Middle/High School ELA Newsletter

MCESC Supporting Educators to Strengthen Teaching & Learning

April 2016

We are fast approaching the last grading period of the 2015-2016 school year and state testing will soon be behind us. In the past few months we’ve addressed expository/informational writing, argumentative/opinion writing, so we’re going to focus on narrative writing this time around. We’ve packed this newsletter full of mentor texts, anchor charts, lesson ideas, and technology connections.

Remember to take the monthly poll for a chance to win one of the featured books! As always, please contact us and let us know how we can support you and your students.

Kristin, Lisa, and Angeline

Connect with us on Twitter

Kristin - @kristinfox28

Lisa - @libe0618

Angeline - @amtheis2

Congratulations to our Book Winners !

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Bonus Book Winner, Tina Basile, Jackson-Milton


All ELA practice tests are in the Portal for grades 3-10! Access your grade level test here.

We do recommend viewing multiple grades to see the difference of test questions, as any question type may appear on the test students will take this year.

  • ELA and Math Performance Levels for 2015-2016

  • Ohio’s Testing Portal Main Page-Blueprints and practice tests will be accessible from this page.

  • Sample questions are available in 3-10. Access here.

  • ELA Blueprints can be accessed here.

  • Writing Rubrics for grades 3-5 can be accessed here and here.

  • Writing Rubrics for grades 6-10 can be accessed here and here.

  • Answers from the practice tests and sample student writing responses can be accessed:

  • Student tutorials for the AIR platform are available as well. The sign-in and navigation videos are here. The testing tools videos are here.

  • To view the AIR Update slideshow from ELA Content Night, please click here.

Instructional Focus...Narrative

Mentor Texts/Graphic Organizers

The links below take you to mentor texts, anchor charts, and organizers that can be used for narrative writing. The mentor text list is just a start, but lists texts for grades 6-8 and grades 9-12. Included are some picture books to help launch the unit.

Mentor Texts

Anchor Charts


Lesson Ideas

Constructing Narratives: A Unit Plan for Taking Apart and Reconstructing Stories

This lesson idea takes students through the narrative process from deconstruction back to construction. The lesson idea utilizes Read, Write, Think to help deconstruct a narrative story and students will create storyboards with technology to construct a new story. The lesson plan works through how to get students to blog as a way of self and peer assessment. Step by step instructions and handouts are included at the above link.

Ten Ways to Tell a Story: All about Viewpoint

The above link is a great resource to have students utilize when writing from different viewpoints. The resource could help with mini-lessons and/or quick writes to help students find their voice in writing.

Teaching Students to Write a Narrative

This site has three lesson ideas that help students move from telling to showing. The lessons work with movies and personal instances to help engage students in this important concept. Handouts are linked for each lesson.

Common Core in Action: Narrative Writing

This article talks about how to write narratives of historical fiction and science fiction to incorporate fact based writing into narrative form. The use of fact based evidence and hyperlinking help students understand that background information is essential to narrative writing.

Technology Connection

This Google Chrome extension allows you play back any Google Doc (you have edit permissions on) revision history. This extension enables collaborative groups to draw upon the strengths of all their members. Students working in collaborative groups can take advantage of group members for built-in peer review as they complete writing projects.

Vocaroo is an online voice recorder that creates a link to your audio recording. Teachers and students can record feedback and insert it as a comment on a Google Doc or Slide.

Using Personal Anecdotes to Improve Writing Skills
In this video, 7th and 8th ELA teacher, Jean Chalupsky, discusses how she uses students’ personal anecdotes to engage them in the process of writing personal narratives. Once students have generated ideas based on their own personal anecdotes and sketched a rough draft, she has them work in pairs to read aloud each other’s papers. This allows the writer to hear their paper from the reader’s perspective and hear what mistakes and/or tweaks they may need to make as they begin revising their papers. Chalupsky explains that this process really gives students the opportunity to view their piece differently and to more critically analyze their own writing. She further explains how this approach to writing allows her to connect with her students on a more social and emotional level.

A Descriptive Writing Experience

This video details the experiences of Mr. Allen’s 7th grade class as they work to show and not tell by using figurative language more effectively. Mr. Allen explains that many of his students have a great structure for writing, but don’t elaborate well. As a result, he engages his students through the use of Oreo cookies. Here, he asks students to describe the Oreo from experience using sensory language. This personal anecdote requires students to write a short account of a specific event by showing and not just by telling. Mr. Allen also explains how this engaging activity differentiates to stretch ideas in way that students can relate to in order to bring their writing to life.

April's Book Nook

Liars, Inc.

by Paula Stokes

Need a parent permission slip forged? How about an alibi so that you can go hangout with your boyfriend? Could you use the answers to the Algebra test next period? Max Cantrell along with his friend Preston and girlfriend Parvati provide these services and more as part of their business known as Liars, Inc.

The business proves to be lucrative, that is until Max provides an alibi for Preston who ends up missing. Unfortunately for Max all of the evidence related to Preston’s disappearance leads the police back to him. Max thinks, “And yet here I am, spending my eighteenth birthday with my back against the wall of the Colonel’s hunting cabin, two FBI agents prowling the dark with their guns drawn, both trying to get me to confess to the murder of my friend Preston DeWitt.”

Although the police are investigating Preston’s disappearance, so are Max and Parvati. Max is being framed, and they can not trust anyone. Is Preston who he says he is? How are he and Max connected? Who is really behind all of this?

Just when you think you have it figured out Stokes adds another plot twist. In that sense, it reminded me of Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins. Readers who enjoy thrillers or mysteries will definitely like Liars, Inc. School Library Journal recommends grades 9+.

Rebel, Bully, Geek, Pariah

by Erin Jade Lange

Rebel, Bully, Geek, Pariah is a realistic fiction novel told through the point of view of Sam who is invisible to most everyone and happens to like it that way. Sam struggles with an addicted mother who is constantly incarcerated. Then one night Sam is thrust into visibility at a party and her life takes an unlikely turn. She is forced to count on three others and forge a bond she may not have wanted but certainly needed. Lange pulls together four teenagers that all have needs of companionship and takes them on a wild ride over the course of one night. Andi, the once popular girl turned rebel, York, the handsome upperclassman who feels the need to bully others, and Boston, the know-it-all younger brother of York, meld together with Sam to round out the players of the mystery.

Sam thinks, “The shock started to wear off then, and in its place the gnarled claw of reality crept in, twisting my guts. This whole night had felt sort of like a dream-the kind where you follow yourself around, observing but not actually controlling any of your actions. But those were real police responding to a real emergency-a real officer possibly real dead in the woods-and the dream was quickly becoming a nightmare.”

I reviewed this book because it was mentioned on several young adult sites as being an anticipated read for 2016. I really liked the characters that Lange created and found myself following along with the plot to get to know more about the characters’ backgrounds. The story was told in multiple flashbacks to help keep the mystery alive for the reader. While some of the plot was predictable, I did find myself surprised at certain parts. I wanted to keep reading to see where the story would go and can see students feeling the same way. This story lends itself to studies of characterization, point of view, and structure.

Overall, I enjoyed this story and can see how the different dynamics of the group can help students connect to the characters and the mystery of the plot should make it a quick read for most students. School Library Journal recommends grades 8 and up.

Far From You

By Lisa Schroder

Written entirely in verse, Far From You by Lisa Schroder is a unique fictional novel that tells the story of Alice, a teen struggling to fit into her own world. Alice, who was an only child for the majority of her life, is now faced with the challenges of having an infant baby in the house where she resides with her father and stepmother. Still bitter from the traumatic death of her mother due to cancer, Alice hasn’t yet adjusted to life with her dad and stepmother when the bomb of having a baby is dropped on her.

Luckily for Alice, she has found comfort in her best friend, Claire, her church youth group, music, and the love of her life, Blaze. These constants in Alice’s life help to keep her grounded and support her with her ongoing struggles. Alice misses her mother, her angel, and longs for the relationship she once had with her father.

As tensions worsen at home, her love and passion for Blaze strengthens. Schroder has a way of bringing the romance and love of this relationship alive through the powerful imagery and details she uses within each verse. Just as this love story is heating to the most climactic point, Alice is forced to travel with her family for Thanksgiving.

Begrudgingly, Alice trots along to Washington to visit her stepmother’s family where she sits in silence and embraces her music in hopes of getting time to pass by quickly. Suddenly, her father is forced to return home for work on an emergency flight. In turn, Alice must then ride home with her stepmother and half-sister.

The drive home suddenly takes a turn for the worst as they become trapped in a ferocious snowstorm on a back road far from any help. As time passes on, Alice and her step-mother are forced to open up to each other and begin to discover the many interests they have in common. Hours turn into days and the few supplies they did have in car begin to dwindle, which forces Victoria to leave Alice and the baby alone in the car while she walks for help. During this time, Alice prays deeply to her mother to keep them all safe and help them to be rescued. This time also allows Alice to open her mind to what her life has become and her stepmother and half-sister.

This quick novel is a must read to discover how the story comes to an end. Schroder is one of my favorite authors, having authored several other books written in a similar format, these books are great for hooking in struggling readers including adolescent boys. During my time in the classroom, I could not keep her books on my shelf and my male students were as equally interested as female students. Her books do contain some mature content so they would be best suited for upper middle school or high school students.

Professional Development Opportunities

ELA Strategy Survival

MCESC in Boardman from 4 to 6pm

Next meeting: April 13

Social gathering at Inner Circle Pizza Canfield: May 18

Contact Nicole Mathias at nmathias@sebring.k12.oh.us

WROTE Dinner

Thursday, April 21, 2016 from 6:30-8:00PM

Kilcawley Center’s Ohio Room at Youngstown State

$25.00 includes buffet dinner and time with Matt de la Pena and Steven Bickmore

Email Jeff Buchanan for more information at (jmbuchanan@ysu.edu)


May 21, 2016 at Kinsner Elementary School located at 19091 Waterford Parkway in Strongsville

Register Here: https://edcampcle.wordpress.com/

Write Here! Write Now!

NWP at Kent State University

June 14, 2016 8:30am-3:30pm

Breakfast and lunch included in the $65 cost of the workshop

To register go to nwp-ksu.org

Holocaust Studies for Educators

June 20-24, 2016 8:30-4:30pm

Please contact: Alexis Morrisroe at astorch@holocaustandhumanity.org

ELA Strategy Survival--Summer PD

All dates will be from 8am-2pm

June 29 and 30 (B16- Boardman)

July 19 and 20 (New Building-Canfield)

August 1 and 2 (New Building-Canfield)

More details to come

Mentor Text Academy-MCESC Summer PD


August 8 and 9

MCESC New Building in Canfield

Kelly Gallagher, an instructional leader who is considered one of the leading voices in literacy education, explains “If you want to be a writer, you begin by carefully observing the work of accomplished writers.” It is with this premise, that mentor texts are one of the most important tools that teachers can arm themselves with when teaching students how to become better readers and writers. This workshop (available for Fall 2016 YSU credit) will dedicate time to understanding how to use mentor texts while empowering teachers to create a bank for use in the upcoming school year. In this professional development, teachers will:

  • Learn how to create mentor text sets aligned to the rigor and depth of the standards

  • Understand how to utilize mentor texts throughout the instructional cycle

  • Learn how to navigate resources in order to find quality mentor texts for use in the classroom

  • Create text dependent questions aligned to mentor texts

  • Create a mentor text bank aligned to grade band standards as a teacher resource for the upcoming school year
April's Poll

Want to win the books featured in this month's newsletter? Please take our survey. Thanks :)