Margin Notes

TRY THIS TOMORROW: INVENTING WORDS

Nov
30

*Taken from article: 24 New Words Invented by Teenagers – The New York Times

As I was poking around on the New York Times, I came across the article 24 New Words Invented by Teenagers. Naturally, it had me considering our own vocabularies and how sometimes we can spend so long in our classrooms helping students search and search to find the right descriptive word for their writing.

While I read the article, I remembered a craft move I had seen Rudy Francisco make in his book of poetry called I’ll Fly Away, where he comes up with his own word and defines it for the things where he feels like the English language fails to describe it properly.

These two things got me thinking about how great of an activity this could be to get students warmed up to using descriptive language and exploring the best ways to describe things in their own writing, while also playing with the language and considering their own vocabularies.

How could this be used in the classroom?

  • Use the words on the NYT article as mentor texts 24 New Words Invented by Teenagers – The New York Times (nytimes.com)
  • Have conversations about situations/feelings that need a new describing word.
  • Think about recent examples of Neologisms (made up words) that they may know that have started to gain popularity and understanding as part of our daily language: “cheugy”, “doomscroll”, “staycation”, “funcle”, “rizz”
  • Use this in a morphology lesson to talk about the way the created words have meaning from their parts, just like other words.
  • Ask your class to invent their own describing words and write a definition for them.
  • Have them try to use their new words in sentences.

This could be such a fun activity to incorporate into a writing lesson. If you give this a try, we would love to hear of any words that your students come up with and their definitions!

GLOSSY: AMBITION, BEAUTY, AND THE INSIDE STORY OF EMILY WEISS’S GLOSSIER BY MARISA MELTZER

Nov
28

When Emily Weiss, founder of the cosmetics company Glossier, was a high school student in Connecticut, she got a job babysitting for a neighbor who worked for Ralph Lauren. Her belief that it “just can’t hurt to ask” led her to inquire about the possibility of an internship and soon after, she was interning in the women’s design department. Weiss’s boss at Ralph Lauren was so impressed by her, that she recommended her for an internship at Teen Vogue. And her boss at Teen Vogue was so impressed that she recommended her for a role on the MTV reality show The Hills. These backstories set the stage for the combination of entrepreneurship, drive, connections, and never letting a possible opportunity go unexplored that led Emily Weiss to launch Glossier as a start-up in 2014 and lead its growth to an expected 275 million dollars in sales this year.

Weiss had been writing a beauty blog called Into the Gloss and saw the potential market for her own products. After securing initial angel investors and venture capital funding in 2013, Weiss started Glossier the following year with only 4 products and the slogan “Born from content; fueled by community.”

Glossy: Ambition, Beauty, and the Inside Story of Emily Weiss’s Glossier by Marisa Meltzer is much more than a business biography. It also explores the challenges faced by women in leadership roles, examines the phenomenon of influencer marketing, and analyzes the problematic and diminishing nature of the term, “Girl Boss.”

TRY THIS TOMORROW: HETERONYMS, SYNONYMS and ORONYMS…OH MY!

Nov
23

As I was scrolling through Twitter/X on the weekend, I came across two separate posts about words and language that were so interesting.

One post, by Dr. Tim Rasinski, included this image, on the right, from an issue of Reader’s Digest’s “Language Matters”.

I’m sure I’ve heard the term “Heteronyms” before, but I can’t be sure I remembered what it meant. I won’t forget now! These examples are so fun to read, and perfectly encapsulate why the English language really is so hard to learn.

 

 

Another post, this one by Nell K. Duke, delves even further into “word-nerd-dom” (as she calls it) and shows the all the semantic relationships that words can have in a handy anchor chart:

When I saw the definition of “oronym”, I immediately thought of the words “disgust” and “discussed”. For some reason, these two words fascinate me, but I didn’t know they were called “oronyms”.

 

 

Here are a few things you could try tomorrow:

  • Use the sentences from the Reader’s Digest’s “Why English is so Hard to Learn” as a warm-up. Have a discussion about what makes the sentences tricky to read.
  • Discuss the different types of semantic relationships (synonym, heteronym, etc.) in the anchor chart.
  • Talk about the word parts -nym (Greek for “name”), -phone (Greek for “sound”), -graph (Greek for “write”). How does knowing the meaning of those word parts help us understand the words’ meaning?
  • Create lists of words with -nym, -phone, -graph.
  • Create stories or poems using “oronyms”. Here are some mentor texts: Fun With Words. 

Have fun!

PROMISE BOYS BY NICK BROOKS

Nov
21

A real whodunit. Nick Brook’s Promise Boys is the story of a murder and the search for truth. Urban Promise Prep is a private school that “vows to turn boys into men.” The principal, Kenneth Moore, has proudly self-titled his strategies as the “Principal Moore Method” and is dedicated to the extremely rigid rules, with equally extreme discipline. It’s these strict policies that have landed three students in detention during the shooting that killed Principal Moore. Each of the three students had left detention at the time of the murder and fingers are pointing in all directions – after all, wouldn’t their punishments be motive? It becomes clear that unless these boys band together to find the murderer, their reputations will be forever changed.

Promise Boys is a fast-paced mystery told through multiple perspectives and a narrative mix of prose, text messages and police reports. Although there is a layer of systemic racism when it comes to criminal justice, the book focuses on the power dynamics within a school, between teachers and students as well as between staff members and within the students themselves. The varying perspectives show the labels and assumptions people place on each other and how that thinking changes when you dig beyond the surface. Students attend school together every day; but do they really see what is going on?

I would recommend this book to fans of Karen McManus, Jason Reynolds and Angie Thomas. Every teacher has the mystery/thriller lover in their class just waiting to read this book!

SUPPORTING VOCABULARY WITH FIRST CHAPTER FRIDAYS

Nov
16

We love the practice of introducing texts, topics, authors, and genres to students by reading the first chapter aloud. First Chapter Fridays are a wonderful opportunity to end the week with reading joy. It’s also a strategy that, when planned with intention, can support most aspects of the curriculum. This post is part of a series that will introduce ideas for leveling up your First Chapter Fridays without diminishing its central purpose of engaging readers. Read the previous post on Supporting Fluency with First Chapter Fridays.

Vocabulary is fundamental to reading comprehension. We learn the meanings of words indirectly through oral and written language and from direct instruction.

Here are some suggestions for supporting vocabulary with First Chapter Fridays:

  • Preteach some vocabulary words that are essential to students’ comprehension of the chapter by.
  • While reading, stop and model your use of vocabulary strategies to solve unknown words.
  • Use a Knowledge Rating Guide or a Vocabulary Prediction Chart for complex vocabulary in the chapter.
  • Revisit portions of the text in a targeted vocabulary mini-lesson. Possible areas of focus include how morphology affects meanings of words, use of contextual clues for solving unknown vocabulary words, figurative language, and shades of meaning.
  • Select a short passage and ask students to identify which word they think is most important and then discuss their choices in small groups.
  • Invite students to select a word from the text to add to their Language Field Guides.

REZ BALL BY BYRON GRAVES

Nov
14

Rez Ball by Byron Graves takes the reader into the heart of the Ojibwe community where Tre Brun is finding his way after an accident killed his brother. The story follows his resilience, shows insight into his struggles, and gives readers hope that his story will have a positive outcome. The reader is truly rooting for him! Tre has spent his summer improving his basketball skills with the goal of making the varsity team and continuing the legacy his father and brother started by taking the team to their first state championship win. He battles conflict from unaccepting teammates, racist communities, unrequited love, friendship disputes and family grief.

In his author’s note, Bryon shares that many of the elements of this story are true, and even the selections that were created for the story are based in the his experiences of growing up as an athlete on a reservation. Beyond the grief, the pressure to party, and the racism experienced, there is a beautiful story of community. Tre has the unwavering support of his lifelong friend Wes, his new acquaintance Kiana, the memory of his brother and the entire reservation.

Byron Graves’ writing is both engaging and thought-provoking, inviting readers to immerse themselves in the world of Rez Ball and gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and triumphs of Indigenous athletes. The plot and voices of the characters are a realistic depiction of teenage experience – including the curse words and slang. Rez Ball is a must-read for sports enthusiasts, as well as anyone interested in the intersection of sports, culture, and resilience. It celebrates the power of the human spirit and the transformative influence of basketball within Indigenous communities.

TRY THIS TOMORROW: ONE BOOK, MANY WAYS

Nov
09

TRY THIS TOMORROW: One Book, Many Ways

Mathematizing Children’s Literature: Sparking Connections, Joy and Wonder Through Read Alouds and Discussions written by Allison Hintz and Anthony T. Smith challenges educators to explore a “story several times from different perspectives and do so with the goal of listening to and honoring children’s thoughts and ideas”. They implore that we “lead with beautiful and interesting stories and use those stories as context for inviting learners to think as mathematicians.” (Hinz & Smith, 2022, p.4). They challenge educators to think about approaching stories with a mathematical lens and creating a space for learners to share their noticings and wonderings in ways that cultivate thinking and talk, sparking curiosity, joy, and wonder.

I was inspired to extend that to approaching stories with many lenses: as artists, composers, scientists, citizens, inventors, explorers, readers, and writers. Hinz & Smith (2022) disrupted my thinking around collecting stories with a math theme, or an art theme but looking at illustrations and words within texts as a focus for investigation.

  • How can one book be used in many ways across learning areas and layered across curriculum?
  • How can we return to the same picture book or the same text in different ways?
  • How can we use read alouds in a Middle or High School math or science class to springboard thinking and discussion?
  • How can we help our readers approach stories with curiosity and wonder?

The watch and wonder theme in the picture book, one boy watching, written and illustrated by Grant Snider is the perfect book to practice this idea. Snider beautifully illustrates a boy’s journey to school and all that a student riding the bus might see, hear, and feel.

Perfect for all ages, Snider will have you reminiscing about your own school bus journey of days gone by. Snider’s illustrations, short text and watch and wonder theme makes this a perfect book for returning to a read aloud repeatedly to focus on or investigate a feature of the story through many lenses.

We asked author Grant Snider for some words of wisdom for educators who share his book with their students and his response echoes Hinz & Smith’s theme in their book: that inspiration for thinking can come from anywhere if we take the time to practice curiosity.

I wonder how can we explore our current collection of read alouds with a learning areas lens and think about how one illustration, one sentence or one beautifully written paragraph can be used across the learnings areas?

 

Hintz, A., & Smith, A. T. (2023). Mathematizing children’s literature: Sparking connections, joy, and wonder through read-alouds and discussion. Hawker Brownlow Education.

Snider, G. (2022). one boy watching. Chronicle Books.

 

ENEMIES IN THE ORCHARD BY DANA VANDERLUGT

Nov
07

In October of 1944, Claire’s family needs help with the apple harvest. Claire’s brother, Danny, is overseas fighting in World War II and there are no other workers available. Claire’s dad decides to hire German prisoners of war to help with the harvest. One of the POWs is Karl, who is starting to question everything he has been taught by the Hilter regime. Told in dual-perspective and written in verse, Claire and Karl slowly break down barriers and start to enjoy each other’s company, but can a friendship truly grow between people on opposite sides of a war?

Karl’s perspective as a young German soldier just out of Hitler’s Youth, is very unique and is one that is not often told in middle-grade or young-adult novels. He is confronting the many lies he has long believed, including that Germany completely demolished many of America’s thriving cities, and what that means for the many other lies they’ve been fed. Karl provides a window into life under Hitler’s regime and the rollercoaster of emotions that came from the indoctrination, manipulation, and corruption of German youth. Meanwhile, Claire grapples with what it means to stay on the home front and make sacrifices, during a time when being a young girl can be extremely isolating thanks to the unspoken horrors of war.

Based on true events, readers will learn about some little-known history. Prior to reading this story, I did not know that enemy soldiers were housed in midwestern camps and put to work where American young men were absent because of WWII. The author does an incredible job of writing these characters in a way that makes you not only understand them but start to empathize with their respective situations.

The whole time I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but think about the read aloud opportunities it offers and the amazing discussions it could generate. It opens with two beautiful “Where I’m From” poems that could act as mentor texts for that form of poetry, and it ends with a huge plot-twist that would certainly have students considering the impact of that particular ending. This book is ideal for 5th/6th graders and up, though it can be enjoyed by adult readers alike, and anyone who may have an interest in the WWII time period.

Enemies in the Orchard is a wonderful story of loss, hope, and redemption. There is an incredible amount of craft and thoughtfulness on every page. The author’s note adds even more achingly beautiful context to this story and has readers consider the “real humans ravaged by war” (p.275) and the ways in which we determine who are the enemies and who are the allies. This one deserves a spot in your classroom libraries!

CRAFT STUDIO BY GUEST WRITER RYAN CORMIER: “MIDNIGHTS” IN SCATTERED SHOWERS BY RAINBOW ROWELL

Nov
02

What I Was Reading:

The fleeting experiences we gather when we are young and restless seem so far away when we grow older. Moments in that time can feel more important because in hindsight, they are. Sometimes the moments play endlessly in our head, as we chase the ‘what ifs’ that passed us by. Scattered Showers by Rainbow Rowell is a series of nine short, love stories each keeping an optimistic tone, reassuring us that we are all capable to love and be loved back. Fraught with cynicism, sarcasm and sexual tension, ‘Midnights’ is a story that navigates the ambiguity of young love over a series of New Year’s Eve parties. Following two strangers who become fast-friends, the story reveals how precious a moment can be; as time drips away, friends come and go, chances are missed, people change and sometimes you find that the thing you’ve been looking for turns out to have been there all along. Taken from the point of view of Mags, a shy, quick-witted girl, the story also forces us to remember our past and the people we left behind, while cherishing those that stayed by our side through thick and thin. ‘Midnights’ is a wonderful story for those who want something more meaningful than just a conventional love story.

Midnights is available to read here when you click on read sample below the cover image.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

Diary Entry: The author uses an almost diarist’s format with a timestamp to showcase events taking place over a series of times. It creates this Groundhog Day affect where every New Year’s Eve party at Alicia’s, poor Mags and Noel get closer as friends and yet farther apart, with Noel always getting smooched by a different girl, and Mags always playing second fiddle. The repetition of the New Year’s Eve theme is a seamless stopping point to capture how much can happen in people’s lives in the run of a year and brings us closer to Mags as a person who is watching life pass by.

Frame story: The author begins the story with a snippet of the ending, several hours before midnight. Contextually, it presents a flashback that makes the reader worry for the character Mags, who is anxious about people we have yet to learn about. It makes the reader feel for Mags, as if she was hiding from a would-be antagonist (but as we learn she had planned to lure Noel outside). The following timestamps unfold the events that led up to this in a linear chronology, giving us clues as to why Mags was the way she was that night. In this way, the author does not tell us everything we need to know about Mags but gradually introduces us to her.

Foreshadowing: Rowell presents numerous recurring events that reveal what may arise further on in the story, such as Noel’s nonchalance to his nut allergies in the first meeting (and his lifesaving EpiPen); Mags’ Chex and her wiping her hand to ensure Noel would not have an allergic reaction (which becomes near-fatal later on); and Noel’s preference for dancing “in public” (which he does each time but with a different girl until the ending).

Inner and Outer Dialogues: The author uses a third person limited point of view, which allows us a glimpse into the thoughts of Mags and her interactions with others (primarily with Noel). Rowell affords us the chance of seeing the world through Mags’ observant eyes, and this allows us to really feel for her when Noel time and time again chooses another girl over her.

Humor: The author often uses sarcasm to illustrate Mags’ and Noel’s budding friendship and belie the growing sexual tension between them. Rowell also employs italics for emphasis when others are chanting the countdown to New Year’s but also to place emphasis on specific sarcastic remarks (“How are you still alive?”), which the two often quip at each other.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Narrative building using cold opens.
  • Crafting a story using nonlinear chronology (frame story, in media res, reverse narrative), to build a character without a lot of exposition.
  • Noticing and highlighting other craft moves present.
  • Playing with the idea of using timestamps to indicate change in time and setting in a story (quickwrite).
  • Writing an epilogue about what happens next or a continuation of the story.
  • After reading this text students could respond by writing about what they think of this organizational structure, something they connect to in this text, something they are still wondering, or about why they are/are not drawn to stories like this one.