Margin Notes



*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 (
  • 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!



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!



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.



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.




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 is the first post in a series that will introduce ideas for leveling up your First Chapter Fridays without diminishing its central purpose of engaging readers.

Fluency is the ability to read text accurately and smoothly. Fluent readers read text with automaticity and prosody or expression. They also adjust their reading rate depending on the text.

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

  • Reading aloud provides a model of fluent reading for students. You can enhance this by using a document camera to project the text for students to follow along while you are reading.
  • While reading, draw attention to places in the text where you monitored and adjusted your pace or expression.
  • Revisit portions of the text in a targeted fluency mini-lesson. Possible areas of focus include reading the punctuation, reading phrases smoothly, adjusting pacing to match form and purpose, and using dimensions of fluency (intonation, stress, pausing, phrasing, tone, & volume) to convey meaning.
  • Use a short section of the text for choral reading.
  • Invite students to reread a passage with a partner and discuss possible ways the reader’s expression could alter the meaning.



What is a manifesto?

A personal manifesto is the Swiss Army Knife of self-awareness. Your manifesto can give you the confidence to take risks that are important to you and be persistent about pursuing goals you actually care about. You can use it to synthesize new ideas and knowledge, react to change with coherence and consistency, inform your intentions, be authentic with others, and avoid situations that lead to regret. Your manifesto can be the life raft you build to keep your head above the waters of change, travel the oceans of new technology and complexity, and work your work a little wiser every day.

Why do you need one?

You need tools to navigate the sea of change. You need the advice of a teacher, the hard-won knowledge of your own experience, the wisdom of a guru, the challenge of a goal. Some compass to carry with you on the crowded path of living. You need a manifesto to recruit yourself into exercising your power as a creator and change maker. To filter the signal from the noise. To know—not just what you can do, but what you should do, what you must do, and how to do it.

In You Need a Manifesto: How to Craft Your Convictions and Put Them to Work Charlotte Burgess-Auburn demonstrates how to use the tools of design to create your own manifesto. She outlines a five-step process for crafting a manifesto that is both “a statement of purpose and a script for action”:

  1. Commence- begin by actively examining your values and beliefs.
  2. Consider- become familiar with your goals, values, ethics, and biases.
  3. Collect- deliberately look for manifestos, guidance, prescriptions, and other texts written by people who have gone through their own process to distill wisdom out of their experiences.
  4. Curate- explore different frameworks and formats to organize collected statements into a manifesto.
  5. Cultivate- turn your manifesto momentum into a bridge for your community.

Developing a manifesto is a deeply personal process that begins with intentional and deliberate self-reflection. You have to commit to examining our goals, values, and beliefs before you begin to craft your personal statement. Collecting and curating are also invitations to reflect as you identify what resonates with you and why. Although the first four steps are completely individually, step five opens the many possibilities for manifesto creation to move from the individual to the community.

Not only would developing a manifesto be a powerful activity for teacher teams and staffs to undertake to establish shared beliefs, values, understandings, and opportunities for learning, there are many possibilities for adapting this for the classroom:

  • launching it as a getting-to-know-you and community-building activity at the beginning of the year
  • practicing using mentor texts by noticing and naming specific qualities and characteristics of manifestos gathered during the collection process and then articulating how the mentors informed the process and final product
  • establishing a practice of using a writer’s notebook as a tool for collecting and curating by capturing and writing beside the manifestos gathered for inspiration
  • engaging in partner, small-group, and whole-class discussing throughout the process to share what worked, what didn’t, new discoveries, next steps, etc.
  • annotating the final product by responding to prompts such as: Why did I choose this format and content? What examples informed my manifesto and why? What does the manifesto reflect about me? What did I learn about myself in the process?
  • self-reflecting over time by considering: How is my manifesto guiding me as a learner? How is it reflected in my actions, interactions, and the work I create? As my values, beliefs, and goals evolve, do I need to update my manifesto?

You can find lots of manifestos online, but here are a few to get you started:

How to Craft a Brand Manifesto (Guide + 10 Examples

How to Create Your Own Manifesto: With 3 Gorgeous Examples to Inspire You

The Agile Manifesto



The Expert Enough Manifesto from Coding with Empathy

How to Live by Charles Harper Webb

Like the other titles I’ve explored in this series of Stanford d. school guides, You Need a Manifesto is readable, colorful, beautifully designed, and inspiring. You can read my review of Design for Belonging by Susie Wise here.



John Schu primes readers with personal reflection of the books of their heart within the first few pages of his book, The Gift of Story: Exploring the Affective Side of the Reading Life. I love the following questions that Schu uses during his school visits where he shares his love of stories.  

“Is there a book that changed your life?  

Is there a book that feels like a best friend to you?  

Is there a book that you have read so many times that most of it is tattooed to your heart?  

Is there a book that everyone in this room should know about?  

Is there a book that calms you and helps you find your way back to joy? 

Is there a book that helped you understand yourself or a classmate better?  

Is there a book you wish you could give to everyone you meet?” (Schu, 2022, p. 2) 

Book love and joy is something we must sustain and sometimes reclaim throughout the year in our reading communities. These questions are a wonderful resource to add your toolbox for supporting your readers to reflect on their own book love. Sharing “the book of your heart” is a powerful way to exchange book love between your readers. Try it tomorrow!  



On our continuing mission to engage students with writing, what better way than to have them write about who they are and perhaps even what they like to write about, while highlighting that they are all authors. One way to do all of this is by having students write their own author bio, that they can include with any writing pieces throughout the year.

To begin the lesson, a craft study on a varied selection of author biographies would be ideal. Below are a few example mentor texts that I would select. As we move through them, I would ask students to notice what makes each one similar or different than the pervious one. In other words,  what elements do author bios require, and which ones can be included by choice?

  • Karina Yan Glaser has had many jobs, including waitressing, community organizing, and teaching literacy in family homeless shelters. She is now a full-time writer, as well as a contributing editor to Book Riot. She lives in Harlem, New York City, with her husband, two daughters, and assortment of rescue animals. On of her proudest achievements is raising two kids who can’t go anywhere without a book.
  • Alex Gino loves glitter, ice cream, gardening, awe-fun puns, and stories that reflect the diversity and complexity of being alive. They are the author of George and You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! George was a winner of the stonewall Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Children’s Choice Book Awards, among a host of others.
  • Dana Alison Levy was raised by pirates but escaped at a young age and went on to earn a degree in aeronautics and puppetry. Actually, that’s not true- she just likes to make things up. That’s why she has always wanted to write stories. Her previous books, The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island, and This Would Make a Great Story Someday, have garnered starred reviews, been on multiple Best Of and state award lists, and were Junior Library Guild selections. Also, her kids like them. Dana was last seen romping with her family in New England.

Some examples of what you and your students may tease out from author bio mentor texts is that they must include third person voice, state where they are from or currently live, and that they might contain the author’s interests, pervious jobs, literary accolades, points of pride, and a note about the people they share their life with.

Next, it’s your students’ turn to write one, keeping in mind the essentials while also getting the opportunity to make it their own. Their author bios can be as factual or as imaginative as they would like, and in this way, each student may decide whether this assignment is fiction or non-fiction, or a combination of the two.

Some possible extensions to this writing opportunity might include having students to work collaboratively by interviewing each other and writing a bio for their partner. Another possible extension could be having them represent their bio by including a self-portrait and designing the interior of a book jacket, for example.

Chanelle Coates can be found at a local cafe with an iced vanilla latte in hand, reading, writing, and painting with watercolours. The rest of her time she spends thinking about skincare, re-watching Grey’s Anatomy, and FaceTiming her partner Sam.



How do you pass the time on long car drives?  

My family listens to podcasts which is how we discovered APMStuidos’ Smash Boom Best. This is a debate podcast for families and kids. Each episode has guests debate two topics throughout three rounds. The judge is given points to award after each round to help decide the winner. This setup brought a lot of joy to our car ride as we paused the show to discuss and defend where our points would be given. Naturally, this discussion, opinion defense and evidence gathering led me to think about the classroom.  It would be a great resource for a grade 3 – 6 classroom.

How could this be used in the classroom? 

  • Use the scoreboard available on the Smash Boom Best website to track points and start discussions. 
  • Discuss the elements of a debate using the Listening Party Kit to see how the debaters defended their point of view.  
  • Adapt their lesson plans to have students create their own debate. 
  • Try out persuasive argument techniques with their section on how to build a strong argument.  
  • Practice creating and defending an opinion through listening to an episode, the scoreboard tracker and a verbal or written defense. 

There are so many ways to incorporate this educational and entertaining podcast into a classroom. Leave a comment if you give any a try!  



A trend in contemporary poetry collections is the inclusion of prose writing. In general, prose is a writing style that does not follow a structure of rhyme or meter. It uses words to compose phrases that are arranged into sentences and paragraphs and is used to communicate concepts, ideas, and stories to a reader. However, prose poetry is a type of writing that combines the elements of poetry, such as meter, repetition, alliteration, language and literary devices with elements of prose.

To introduce students to prose poetry, I recommend using the work of  Lang Leav, a poet and novelist whose poetry collections feature beautiful examples of prose poetry. She has such a way with words and presents her ideas through her writing in unique and gripping ways. Some titles you may wish to explore with students include:

Three Questions by Lang Leav

Crossroads by Lang Leav

A Dream by Lang Leav

The Redwood Tree by Lang Leav

Until It’s Gone by Lang Leav

Her by Lang Leav

Lover’s Paradox by Lang Leav

Talk Again by Lang Leav

Students can explore these titles as a class, in small groups, and/or independently, and notice and name the moves they notice, and the impact they may have on the reader. They can then experiment with writing their own prose poetry, revising a piece they are currently writing to include a move inspired by something they saw today, or reflect on the impact of this blending of forms.

Taylor Floris is an aspiring English and Business teacher, currently completing her Bachelor of Education degree from the University of New Brunswick. In her spare time, she can be found cozied up, with a coffee in-hand, indulged into the life of fiction and poetry.