Margin Notes

SPECIAL SUMMER SERIES FROM FREDERICTON HIGH’S WRITING 110 STUDENTS

Jun
27

As the school year draws to a close, we want to express our heartfelt gratitude for another year of dedicated work and commitment. With summer upon us, we hope you find time to relax and enjoy everything the season has to offer.

Every reader’s voice matters, and that includes the insightful and passionate voices of teenagers. We are thrilled to introduce a special series featuring recommendations from the talented Writing 110 students at Fredericton High School. These students, guided by their amazing teacher Liz Andrews, dove into their chosen books and emerged with thoughtful and engaging recommendations that reflect their unique perspectives.

This initiative is a celebration of young readers who are eager to share their thoughts with a broader audience. By providing an authentic platform for these students, we hope to amplify their voices and highlight the importance of diverse viewpoints in our reading community.

Starting next week, their recommendations will be posted every Tuesday throughout the summer and into the fall. We hope you enjoy this series as much as we do and find inspiration in the books that have resonated with these readers. Stay tuned to see what titles captured the hearts and minds of Fredericton High School’s Writing 110 students.

Thank you again for your dedication to literacy teaching and learning. Enjoy your summer, take time to rest and rejuvenate, and spend quality time with friends and family. And, as always, happy reading!

 

 

CELEBRATING CREATIVITY AND COLLABORATION: HANWELL PARK ACADEMY’S SECOND ANNUAL STUDENT FILM FESTIVAL

Jun
13

Hanwell Park Academy recently hosted its second annual Student Film Festival to celebrate student learning and showcase the incredible talent and creativity of their middle school students. We were thrilled to receive an invitation to attend. The festival is an initiative started by teachers Megan Young-Jones, Stephen Stone, and Sara Stevenson, who aimed to foster traditions in a new school that would engage learners, provide an authentic audience, celebrate student leadership and achievement, and allow students to take pride in their accomplishments.

In the weeks leading up to the festival, students were placed in small groups and participated in a series of mini lessons led by their language arts teachers. These lessons covered essential filmmaking topics, including genres, story arcs, different types of shots, the art of short films, scriptwriting, and analyzing mentor films across various genres. The goal was to provide students with the foundational knowledge they needed to create compelling films.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this year’s festival was the ease with which students navigated the technology. Using iMovie and CapCut, they edited their films with minimal guidance, showcasing a level of proficiency that left the adults in attendance in awe. The ideas, editing skills, and collaborative efforts were evident in every film presented, reflecting the hard work and dedication of the students.

Ms. Young-Jones served as the Master of Ceremonies, bringing her trademark enthusiasm and humor to the event. She kept the audience entertained between each film and ensured that every student’s work was celebrated. Her ability to motivate and champion students was on full display, making the event not only entertaining but also inspiring.

Respecting the diverse learning identities of students, the festival allowed for flexibility in participation. While all students were placed in groups, they had the choice to either appear on camera or take on roles behind the scenes. This approach ensured that every student could contribute in a way that was comfortable and meaningful for them, fostering a supportive and inclusive environment.

The festival concluded with the panel of guest judges having the difficult task of selecting the award-winning films. Awards were given in various categories, recognizing the outstanding efforts and achievements of the students. Below are two of the award-winning films that exemplify the creativity and inclusivity nurtured at Hanwell Park Academy (click on full screen and then press play!):

Fans’ Choice and Best Overall: Toast

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judges Choice: Disney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for inviting us to this special event, and please invite us back again next year!

CRAFT STUDIO: ABOVE GROUND BY CLINT SMITH

Apr
25

What I Was Reading: 

Clint Smith’s latest collection, Above Ground, examines the emotional landscape of fatherhood, particularly how parenthood has reshaped his perspective on the world. Through poems that explore personal and historical legacies, Smith reflects on the complexities of raising a family amidst societal upheaval. He captures both the joy of seeing the world anew through the eyes of a child and the weight of navigating a turbulent political and social climate.

In “This Is an Incomprehensive List of All the Reasons I Know I Married the Right Person,” the poet employs several craft moves to convey the depth of their love and appreciation for their partner:

This Is an Incomprehensive List of All the Reasons

I Know I Married the Right Person

Because on weekends you wrap your hair with a scarf

and you have so many different scarves that come in

so many different colors and now when I’m out in the world

every time I see a colorful scarf I think of you and I think

of the weekends which are the best days because they are

the days that you and I don’t have to worry about work

or deadlines just bagels and bacon and watching this small

human we’ve created discover the world for the first time.

Because when you laugh you kind of cackle, no I mean you

really cackle like you take a deep breath in and out comes

something unfiltered and unrehearsed and it’s cute

but also scary and isn’t that the perfect description of love?

Because when you watch The Voice you talk to the judges

as if they are waiting for your consultation. Because you

always ask the restaurant to make your pizza extra crispy

and then you put it in the oven for another thirty minutes

anyway after they deliver it. Because when you wake our son

up in the morning you are always singing. Because when

I read you poems I love you always close your eyes

and tell me your favorite line. Because on my birthday

you had my friends make barbecue

and we had leftovers for weeks. Because I like my cinnamon rolls

with maple syrup and honey mustard and you still kiss me

in the morning. Because you hold my hand

when I’m scared and don’t know how to say it.

What Moves I Notice the Author Making: 

  • Using vivid imagery to describe specific moments and habits shared with their partner, such as wrapping hair with scarves, laughing with a cackle, and watching their child discover the world.
  • Including specific details that create a sense of intimacy and familiarity, such as the routine of weekend mornings with bagels and bacon, or the way their partner likes their pizza extra crispy.
  • Weaving together both small, everyday details like wrapping hair with scarves and requesting extra crispy pizza, with deeper, more intimate moments such as holding hands when scared. This juxtaposition emphasizes the significance of both the day-to-day and profound experiences shared in relationships.
  • Repetition of the phrase “because” at the beginning of each stanza emphasizes the cumulative effect of these reasons and reinforces the central theme of the poem.
  • Utilizing enjambment, where lines flow into each other without punctuation at the end of a line, to create a smooth and continuous rhythm, mirroring the ongoing nature of their love and appreciation.
  • Appealing to the senses, describing the taste of cinnamon rolls with maple syrup and honey mustard, the sound of morning singing, and the touch of holding hands when scared.

Possibilities for Writers: 

  • Observe the small moments and details in their own lives and relationships, drawing inspiration from the unique aspects of their experiences, just as Smith does.
  • Reflect on their own feelings and experiences, identifying moments or traits that stand out in their relationships and considering how these moments reflect their love and appreciation for their connections.
  • Experiment with using repetition, enjambment, sensory details, etc., using the form of this poem as a guide.
  • Tap into their emotions and express them in their writing, mirroring the sincerity and depth with which the poet conveys their love and appreciation for their partner.
  • Analyze this poem as an example of effective revision and editing, examining how the poet has meticulously chosen each word and phrase to convey meaning and emotion, and applying similar attention to detail in their own writing process.

 

THESE ARE THE WORDS: FEARLESS VERSE TO FIND YOUR VOICE BY NIKITA GILL

Apr
16

Nikita Gill’s YA debut, These Are the Words, is a poignant journey through the seasons of the soul, offering empowering and heartfelt poetry that speaks directly to the teenage experience. Divided into four sections based on astrological signs of each season, Gill’s collection serves as a guidebook for navigating the complexities of girlhood, feminism, and adolescence. Each poem feels like a warm embrace of “I see you” and touch on themes of love, friendship, family, and self-acceptance.

While many poems focus on the female experience, Gill acknowledges and validates the struggles faced by many teenagers today, from homophobia and racism to body image issues and mental health concerns. Gill encourages readers to reclaim their agency, discover their power, and fight for their dreams, reminding them that they are worthy of love, respect, and acceptance.

Overall, These Are the Words is a stunningly warm and fearless poetry collection, offering a safe space for teenagers to explore and embrace their identities and experiences. These poems are an important addition to any high school classroom, offering a voice of compassion and empowerment to young adult readers.

To offer you a glimpse into the relevance, relatability, and poignancy of this poetry collection, here is one for you to read:

INSTAGRAM

I scroll through Instagram and see the words ‘you are beautiful

as you are’ right after which a perfect picture of a perfect girl in

a perfect black bikini bewitches me. I wonder, ‘When was the

last time you had your heart broken?’ I wonder, ‘Has someone

ever taken you stargazing and been surprised by how much you

know about the constellations?’ I wonder, ‘Have you ever dug

through the graveyards of your past thinking if you left something

living in there, something you wished you had left to grow?’ Her

caption says ‘I love the sun #beachparadise #beachbody’ and I

wonder if she has ever sat in the rain, letting her tears mingle in

the water, whether her version of paradise was always perfection,

colourized just so, a filter making it brighter, a story told

flawlessly. My fingers hover over the comment button. There is

so much I want to know. But instead I log out and put my phone

away for the rest of the day.

EVERYTHING COMES NEXT BY NAOMI SHIHAB NYE

Apr
09

Everything Comes Next by Naomi Shihab Nye is a collection of poems that transcends age barriers and speaks to the heart of humanity. The combination of new, previously unpublished poems and timeless favorites, come together to showcase Nye’s poetic genius.

The collection begins with an beautiful introduction by renowned poet Edward Hirsch, setting the stage for the reader’s journey into Nye’s world. Divided into three sections, the poems navigate themes of childhood, identity, and the interconnectedness of humanity. Nye’s writing style is conversational yet profound, inviting readers to contemplate the beauty found in everyday life.

A notable aspect of the collection of poems is its accessibility and versatility – there’s something for everyone within these pages. Nye’s writing tips provide valuable insights for aspiring poets, making this book a valuable resource for both readers and writers. The inclusion of artwork by Rafael López enhances the reader’s experience with striking visual imagery.

While some poems will leave you laughing, others delve into more somber topics, such as the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. Nye’s ability to navigate these complex themes with sensitivity and empathy is a testament to her skill as a poet.

Altogether, Everything Comes Next is a testament to the power of words to reveal the human experience. Whether you’re seeking inspiration, solace, or simply a moment of reflection, this book delivers on all fronts. A perfect addition to any classroom library.

Here is a poem from Everything Comes Next that encapsulates the essence of Nye’s poetry:

 

Always Bring a Pencil

There will not be a test.

It does not have to be

 a Number 2 pencil.

But there will be certain things-

the quiet flush of waves,

ripe scent of fish,

smooth ripple of the wind’s second name-

that prefer to be written about

in pencil.

It gives them more room

to move around.

TRY THIS TOMORROW: WORDS ACROSS CONTEXTS

Mar
07

Kylene Beers, in When Kids Can’t Read What Teachers Can Do, shares this simple but effective idea for teaching homographs, words that are spelled the same but have different meanings. She first asks the reader to consider what the following words have in common:

  • leave
  • good
  • interest
  • date
  • type
  • fast

They are all words that have multiple meanings. As she explains, “Leave can mean to remain (Please leave the book there.) or to be absent from a place (She is on leave from her job.). Good can be a moral value (She is a good person.) or a level of skill They did a good job.) or something you can count on (The car was good for another year.)”.

What makes this important for teachers to consider is that words with multiple meanings are problematic for students who know the most common definition of the word, but not the lesson common definition(s). When reading a text, if a student encounters a word, and only knows the common definition, comprehension breaks down. While skilled readers, and students who have broad vocabulary and reading experiences know when to consider other definitions, “…students with reading difficulties often default to the only definition they know”.

So, with this knowledge, how can we support readers in our classrooms?

Beers explains that although wide reading exposure will help students with the multiple meanings of words, we can introduce discussions on homographs in the classroom by simply selecting a homograph found in a text students are currently exploring, and increase their understanding of multiple meanings through an activity she calls “Words Across Contexts”. Here are some examples:

What would jersey mean to

  • A rancher?
  • Someone from New England?
  • A football player?

What would bank mean to

  • Someone standing near a river?
  • Someone who wants to save money?
  • A pilot?

What would bolt mean to

  • A carpenter?
  • A weather forecaster?
  • A runner?

What would engage mean to

  • A couple?
  • Someone chosen to do a job?
  • A mechanic?

What would novel mean to

  • A writer?
  • A creative problem solver?

Beers then shares a list of words with multiple meanings that you can find here, as well as a template for this activity here.

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

TRY THIS TOMORROW: DIVERSITY AND MEDIA RESOURCE

Jan
25

In our ever-evolving digital landscape, navigating the nuances of media representation and diversity are integral to nurturing informed and empathetic students.  One resource that supports this endeavor is the “That’s Not Me” portal by MediaSmarts. This comprehensive resource is specifically designed for educators seeking engaging and relevant content to incorporate into their literacy curriculum.

 

This resource includes a Professional Development section for teachers, as well as the following:

  • “That’s Not Me” Tutorial: Empowers students to challenge media portrayals and advocate for positive representations.
  • Background Articles: Offers information on the media portrayals of Indigenous People, Visible Minorities, 2SLGBTQ+ Representation, Persons with Disabilities, and Racial and Cultural Diversity.
  • Lesson Plans: Engages students thoughtful lessons dissecting bias in news and exploring diversity in media ownership.
  • Diversity in Media Toolbox: A comprehensive suite featuring professional development tutorials, interactive student modules, lesson plans, and articles addressing bias and hate in media.

As with every resource, you will want to adapt lessons based on curriculum outcomes/skill descriptors and the needs and interests of your students, but this resource will provide you with great ideas and relevant and timely texts.

ACCOUNTABLE: THE TRUE STORY OF A RACIST SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNT AND THE TEENAGERS WHOSE LIVES IT CHANGED

Oct
03

“Because to be funny is to be admired. And to be funnier than someone else is to win. The stakes keep going up. Be funny. Be funnier. And by all means, don’t be the person who complains about the joke. Because boy culture says that everything is funny.”

Fans of Dashka Slater’s award-winning book, The 57 Bus, will be equally captivated by her newest release that follows the true story of a high school student’s Instagram account and the overwhelming impact that was felt when the content was shared among the students, the school, and the entire community of Albany, California. Accountable: The True Story of a Racist Social Media Account and the Teenagers Whose Lives It Changed, is a timely and relevant story that serves as a reminder and a warning of what price will be paid when funny content leads to edgy content that leads to racist content, all for the sake of some laughs and likes for some, and heartbreak and trauma for others. Through the telling of this story, we see what price was paid by the student that created the account, those who followed the account, those who knew about the account, those who found out about the account, and of course, the victims targeted on the account.

The adults who tried to intervene were ill-prepared to deal with the aftermath of the revelation of the account and the emotions of the students, staff and community. Rash decisions were made and an attempt at restorative justice turned violent. This is one reason why I highly recommend this book to educators and parents in addition to high school students, as although it doesn’t model what to do in situations such as this, it certainly details for the adults what not to do. And even high school students, who hold the understanding of the power of social media, need reminders of  the consequences of the content of their accounts, and the lasting impact it can yield.

What makes Slater’s writing and story-telling unique is her ability to elicit compassion and understanding not just for the victims who were targeted on the account, but also for those who followed, commented, and even created the account, reminding us that we are all better than our worse decisions. This book left me with more questions than answers, and kept me thinking long after the last page was read. Along with this is her unique take on the story is her writing craft, which includes poetic prose alongside hard-hitting factual narrative. Here is an example of one chapter:

DOES IT MATTER IF YOU DIDN’T MEAN TO HURT ANYONE?

Does it matter if you thought no one besides your friend would see it?

Does it matter if it was supposed to be a joke?

Does it matter if you laughed?

Does it matter if you never commented?

Does it matter if you never saw a post?

Does it matter if you knew it was wrong but you said nothing?

Does it matter if you said something but no one listened?

Does it matter if they bullied you?

Does it matter that they’re still your friends?

Does it matter that you’re a teenager?

Does it matter if you’re sorry?

 

Excerpt from Accountable: The True Story of a Racist Social Media Account and the Teenagers Whose Lives It Changed by Daska Slater 

 

 

THE IVIES BY ALEXA DONNE

Sep
12

“The Ivies” by Alexa Donne is a YA novel that follows five high-achieving students at Caflin Academy as they compete for admission into the most sought-after colleges. Told from the perspective of Olivia, a scholarship student, the story drops readers immediately into a web of both thrilling and unsettling manipulation, sabotage, and deceit orchestrated by her and the other four members of “The Ivies”:  Emma, Margo, Sierra, Avery.

Avery (the self-appointed leader) had dictated that the girls that they each pick a different Ivy college to apply to, both to increase their chance of admission and to avoid internal competition inside the group. Avery had claimed Harvard as her own however both Olivia and Emma applied in secret. Harvard rejects Avery but Olivia and Emma are accepted. Olivia stays quiet about her own acceptance, but Emma admits hers, and there is huge drama between Avery and Emma. The next day Emma is dead.

After Emma’s murder, Olivia starts to question everything she knows about her friends and the cutthroat world of elite college admissions. As she delves deeper into the investigation, she realizes that her friends may be willing to do whatever it takes – including murder – to get ahead. Although Olivia receives ominous threats, she refuses to leave the investigation alone, and as a reader, you are thankful she keeps digging!

This story explores themes of ambition, competition, race, and privilege, and raises questions about the toxic culture of elite schools and the pressures that students face to succeed. It is a suspenseful and twisty thriller that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very end. Fans of Karen McManus will surely enjoy this title.