 11

Grade 12


It's May, and soon it will be time for those lazy, hazy days of summer. This time of year has the potential for the onset of the "summer slump". Research indicates that over the summer students can lose more than two months of what they learned in math (Alexander, Entwisle, & Olson, 2007; Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsay, & Greathouse, 1996). It is widely understood that on average students lose academic ground during the summer, a phenomenon frequently referred to as "summer learning loss" or “summer slide.”

Assuming that more resources help prevent the summer slide and fewer resources exacerbate it, it is important that we share with students and parents resources available throughout the summer. Below are several ways ways to keep the literacy faucet running during the break.

Encourage parents to visit the neighborhood public library and select books of interest. Suggest time is scheduled to read every day.

Reading Resources

Find the version for home. Many of the digital resources and programs used during the school year have versions designed for home review. Check your subscriptions to determine if the product is available through the summer months.

Use Newsela, CommonLit, and ReadWorks to assign summer work. These programs allow teachers to stream educational activities.


30 Storytelling Tips for Teachers: How to Capture Your Students' Attention

by TeachThought Staff

... Stories will stay with people much longer than facts or statistics. If a teacher becomes an excellent storyteller, he or she can ensure that any concept they teach will be remembered for years to come.

Stories don’t just work well for narratives; they can be used to illustrate scientific or mathematical processes as well. Take for example the difference between learning a formula, and the ability to solve that problem in the context of a real-life example. Stories bring information, knowledge, and truth to life.

1. Every Part Must Be Essential

When you compose your storyline, be it a fictional story to teach a lesson, or a non-fiction example, make sure that each part of the story is essential to the ending. Each character, point, or principle must somehow relate to the main point you are trying to drive home. Anything that does not affect the outcome in some way (directly or indirectly) can be hacked off the story.

Let’s take for example, a story about the planets. You may be trying to help students memorize the order of the solar system. Any tale you concoct to help illuminate the facts must be related to the planets. It is not the time to talk about black holes, supernovas, or even the size of each planet.

Keep the main thing…the main thing.

2. You Must Have a Hook In Your Opening

In writing, it is called an inciting incident. You hook the listener in by presenting a problem that encourages them to keep listening. You can use this tactic in any lesson.

For example, if you are teaching the concept of photosynthesis, start your story by imagining a world in which all the flowers didn’t have leaves. You create a problem that the story (in this case photosynthesis) solves. In many cases, students don’t realize how many principles they take for granted (gravity, light, etc.).

Creating a world in which it is taken away reveals the ultimate importance of the process you are describing.

3. Draw a Theme Out of Your Story

Stories have a depth of meaning when there is a theme. However, it isn’t always easy to write a story with a theme in mind. Rather, write the story first—with all the points you want to cover. When you’ve finished, stand back from the story for a moment to see if you can draw out a theme.

This is especially important when your story relates to incidents in the past. History can be a boring subject without a lot of real-life application. Themes help connect the past with the present, and ultimately the future. Don’t be discouraged if once you find your theme, you have to rework and rewrite the story. This is common.

***Follow the link below to find the remaining 28 activities to engage students in storytelling.

30 Storytelling Tips For Teachers: How to Capture Your Students' Attention


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.

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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.


Useful tools to assist students enhance their writing. The categories" Digital storytelling tools, Comic strips tools, Mind Mapping tools, story starters, Writing mechanics (grammar and style), Graphic organizers, and Tools for publishing students writing.

Taken from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning

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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Unite for Literacy provides free access to picture books. The engaging digital picture books are complete with audio narration options in a variety of languages.


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Summer Literacy Ideas for High School Students

High school students have packed schedules during the summer. Research shows that students (include high school students) lose up to two months of curriculum content. As we think about students’ performance on standardized test scores and GPA, literacy becomes increasingly important. See below for several options for students to focus on literacy without ruining the summer jobs, sports, parties, family vacations, or time with friends.

1. Encourage your student to sign up for Goodreads

For the teen who is “too mature” to sign up for your local library’s summer reading programs, literary social media sites like Goodreads are a great platform to track reading, share thoughts about books — thereby practicing writing skills — and find new books to read in the future. Students can use the site for personal use and fun: they might discover some great books, and will definitely find a wonderful literary community!

2. Create an Instagram account or blog to document their summer reading journey

Literary-specific sites are not the only platforms to share reading experiences. Instagram is full of young readers, posting artsy pictures of their favorite books, making recommendations, and connecting with other readers across the world. Literary blogs function the same way: for a generation fluent in the art of digital communication, parents should take advantage of the opportunities available on social media, and encourage their teens to incorporate their reading experiences with their social experiences. It’s an exciting new way for readers to share their excitement for literature, and inspire others!

3. Suggest students turn summer gathering into a book trivia event

Students could discuss books that were made into movies, and hold a movie night when they finished reading the book. For music lovers, the students could develop playlists or write songs to correspond with the novels they read.

5. Encourage your teen to tutor a younger child

One of the best ways to learn is to teach. Many parents of elementary or middle school kids are often looking for a high school student to tutor their child in a difficult subject. Sometimes parents feel uncomfortable teaching the subject themselves, or feel that their child would respond better to an outside influence — especially a cool older kid. High school students could earn money and review content in subjects that interested them. They will gain a unique understanding of the subject when forced to break it down into comprehensive steps.

6. Challenge students to read from a selected list that focuses on content, not quantity

Develop a list of summer reading that will challenge your high school students in their content, not the amount of books involved. A content challenge can come in many different forms: it might simply have to do with the difficulty of the prose. It can also mean challenging the students’ point of view by venturing into new territory in terms of unfamiliar cultures and voices.

Taken from Summer Literacy Strategies: High School

-9 tips and tools to keep your high school student engaged in learning all summer long


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Writing Ideas for May

May is often a beautiful month, full of flowers and sunshine. The month of May we celebrate GMAS success and Teacher Appreciation week. Take advantage of this time of year with the simple writing assignments, warm-up activities and journal topics below.

May Holidays

  • American Bike Month
  • Flower Month
  • Asthma & Allergy Awareness Month
  • National Bar-B-Que Month
  • National Physical Fitness and Sports Month
  • Older Americans Month
  • National Hamburger Month

Writing Prompt Ideas for May

May 1 - Theme: May Day
(MS) May Day is a traditional celebration of Spring in countries around the globe, often including dancing and flowers around a maypole. However, May Day is rarely celebrated in the United States. Do you think that Americans should celebrate May Day? Why or why not?

(HS) In Chicago 1886, 15 people were killed during the Haymaker Riot strikes held to protest poor working conditions. In sympathy, European nations, many socialist or communist, established May Day to honor the cause of the worker.

May 2 - Theme: Holocaust Remembrance Day

Some people argue that the Holocaust is too disturbing for students to learn about in middle school or even in high school. Write a persuasive paragraph explaining why it should be included in the curriculum.

May 3 - Theme: National Day of Prayer is usually observed on the first Thursday of May. This day is an interdenominational event when faiths from across the country pray for the United States and its leaders. The word "pray" was first used in the early 13th century to mean "ask earnestly, beg." What would you like to "ask earnestly, beg" for in your life?

May 4 - Theme: Star Wars Day

The date comes from the catchphrase, "May the 4th [force] Be With You."
What is your opinion about the "Star Wars" film franchise? Do you love it, hate it? Are there reasons to appreciate the series? For example, from 2015 to the present, the film series has made millions of dollars:

  • "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (2015) over $900 million
  • "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" (2017) over $600 million
  • "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" (2016) over $500 million

May 5 - Theme: Cinco de Mayo

Many people across the United States celebrate the day, but they do not know what Cinco de Mayo commemorates. The day recognizes when Mexican Army's victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla, in 1862. Should there be more education on knowing this holiday or other international holidays?

May 6 - Theme: American Bike Month
(MS) 40% of Americans have a bicycle. Do you know how to ride a bike? Do you have a bicycle? What could be the advantages of having a bicycle? What are the disadvantages of riding a bike?

(HS) Urban planners include more bike lanes to reduce car traffic. The benefits of bicycles in cities are the reduction of car emissions and the increase of exercise. Is this planning a good thing? Or, is this planning something cities should do? Could this planning be like the idiom the says something is needed "like a fish needs a bicycle "?

May 7 - Theme: Teacher Appreciation (Week May 7-11)
What qualities do you think a great teacher must have? Explain your answer.
Do you have a favorite teacher from your school experiences? Write a letter of appreciation to that teacher.

May 8 - Theme: National Train Day
High-speed trains can travel fast with some prototypes with speeds over 400 mph. In theory, a high-speed train could race up the East Coast, from NYC to Miami, in seven hours. The same trip would take a car about 18.5 hours. Should Americans invest in high-speed rails for trains or in roads for cars? Why or why not?

May 9 - Theme: Peter Pan Day
Pretend you were in J.M. Barrie's story about Peter Pan, a boy who never grows up and remain eternally young. Which part would you most like to see or do: fly, visit with mermaids, fight the pirate Captain Hook, or meet the mischievous fairy Tinkerbell? Explain your answer.

May 10 - Theme: Civil Disobedience.
In 1994, political activist Nelson Mandela was sworn in as South Africa's 1st black president. Mandela followed the example of the civil disobedience practices used by Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King. Consider King's statement, "Any man who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community on the injustice of the law is at that moment expressing the very highest respect for the law." For what injustice have you seen that utilized this though process? What What is your opinion on this expression of civil disobedience?


May 10: Theme: Postcards
In 1861, the US Post Office authorized the first postcard. Postcards are usually sent from a vacation place or as a greeting card to mark an event, or even just to say "hello".
Design a postcard and prepare a message.

May 11 - Theme: Asthma & Allergy Awareness Month
Do you have asthma or allergies? If so, what are your triggers? (What makes you have an attack or sneeze, etc.) If not, do you think that schools do enough to help those who have asthma and allergies? Why or why not?

May 12: Theme: National Limerick Day Limericks are poems with the following scheme: five-lines of an anapestic meter (unstressed syllable, unstressed syllable, stressed syllable) with a strict rhyme scheme of AABBA. For example:

"There was an Old Man in a tree,
Who was horribly bored by a Bee;
When they said, 'Does it buzz?'
He replied, 'Yes, it does!'
'It's a regular brute of a Bee!'"

Try to write a limerick.

May 13 - Theme: Mother's Day
Write a descriptive paragraph or poem about either your Mother or someone who is a Mother figure to you.


May 13 - Theme: Tulip Day
In the 17th century, tulip bulbs were so prized that traders would mortgage their houses and fields. (provide a picture or bring in real tulips). Describe a tulip or another flower using all five senses.

May 14 - Theme: Lewis and Clark Expedition
William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was able to create a map of the Louisiana Purchase by merely walking through and exploring it. Today Google uses cars with custom cameras over five million miles to develop their Google Maps apps. How do maps figure in your life? How might they figure in your future?

May 15 - Theme: L. F. Baum's Birthday - Author of the Wizard of Oz books and creator of Dorothy, the Wicked Witch of the West, the Scarecrow, the Lion, the Tin Man, and the Wizard.
Which character from the world of Oz would you most like to meet? Explain your answer.

May 16 - Theme: National Bar-B-Que Month
The word barbecue comes from the Caribbean word “barbacoa.” Originally, barbacoa was not a way of cooking food, but the name of a wooden structure used by indigenous Taino Indians to smoke their food. Barbeque ranks in the top 20 most popular foods in the USA. What's your favorite picnic food? Do you like bar-b-que, hamburgers, hot dogs, fried chicken, or something else entirely? What makes it so special?

May 17 - Theme: Kentucky Derby
(MS) This horse race is also called "The Run for the Roses" for the draped blanket of roses placed over the winning horse. This idiom uses a rose, as do many other idioms. Choose one of the following rose idioms, or any other idiom you know, and give an example as to when it could be used:

(HS) Just before the race at the Kentucky Derby, the crowds sing "My Old Kentucky Home." The revised lyrics of the original song by Stephen Foster changed the word "darkies", and substituted the word "people." Crowds now sing:

"The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home
Tis summer, the people are gay..."

Should songs with questionable lyrics from years ago continue to be used for public events? Are there songs that are so inappropriate that they should be dropped entirely?

May 18 - Theme: International Museum Day

There are numerous world-class museums around the world. For example, there is The Louvre, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Hermitage. There are also some oddball museums such as Museum of Bad Art or the National Mustard Museum.
If you could create a museum about any topic, what would it be about? Describe two or three exhibits that would be in your museum.

May 19 - Theme: Circus Month
In 1768, the English equestrian Philip Astley demonstrated trick riding by trotting in a circle rather than a straight line. His act was named a 'circus.' As today is circus day, you have a choice of topics:

  1. If you were in a circus, which performer would you be and why?
  2. Do you like circuses? Explain your answer.
  3. Do you think circuses should feature animals? Why or why not?

May 20 - Theme: National Physical Fitness and Sports Month
Each state requires a specific number of minutes that students should participate in physical activity. If your state requires physical fitness activity for the next 30 minutes, what activity would you choose? Why?

May 21 - Theme: Lindbergh Flight Day
On this day in 1927, Charles Lindbergh took off on his famous flight across the Atlantic. Would you like to learn how to fly a plane? Why or why not?

May 22 - Theme: Older Americans Month

Do you believe that older Americans are treated with enough respect today? Explain your answer.

May 23 - Theme: World Turtle/Tortoise Day
Today is World Turtle Day. Conservation efforts are demonstrating success, and turtle populations are up. Tortoises can live long lives. One, Adwaita the Tortoise (1750-2006), is reputed to have lived over 250 years. What events would a tortoise who lived that long have witnessed? What event would you like to have seen?

May 24 - Theme: First Morse Code Message Sent
A simple substitution code is when you replace each letter with a different letter. For example, all A's become B's, and B's become C's, etc. I have written the following sentence using this type of code so that each letter of the alphabet is written as the letter that comes after it. What does my sentence say? Do you agree or disagree with it?
Dpef csfbljoh jt fbtz boe gvo.

May 25 - Theme: John F. Kennedy's Speech About Sending a Man to the Moon
On this day in 1961, John F. Kennedy said that America would send a man to the moon before the end of the 1960s.

"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

Why is this speech so significant? Should Americans continue space exploration because it is "hard"?

May 26 - Theme: National Hamburger Month

On average, Americans eat three hamburgers a week. What is your favorite type of hamburger or veggie burger? Is it plain or with toppings like cheese, bacon, onions, etc.? If not a hamburger, what food do you (or could you) eat three times a week? Describe a favorite food using at least three of the five senses.

May 27 - Theme: Golden Gate Bridge Opens
The Golden Gate Bridge is a symbol of San Francisco, recognizable by people all over the world. Do you have any symbols or monuments for your city or community? What are they? Even if you don't have a symbol that you can think of, explain why you think these types of symbols are important to people.

May 28 - Theme: Amnesty International Day

The goal of Amnesty International is to protect and promote human rights across the world. Their motto is, "Fight injustice and help create a world where human rights are enjoyed by all."
In some countries, genocide (the systemized killing of an entire ethnic group) is still being carried out. What is the responsibility of the United States? Do we have a duty to step in and stop these types of human rights violations? Explain your answer.

May 29 - Theme: Paper Clip Day

The paperclip was created in 1889. There is a paperclip game to play that pits you against market forces. There is also a movie, Paper Clips, featuring middle school students who collected one paper clip for each person exterminated by the Nazis. The paper clip was also a symbol of resistance in Norway against Nazi occupation. This small everyday object has made its way into history. What other uses could you come up with for a paper clip?


Theme: Memorial Day
Memorial Day is a federal holiday that originated when decorations were placed on the graves of Civil War soldiers. Decoration Day gave way to Memorial Day, the last Monday in May.
What are three things that we can do to honor those men and women who died while serving in our military?


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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, May 7, 8:00 - 3:30pm, Werz SD-1

Grades 3-5 Elementary Writing

Attendees will participate in professional development mini-sessions to include discussion of writing rubrics and graphic organizers. This opportunity will serve as the introduction to the ELA Summer Writing Institute scheduled for June 12th and 13th. Participants approved by school principals should complete the paperwork in CabNet and secure classroom coverage.

Thursday, May 9, 8:00 - 3:30pm

Grade 5 Pacing Development Team

Attendees 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, May 1, 800 - 3:30pm

Middle Grades Pacing Development Team

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

Monday, May 13, 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 - continued


Monday, May 13, 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 - continued

Tuesday, May 14, 8:30 - 3:30pm

Middle Grades Pacing Development Team

Attendees will participate in professional development mini-sessions on the GCA Item Bank and Assesslet reports. All information should be redelivered to appropriate school level staff. The team will revise the pacing guide and develop resources to enhance instruction.

Save the Dates:

Wednesday & Thursday, June 12 - 13, 8:30 - 3:00pm

ELA Summer Writing Institute (Register HERE) * Participants are eligible for a stipend.

Monday, June 17, 8:30 - 3:00

Curriculum Mapping (Register HERE) * Participants are eligible for a stipend.

Tuesday & Wednesday, June 18 & 19, 8:30 - 3:00pm

ELA Summer Reading & Literacy Institute (Register HERE) Participants are eligible for a stipend.

Tuesday, July 30, 8:30 - 10:00am

Grades 3-5 Writing Workshop (Werz, PLC)

Tuesday, July 30, 10:30 - 12:00pm

Grades K-2 Writing Workshop (Werz, PLC)

Tuesday, July 30, 1:00 - 3:00pm

Phonics 101: Let's Say the Sounds (Werz, PLC)


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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