Monday, July 4, 2016

Unveiling the ELAOK PLN Website

In December 2015, I had a conversation with my dear friend and fellow ELA educator Sarah Crichley (@Scrichley).

(She’s one of my favorite people with whom I collaborate. When we discuss ELA, the ideas fly.)

I can’t find our exact text conversation, but it went something like this:
            Sarah: Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a place where teachers could share lesson plans.
            Me: Hmmm, let me think about that. I think we could actually make that happen.

Then I drove from Tulsa to OKC with the wheels of my brain furiously churning. To use another analogy: I kept opening new tabs in my brain as the ideas came and exploring their feasibility. Of course, that’s how my mind works all the time. I am an INTJ—for better and worse.

I decided on a Google Site because I’m familiar with them, and they’re so easy to use. I know Sites has a “filing cabinet” page setting, where you can add text and upload documents. I knew I would need something fast for me and simple to use for all teachers.

So, I started a Site, and immediately created a separate page for each grade, pre-K through 12th. My plan is to have a brief introduction/overview for each grade level. I need to make contact with more elementary and middle school teachers to bring that part of my vision into reality. I reached out to a few, but I’m afraid my email may have gone straight to their junk folders.

Once that took shape, I decided each of those pages needed sub-pages for the virtual filing cabinets. (I love folders and sub-folders and sub-sub-folders…organization gives me a thrill.) I also added a separate sub-page at each grade for pre-AP. AP Language and Composition and AP Literature and Composition have separate pages rather than being sub-pages.

From there, I began gathering a team of ELA educators who could/would help me. Of course, I first pulled from my tweeps. I knew these would be people who felt comfortable with technology and who had a passion for education.

Next, I researched some lesson plan templates to find something we could use for all submissions. After I looked at what others were doing, I decided on key components and sent the template to my team for feedback. I also asked them for feedback on the rough site.

Then, oklaed reached a sitzkrieg with OK’s jack*ss legislators while we impatiently waited for them to approve the standards. Of course they were going to pass the standards, but, tiny baby Jesus, they sure threw up red herrings, pseudo-roadblocks, and beat the dead horse of their fake issues into jerky and glue. I think they focused on every little stupid thing they could to detract from the real issues: the defunding and dismantling of all infrastructures in our state.

Once OAS was finally approved, I could begin putting together “exemplar” lessons. Unfortunately, the craziest part of the school year happens at the end of February till May. I stayed behind on grading and developing the website; however, I did have another brilliant idea (well, I think it’s brilliant): adding pages for Fine Arts. My music teacher friends use analysis and “ELA” techniques in their classes. The marriage made sense.

Over the new few weeks, the ideas continued to hit me: adding Creative Writing, Reading for Pleasure, Journalism, Speech/Debate, and Yearbook. Lastly, I approached a school librarian about adding Media Literacy. So, I guess the marriage turned into an ELA harem.

My final addition came from Lara Searcy (@MrsSearcy112) who works with pre-service ELA teachers at Northeastern State University. We thought it would be helpful for some of her baby teachers to post units they’ve put together for school. It gives them another audience and provides some seriously detailed lessons for career teachers.

Now, I am ready to unveil the website and begin taking submissions:

This will obviously be a work in progress. It is tiny right now, but my vision is to have a repository of lesson plans geared toward the Oklahoma Academic Standards. I have already uploaded some lessons for 8th-10th pre-AP. I have also written some intros for 8th-12th.

I have included pages for testing info and test prep ideas for each grade band. I also thought it would be helpful to include links to each grade’s standards. On the “Vertical Alignment” page, I have a link to all the standards and a couple of documents to help if your district is working toward alignment.

The lessons will fall under the Creative Commons license: No selling the lessons (even though we all deserve over-time pay for the hours we spend on lessons). This is teachers helping other teachers do what we do best: teach.

I want to publicly thank Claudia Swisher (@ClaudiaSwisher, ELA Mafia Godmother) for her introduction to Reading for Pleasure:

Thank you, Jason Stephenson (@teacherman82), for your intro to Creative Writing:

Thank you, Tara Zimmerman (@Tara_Hixson), for your intro to Media Literacy: 

Thank you to my team of editors:
            Sarah Crichley
            Kimberly Blodgett (@KimberBlodgett)
            Michelle Waters (@watersenglish)
            Shanna Mellott (@lsmellott)
            Meghan Loyd (@meghanloyd)
            Claudia Swisher

I also need to thank a couple students who took pictures I could use for the website: Camrynn Cooke and Hannah Pitts. Camrynn’s are on the “Home” page and were taken in OKC. Hannah’s is of the lovely Library of Congress and is on the “11th Grade” page.

Ultimately, I hope Oklahoma teachers see this labor of love (and blood, toil, tears, and sweat) and find it to be a helpful resource. I did not have a lot of mentor teachers along my path, but I have always had teachers say I could raid their filing cabinets (virtual and actual). In that spirit of generosity, I give you the ELAOK PLN lesson repository website.