Margin Notes



What I was reading:

“Good Different” by Meg Eden Kuyatt is a captivating and heartwarming novel that delves into the lives of middle school students navigating the challenges of identity, acceptance, and friendship. To read more about this novel in verse, check out the book recommendation here.



For Mrs. V’s Homework Assignment On Why I Like Pebblecreek Academy

By Selah Godfrey

Why do I like Pebblecreek?
It’s a silly question. Of course
I like Pebblecreek. I just do.

I like the sound of the whole class reciting
the same jingle, or singing the same song, together.

I like the way my best friend Noelle wiggles her eyebrows
in the goofy Noelle way and makes me laugh
when we’re in class or on cleanup duty.

I like that the stairwells always smell like Pebblecreek stairwells
and the classrooms always smell like Pebblecreek classrooms.

I like that I’ve been in the same school building
every year of school and know where all the rooms are.

At Pebblecreek, there’s a way for doing everything:
raise your hand to speak in class
electronics off and put away
no makeup
lunches and jackets on the shelf
in your assigned spot
just outside the classroom.

Even though lots of kids complain
about all our rules, I like
that I don’t have to think about
what to wear
and know what I’m
supposed to do.

Everyone at Pebblecreek is part of the Pebblecreek family,
and it really feels like that,
like all the teachers are my aunts and uncles who always tell us at the end of each day,
“You are loved and worthy
and can do great things.”

At Pebblecreek, all the kids invite each other
to each other’s parties.
Even if we aren’t all close
They’re always there,
Because we’re stuck with each other
In the same classes each grade,
so we kind of have to get along.

I like that everyone knows me
As the Girl Who’s Good at Drawing
and people always say nice things about my drawings
and ask me to draw them.

I like that there’s a place for me at Pebblecreek.
Pebblecreek might not be perfect
but it’s familiar
and I never want to change it,
like a pair of favorite shoes
that even if they’re falling apart
you tape up and try to fix
because they’re special and important
and yours.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  1. Descriptive Language: The author uses sensory details to describe the environment and atmosphere of Pebblecreek Academy. Descriptions like “the stairwells always smell like Pebblecreek stairwells” and “classrooms always smell like Pebblecreek classrooms” evoke a vivid sense of familiarity and routine. She capitalizes what she is known for as if it is an official title.
  2. Character Development: Selah introduces and describes her best friend, Noelle, showcasing a personal connection and adding depth to the narrative. This helps create a more relatable and engaging story.
  3. Voice and Tone: The tone of the piece is personal and reflective, conveying the author’s feelings and experiences. The voice feels authentic, which allows readers to connect with the narrator’s emotions and perspective.
  4. Repetition and Rhythm: The repetition of phrases like “I like” and the consistent structure throughout the piece create a rhythmic flow, emphasizing the author’s sentiments and reinforcing the central theme of fondness for Pebblecreek Academy.
  5. Symbolism and Metaphor: The analogy of Pebblecreek being compared to a pair of favorite shoes that one wants to keep despite their imperfections is a metaphor that adds depth and emotional resonance to the author’s feelings towards the school.
  6. Themes of Belonging and Community: The text explores themes of belonging and community within the school, emphasizing the sense of belonging and acceptance the narrator feels among her peers and teachers.


Possibilities for Writers:

Writer’s can:

  • Reflect on their own communities and buildings where they feel they belong.
  • Practice crafting vivid and sensory descriptions of places, whether it’s a school, a neighborhood, or any familiar environment. Detailing the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings associated with a place can create a strong sense of atmosphere and nostalgia.
  • Experiment with using metaphors and analogies to describe feelings, experiences, or places. Similar to Selah’s comparison of Pebblecreek to a pair of favorite shoes, writers can use metaphors to evoke emotions and connections.
  • Experiment with the style of narrative. Try using repetition, varied sentence structures, or different points of view to convey emotions and experiences effectively.
  • Write about that they are known for like how Saleh is known as “the Girl Who’s Good at Drawing”.






“Good Different” by Meg Eden Kuyatt is a captivating and heartwarming novel-in-verse that delves into the lives of middle school students navigating the challenges of identity, acceptance, and friendship. The story unfolds through the eyes of Selah, a middle school student who has survived on the rules she has made for being normal. She has spent her life studying the world around her and changing her behaviors to fit into the mold.  Challenges arise and she starts to learn and explore the idea that she could be autistic. Armed with the power of knowledge and the support of some mentors, she sets out to make her own rules and accommodations so the world can adapt for her. As she forms unexpected connections with her classmates as the narrative weaves a poignant tale of self-discovery, empathy, and the power of embracing diversity.

One of the central themes of “Good Different” is the celebration of diversity. Meg Eden Kuyatt skillfully explores the complexities of identity, emphasizing the importance of accepting oneself and others for who they truly are. The novel provides valuable insights into the challenges faced by individuals who may be perceived as “different” and encourages readers to cultivate empathy and understanding. Themes of friendship, resilience, and the strength that comes from embracing one’s unique qualities are interwoven throughout the narrative. Truly, the biggest takeaway was the unwavering idea that different should be celebrated.

Kuyatt’s writing style is both accessible and engaging, making “Good Different” an ideal choice for middle school classrooms. The author seamlessly blends humor and sensitivity, creating a narrative that resonates with young readers. The characters are well-developed and relatable, allowing students to connect with the story on a personal level. The inclusion of diverse perspectives enriches the reading experience, fostering a sense of inclusivity within the classroom.

Don’t forget to read the author’s note for context and personal insights that enhance the overall reading.




What is a reading word sort?

This “Think From the Middle” reading activity is used for making predictions, setting reading intention and checking for understanding. It involves tactile learning and can be done individually or in groups. Here is the description from their website:


Word sorts for narrative text is a before-, during-, and after-reading strategy in which the teacher creates a collection of important words and phrases from a story on index cards.  This collection is prepared in advance of the lesson.  Working individually or in pairs before reading the text, students arrange the cards in an order that supports the telling of a story and then use the cards to tell the story to the class.  During the reading the teacher stops occasionally, allowing the students to rearrange their cards, as needed. Upon the conclusion of the reading, the students rearrange for the last time in order to give a proper retelling.

How would I use it?

Before asking students to complete this sorting, the teacher would model the steps in a mini-lesson while sharing aloud their thinking. The work of readers happens inside the mind and the think-aloud will allow that process to be visible for students.

This idea can be expanded to have students continue to re-arrange the cards to discuss theme, characters, conflict, text structure etc. The teacher guides the lesson with the words/phrases selected for the cards.

Where can I find a step-by-step guide?

This reading activity comes from the website Think From the Middle and all the directions are written out step-by-step here.

If you love this activity and want to stretch this thinking, check out our post on hexagonal thinking.



Margin Notes posted about the Poetry RX column in The Paris Review here. Dr. Maya C. Popa (@MayaCPopa), an acclaimed poet in modern poetry, has used her “X” platform to share the same idea of “Poetry Rx”. Read more about her work on her website.

She shares an ailment on “X”, and her followers will offer their prescribed poems, sometimes with explanations and other times without. The conditions are often timely with world events, seasons or connected to real people. Here are some examples:

These posts become curated poetry and art text sets on a topic/theme.

How to try this tomorrow:

Poetry Prescription Gallery Walk:

  • Curate a gallery of poems that were previously prescribed for various problems.
  • Divide students into small groups and have them rotate through the gallery.
  • Ask each group to analyze and discuss why a particular poem might have been prescribed for a given problem.
  • Encourage them to consider themes, tone, and literary devices – whatever mini-lesson you taught.

Classwide Poetry Prescription Database:

  • Create a shared online document or database where students can contribute poems they find or write for specific problems.
  • Have students categorize the poems based on the problems they address.
  • Students can take out the collection of poems when they need support in that area.

Rotating Poetry Prescription Circles:

  • Establish rotating small groups within the class.
  • Each group is responsible for identifying a problem and prescribing a poem to address it.
  • Rotate the groups periodically to ensure that students have diverse experiences in exploring and discussing different problems and poems.

Collaborative Poetry Prescriptions:

  • Assign each student a specific problem or challenge to explore through poetry.
  • Have them collaborate in pairs or small groups to find or create poems that address their assigned issue.

Poetry Playlists:

  • When teaching about character and theme development, have students create a poetry playlist to represent the emotions, actions or motivations of a character.

These ideas involve students actively engaging with poetry prescriptions, encouraging critical thinking, collaboration, and reflection on the choices made in selecting and discussing poems for specific problems.



Artists on Spotify can see every playlist their music is added to. A Tiktok artist @Johnwritessongs takes these playlist titles to create songs and have fun with the different spaces his music lands on Spotify. He has a whole playlist called songwriting challenges you can find here. You can listen to an example of a song written by playlist titles here.

*Teachers should preview all examples for language and content before showing a class.

Try this tomorrow:

Write your own found poetry: Have strips of paper cut up. Students can use their own Spotify playlist titles or search for the playlist titles of their favorite songs. Write each playlist title on a strip of paper and organize them into a poem. Encourage them to experiment with different themes, tones, and structures as they compose their poems. Collaborate, share and enjoy!

Analyzing structure and form: Have students analyze the structure and form of the found poems created by @johnwritessongs. Discuss how he uses the titles of Spotify playlists to construct lyrics and create meaning. Students can examine the organization of the playlists and how the artist selects and arranges the titles to create coherence and flow in the poem.

Understanding tone and mood: Explore the tone and mood conveyed in the found poems. Discuss how the choice of playlist titles influences the overall tone of the poem and contributes to the mood. Encourage students to identify specific words or phrases that evoke certain emotions and discuss how they contribute to the overall meaning of the poem.

This is a fun and playful way to bring poetry into the classroom but also provides a deeper conversation about how we build communities and connect through artistic expression. Use this lesson idea to embrace contemporary culture and the intersections of music, writing, social media etc.



What I was reading:

Accountable by Daska Slater brings readers into the unsettling aftermath of a high school student’s private Instagram account where racism and sexism are disguised as humor. Slater explores the complexities of accountability in the digital age, probing the impact of harm behind screens and challenging readers to think about what it truly means to be held accountable in an online era. Read the Margin Note’s recommendation here.

This book is full of craft studies as it uses a variety of forms to tell the history, context and personal stories behind the account. The text for this craft study can be found here.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  1. Repetition: The repetition of “You can…” establishes a pattern, emphasizing the various ways harm can be inflicted. This creates a rhythmic flow, intensifying the impact of each method described.
  2. Conventions around the repetition: The repeated pattern starts with a single word to describe how you can do it followed by a comma and a more detailed description. Ex: “You can do it indirectly, through rumors or exclusion or assumptions.”
  3. Analogies and Metaphors: By likening racism to a weapon—a blade honed by repeated use—the author employs vivid imagery, creating a tangible and visceral understanding of the pervasive and enduring nature of racism’s impact.
  4. Historical Context: Referencing “centuries of wounds” contextualizes the weight of racial discrimination, underscoring that every act or expression carries the weight of a history stained with injustices.
  5. Rhetorical Question: The closing question—”So what do you do with all that history?”—engages readers, prompting reflection and inviting contemplation on how individuals grapple with the legacy of racism and its pervasive effects.


Possibilities for Writers:

Writers can:

  • Write where their thinking takes them after reading the text.
  • Borrow the craft moves. Use the beginning line “THERE ARE LOTS OF WAYS TO ___________ ANOTHER HUMAN BEING” and follow the repetition of “you can *single word*, *more description of single word*
  • Write about how they would answer the question the text ends with.

“So what do you do with all that history? The person who made the joke or used the slur didn’t commit all of racism’s many crimes, but they still used the same weapon, its blade honed by repeated use.”

  • Write their own opinion piece on the topics in the text.



Reading When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do by Kylene Beers and Words Their Way, the word sort activities stood out as a method of teaching morphology with a focus on spelling patterns. Word sorts are an engaging and effective activity that unveils the intricate world of morphology and spelling patterns for learners. Through this hands-on approach, students categorize words based on shared features such as roots, prefixes, suffixes, or spelling patterns. This activity fosters a deeper understanding of how words are formed and how they relate to one another, empowering students to decipher unfamiliar words by recognizing recurring morphemes. By actively sorting and discussing words, learners not only enhance their spelling abilities but also gain insight into the structural makeup of language, promoting a more robust vocabulary acquisition and decoding skills. Word sorts encourage exploration, analysis, and discovery, making them a valuable tool in unraveling the complexities of language structure and spelling patterns.

Here is an example using the patterns -ible and -able from When Kids Can’t Read: What Teacher Can Do:

  • Students are in small groups looking at the -ible and -able pattern to learn the rule (rather than memorize it)
  • Word list:
achievable edible possible
avoidable excitable remarkable
believable horrible returnable
breakable legible terrible
comfortable notable debatable
transportable observable visible
  • Students sort the list into two big groups: words ending in -ible and -able. Encourage students to look at the root words to divide the -able list into two. The pattern they are looking for is that some of the root words end in “e” and others do not.


  • Students then look at the lists to see if they can understand the rules at play in the division. The suffix -able is typically used when the root word can be a standalone word (comfortable/comfort) or can be a standalone word if you add the “e” (debatable) and -ible is mostly used when the root word is of Latin origin, and without the -ible, they are not a standalone word.


  • Ask students to write a rule they discovered using the terns “root words” and “suffixes”. Here is what her students wrote:

By delving into morphology and spelling patterns through active sorting, students not only decode unfamiliar words but also grasp the intricate fabric of word formation. As demonstrated with the -ible and -able patterns, this hands-on method encourages exploration, enabling learners to discern nuanced rules around root words and suffixes, fostering a deeper understanding of language structures.

Bear, Donald R., et al. Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction. 7th ed., Pearson, 2021.

Beers, Kylene. When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do. 2nd ed., Heinemann, 2023.



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!



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.




What I was reading:

Things to Look Forward To by Sophie Blackwell is a collection of small and large joys. She acknowledges that there are many big long-term achievements to look forward to but we can also look forward to the everyday things. She describes these as “things that will buoy our spirits and make us laugh and help us feel alive and that will bring others comfort and hope.”


Moves I noticed the author make:

The moves can change with every selection! Here is one example:


If we are lucky, when the rain has stopped and a fine mist hangs in the air, sunlight might enter through tiny droplets, bend as it hits each surface, bounce off the back wall of the raindrop, and bend again as it exits. And if we happen to be standing facing away from the sun and raising our sights 42 degrees, that refracted, reflected, and dispersed light might form a shimmering rainbow. Then we can make a wish. 



  • Uses the “if, and, then” format
  • Descriptive wording – “tiny droplets/shimmering rainbow”
  • Repetitive sounds – “bend/bounce/back”
  • Uses tiny details – “raising our sights 42 degrees”
  • Rule of three – “refracted, reflected, and dispersed”

 Possibilities for writers:

  • Notice something in the text.
  • Name what it is that you noticed.
  • Talk about what impact of what you noticed.
  • Choose a symbol in your own life and try using this writer’s craft to write about any 
  • Using the “if, and, then” format, write your own passage of Things to Look Forward to.
  • Zoom in a moment to write in descriptive, tiny details.
  • Try out the rule of three in a descriptive writing paragraph.