Margin Notes

TRY THIS TOMORROW: FIVE FAST FACTS

Feb
29

When I find an author that I love, I will often follow them on social media. This gives me the opportunity to find out about upcoming book releases and gives me a glimpse into their life and thoughts.

I was checking out K A Holt’s Twitter/X the other day, and noticed a link in her bio to her author’s website. K A Holt is the author of middle grade fiction and picture books. (She has written some of my favourite books in verse, like House Arrest and Rhyme Schemer.)

On her website she has a “For Kids” page.

And I was delighted to see:

FIVE FAST FACTS ABOUT KA HOLT

  1. Kari Anne was born in Atlanta, Georgia on September 10th, 19somethingsomething.
  2. When she was 13, Kari Anne accidentally stomped through a gerbil cage, resulting in five stitches on her calf. You can still see the zigzag scar.
  3. When she was young, her favorite author was Paula Danziger, followed closely by Lois Lowry.
  4. Kari Anne’s favorite food is almost always a taco, but there are times when a cheeseburger wins.
  5. She has synesthesia, which means she sees letters and numbers as colors, and she sometimes mixes up other senses, too. (Examples: the letter C is orange, the number one is icy white)

I instantly thought – what a great way for students to share facts about themselves…or about any topic, really. This would make a great quickwrite, or a way for students to organize their About the Author pages for their writing. Try this tomorrow!

 

GUEST WRITER ISABELLA LIRETTE RECOMMENDS THE DARKENING BY SUNYA MARA

Feb
27

Vesper Vale feared the Storm just as much as most in the fifth ring did. Being in the outer most ring of this dystopian society, meant that Vesper and those she loved were on the cusp of death, or worst, the curse that the Storm bestowed on those who merely touched it. If the Storm didn’t get to them, then the unrelenting hunger might. When Vesper’s father is taken away for his revolutionary past and illegal use of magic by the men tasked to save their society, Vesper must sneak into the inner circles of society to save him. Navigating an unknown society of wealth and abundance, Vesper befriends Dalca, the son of the Regia and leader of the society. Yet, she may end up getting closer to Dalca than she had planned, putting everything into question: What was it that divided their people? What is the story behind her parents’ secretive past? What brought on the Storm? And what is Vesper willing to sacrifice to save them all? Confronted with her growing affection for Dalca and her conflicting feelings for her father, Vesper must decide for herself what she really wants, before others decide for her.

This novel covers themes of friendship, love, family, class discrimination, and the often complicated need for revenge. Woven together with stunning imagery and magic, this novel is perfect for high school students, especially those who enjoy genres of  fantasy and dystopian. Furthermore, this is the first of two novels in the series and the cliff hanger at the end will have any reader reaching for the next novel!

Isabella Lirette is a graduate of Mount Allison University and a current Education student at the University of New Brunswick. She is an avid EcoLiterature and Indigenous Literature fan and is eager to bring her love of reading and writing into the classroom.

TRY THIS TOMORROW: SUPPORTING STUDENTS’ USE OF WRITING VOCABULARY

Feb
22

In their newly released professional resource, How to Become a Better Writing Teacher, authors Matt Glover and Carl Anderson generously provide a wealth of insights, sharing 50 actionable strategies to elevate both engagement and achievement among student writers. Drawing from their collective 70 years of teaching experience, this resource is one that teachers across all levels of experience will benefit from. Much like their previous contributions, the core principle driving this guide is the unwavering conviction that, with proper support and instruction, every student can achieve as a writer. As such, the actions shared will equip and empower teachers to grow the writing of all students.

One action, of the 50,  is a valuable tool for teachers meeting with students who are hesitant as to what to discuss during writing conferences. This approach bridges the ongoing conversations in our district regarding the crucial role of vocabulary and background knowledge in comprehension achievement. It emphasizes the need for students to acquire the necessary vocabulary not only for comprehending texts but also for understanding and effectively engaging with writing instruction.

Action: Supporting Students’ Use of Writing Vocabulary

Teachers are encouraged to use the following conversational moves to “…help students develop the writing vocabulary they need to talk in conferences…”:

  • Bring a chart to your conferences that lists what you’ve taught in recent minilessons, and have students look at it to help them think about what to say to you (Laman 2013). [Adding to this point, a co-constructed class anchor chart, or, for a craft unit, a whole class text study chart (found in the amazing online resource contents that comes with this resource) could also be used to scaffold the use of precise language in conferences.]
  • List several things the student might be doing. You could say, “Hmm…are you trying to add dialogue, or character thinking, or character actions to this part of your story?’
  • Take a tour of the student’s writing, and describe what you see them doing: “I see that you’ve got a subheading for this chapter…and you’re describing what penguins look like by writing descriptive facts and what penguins do by writing action facts…Do you want to talk about one of these things today?” Hearing you connect writing language to their writing helps students understand these terms, and soon they’ll be able to use them on their own. (Anderson, Carl, and Glover, Matt. How to Become a Better Writing Teacher. Heinemann, 2023.)

If you’re looking for a scaffold to support precise vocabulary in  writing conferences, try this tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

GUEST WRITER ALISHA HATHI RECOMMENDS NEVER LIE BY FREIDA MCFADDEN

Feb
20

The novel Never Lie written by Freida McFadden is an exhilarating thriller underlined with multiple compelling relationships between characters. The book is centered around Tricia and Ethan, a newly wedded couple in search of the perfect house to grow their relationship. They stumble upon the most beautiful mansion, one previously owned by a famous psychiatrist named Adrienne Hale. The house recently entered the market after the investigation of Adrienne’s mysterious disappearance was concluded. The police were unsuccessful in finding out what happened to the renowned psychiatrist, and the house appears to hold no answers.

The couple makes a trip to view the mansion during a snowstorm, and unfortunately, they get trapped at the house, with no reception or means of leaving. While waiting for the snowstorm to pass, Tricia stumbles upon a secret room filled with tape recordings of every session Adrienne had with his patients. The tapes unravel events up to the disappearance of Adrienne Hale. Each tape has Tricia more and more on edge as she discovers more about Adrienne’s lies leading up to her disappearance.

This novel is the perfect thriller for any high school student who enjoys a great mystery as well as compelling love stories. Learning about the love Tricia and Ethan share, and what they would do to keep that love alive, as well as the toxic relationship Adrienne was in at the time of her disappearance, gives the reader much to consider. The short chapters make this novel a quick read and easy to pick up when you have a minute to spare. If you enjoyed The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, then Never Lie will also pique your interest. The plot twists throughout the story make this a page-turner!

Alisha Hathi is a first-year education student at the University of New Brunswick.

TRY THIS TOMORROW: I ADD

Feb
15

Teachers, are you looking to enhance depth and detail in your students’ writing ? If so, you might want to head to TikTok!  Kate Roberts, literacy coach, has been doing a series on TikTok about teaching writing. In a recent video, she describes a great strategy for narrative writing: “I ADD”.

  •  I – Inner Thinking
  • A- Action
  • D- Dialogue
  • D- Description

Kate describes the strategy this way: “When you are stretching out a moment in a narrative, what you want to do is go line by line and sort of switch it up.” She then goes on to model an example in the video, showing how she incorporates the different parts of “I ADD”. 

I just thought this was a brilliant, yet simple, strategy that students could try immediately. Her other videos have more ideas for elevating student writing.

Kate Roberts is one half of kateandmaggie.com. Kate and Maggie Roberts are literacy consultants and coaches. Their latest book is DIY Literacy. You can follow them on Instagram @kate_and_maggie and on Tiktok @kateandmaggie.

 

 

GUEST WRITER RYAN HARB RECOMMENDS MISSED TRANSLATIONS BY SOPAN DEB

Feb
13

Sopan Deb’s Missed Translations is a touching and humorous memoir about his journey of self-discovery and reconciliation with his immigrant roots. Despite his success as a New York Times writer and comedian, Sopan realized that he was often hiding his insecurities behind humor. While he told stories and jokes typical of an Indian immigrant, it was not true to his background.

The parents of Sopian immigrated separately to America, and, although not compatible, they married in an arranged marriage. Shortly after the birth of their second son, Sopian’s father returned to India without warning or saying goodbye.As a result of not knowing his father and isolating himself from his mother, he sought refuge in the homes and lives of his white-American friends. As Sopian approached his 30th birthday, he began to reflect on the fact that he knew nothing about his parents. How old they were, where they were born, if they had any siblings, and he didn’t even know his own mother’s phone number.

As a result of these reflections, Sopan travels to India to reunite with the father he hasn’t seen or spoken to in nearly a decade. The outcome is the discovery of a man who is thinking, passionate, and proud of his son. He makes discoveries about his father as well as his extended family, eventually leading him to reconcile with his past and reunite with his estranged mother.

Using Missed Translations in an English classroom to explore themes of identity and belonging or cultural perspectives would be a great use of this memoir. It could be used as a mentor text in many ways, including:

Voice and Style: Examine Sopan deb’s writing style and voice. Analyze his use of humor, wit, and emotional depth. Discuss how his unique voice contributes to the storytelling and engages the reader.

Character Development: Study how the author portrays himself and other characters in the memoir. Explore the development of his character and his family members. Discuss how dialogue, actions, and inner thoughts reveal character traits.

Transitions and Pacing: Study how the author manages transitions between different parts of his life and how pacing is used to maintain reader engagement.

Reflection and Analysis: Focus on how the author reflects on his experiences and analyzes their significance.

 

Ryan is a dedicated educator with a Master’s in English Language Teaching and a Bachelor’s in English Literature. With over a decade of international teaching experience, he specializes in innovative methodologies and teacher mentoring. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Education with an Englih and IB specialization, he’s passionate about advancing education.

TRY THIS TOMORROW: EXPLAINERS

Feb
08

When Taylor Swift announced her forthcoming album, The Tortured Poets Department, swifties around the world celebrated. At the same time, ELA teachers sent up a cheer because their mini-lesson for the next day had been written.

We all know that learning about grammar happens best in the context of authentic writing, and I loved every minute of following the social media debates over apostrophe usage. (Taylor, if you’re reading this, please incorporate a semicolon in your next album title.)

Literary Hub quickly posted the explainer, Is the phrase The Tortured Poets Department grammatically correct? This is a fantastic explanatory mentor text that can be used specifically as a model for students to write their own grammar explainer or more generally as an example of explaining something using an “if this, then this” structure.

Here are a few other options you might add to build an inquiry unit about explainers:

Quanta Magazine has an archive of Explainers that combine videos and articles to explain detailed scientific and mathematical concepts and phenomena. These can be shared as complete texts or you can pull out specific passages to demonstrate craft moves like word choice, use of context clues, and examples to support readers’ understanding of technical language.

Life Kit from NPR is a podcast that offers” how-to” advice from experts. Most episodes are shorter than 30 minutes and cover a wide range of topics, including 5 Simple Ways to Minimize Stress, How to Have a Healthy Relationship with Caffeine, and Popular Myths About Sleep Debunked. Life Kit episodes blend relatable examples and anecdotes with research presented in an accessible way and most of them conclude with a helpful recap.

Randall Munroe has created a playlist of short videos based on his books, What If? I and What If? II. The videos are under 5 minutes and combine words and images to answer such questions as “What if Earth suddenly stopped spinning?” and “What if NASCAR had no rules?”.

 

GUEST WRITER KAITLYN GIROUX RECOMMENDS SPICE ROAD BY MAIYA IBRAHIM

Feb
06

“It is magic, how words can be deadlier than daggers.”

In a world where magic tea is taken to heighten one’s powers, where monster roam free and ancient councils make warriors out of children, seventeen-year-old Imani has spent all her life mourning her brother who perished in the Forbidden Wastes. When Imani hears a rumour that Atheer might not be dead after all, she gathers a team of warriors and an array of weapons and sets out into the desert to rescue her brother after years of him being gone. Along the way, Imani and her team face obstacles, monsters and magic that test their abilities and make her questions where her place really is.

Fans of Children of Blood and Bone, Divine Rivals and Shadow and Bone will be captivated by Maiya Ibrahim’s Arabian inspired YA fantasy novel. Spice Road has something that will appeal to every reader. With elements of magic, myth, war, romance and adventure, Spice Road is an excellent book to introduce readers to a new genre they may not have thought to try. Maiya Ibrahim’s deep portrayal of the Arabian inspired fictional city Qalia is enthralling and pulls readers in, making it near difficult to put down the novel. While set in a fictional city, Spice Road is an excellent book to introduce readers to cultures that they may not have been exposed to before, as Qalia is based on ancient Arabian myth and culture.

I would recommend Spice Road to high school students who are looking to try a new genre. This would also be a great novel to use when introducing students to worldbuilding, setting, character and plot. Whether readers pick up Spice Road for its adventure, worldbuilding or strong female heroin, there is something for everyone!

Kaitlyn is a student from the Bachelor of Education program at the University of New Brunswick.

 

 

 

 

 

TRY THIS TOMORROW: MEANINGFUL FLUENCY PRACTICE, ONE OF LINDSAY KEMENY’S 7 MIGHTY MOVES

Feb
01

7 Mighty Moves: Research-Backed, Classroom-Tested Strategies for K-to-3 Reading Success by Lindsay Kemeny, is a treasure trove of actionable strategies educators can try tomorrow. While Kemeny’s focus is on critical foundational reading skills for K-3, many of these strategies extend beyond grade 3. 7 Mighty Moves helps educators to think about how they can effectively address all the strands in the reading rope across the day. Kemeny shares her ongoing learning journey, revealing the adaptations she has made and the practices she has abandoned in a clear and engaging manner.

Within Move 6: Focus on Meaningful Fluency Practice, many of Kemeny’s strategies are adaptable for adolescent readers. She challenges educators to incorporate the practice of repeated oral readings combined with listening to fluent reading. Notably, Kemeny emphasizes the impact of reading a passage four times, stressing it has a greater impact than reading it only once, twice, or thrice. Techniques like echo reading, choral reading, and partner reading are highlighted as engaging methods that afford readers ample opportunities to both listen to and practice fluent reading. Kemeny emphasizes steering clear of ineffective practices such as round robin or popcorn reading, underscoring the importance of respecting readers’ emotional experiences while reading aloud.

I love that Kemeny included one of the most authentic oral rereading strategies that all readers may enjoy, regardless of age, the performance of a text for an audience. Various types of text can be adapted for Readers Theater: poems, dramatic dialogues, short stories, fables, folklore, and humorous texts with multiple voices, graphic novels, and comics, etc., as these are all great opportunities for repeated reading practice. Picture books and children’s literature featuring engaging dialogue are also recommended, provided they serve the readers’ individual needs.

Check out this group of adolescent readers performing The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs as well as this great collection of Readers Theatre scripts: RTscripts – Dr. Chase Young (thebestclass.org).

Kemeny challenges educators to implement different ways readers can engage in reading aloud in safe reading environments. What meaningful fluency practice strategies are you currently implementing in your classroom?

Kemeny, L., & Archer, A. L. (2023). 7 mighty moves: Research-backed, classroom-tested strategies to ensure K-to-3 reading success. Scholastic.