Nuggets Of Wisdom From The PASS Plus Academy

Education News
If you’re an English teacher in Oklahoma, you MUST attend a PASS Plus Academy session with our OSDE Secondary English/Language Arts Fearless Leader Josh Flores. Mr. Flores always provides exciting and creative lesson ideas that will help you engage your students and reinvigorate your enthusiasm for teaching.

The academy workshops are no exception. Fortunately, it’s not too late. Just click the link above to see the upcoming dates, or take a gander at the list below:

  • Nov. 10 in Ponca City
  • Nov. 12 in Okmulgee
  • Nov. 17 in Kingfisher

The high school Secondary ELA session runs from 9 to 1130 a.m. and the middle school ELA session is from 12:30 to 3 p.m. I attended half the first session, and all of the last session, which gave me the opportunity to participate in the activity the first time around and observe the second time.

According to the SDE summary:

This session presents a blueprint for effective instructional practices. Attendees will take away  practical teaching strategies for writing, participate in a model lesson highlighting research, persuasive, and argumentative writing skills, and receive ideas for authentic literacy lessons.  In order to get the most out of your time, it is recommended to bring a copy of your PASS standards for English/language arts (available at

Before you arrive for the workshop, you can download The Blue Print, which includes the Power Points, the sources for the model lesson, a blue print workbook, and assessment materials.

In addition, Mr. Flores shares links to resources shared by teachers from around the state, including links to my  expository writing prompts for middle school article and @watersenglish Twitter account.

My Takeaways

Information rich and inspiring, I brought several ideas back to my classroom that I have — and will — implement in my classroom:

  • Confirmation that we need to teach logic in our classes, particular to support the argumentative/persuasive writing required
  • Mr. Flores created the Night of the Living Pen Revision Hunter game. This revision and editing checklist will be a hit with your zombie-crazed middle schoolers.
  • Our discussion at the workshop also inspired me to create the Captain Vocab graphic organizer to help students learn new words. You can download it for free from my account.
  • — I love the concept of providing a visible timer so students can see how much time they have left for a group or partner discussion, activity, etc.
  • The use of Evernote Annotations, which are similar to the annotations I can make on my Promethean Board
  • The two books below, which I have purchased from Amazon, and a copy of Educational Leader, which contains a very informative article by Robert Marzano.

Going Bohemian: How To Teach Writing Like You Mean It

 I had the opportunity to peruse this book at the workshop, and fell in love. The lesson, called “The Federal Government at Work,” is based on the premise that the students in the group are the only survivors of a zombie apocalypse. What middle schooler wouldn’t like this?!  This activity encourages students to develop a claim, work together to create counterclaims, and wrap up their argument into a coherently crafted essay.

Focus: Elevating The Essentials To Radically Improve Student Learning

I have not had a chance to read this highly-recommended book, which Mr. Flores introduced us to, but I can’t wait. I’m thinking this will be one of my Thanksgiving Break reads…

Summarizing to Comprehend by Robert Marzano

This article, also recommended at the PASS Plus Academy, is available in the March 2010 issue of Educational Leadership, which you can purchase from

If you haven’t been to one of these workshops, sign up here before it’s too late!

Related topics: Professional Development

About the author 

Michelle Boyd Waters, M.Ed.

I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma student working on my doctorate in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum with an concentration in English Education and co-Editor of the Oklahoma English Journal. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify students' voices and choices.

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