Margin Notes

Craft Studio: I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You by David Chariandy

Oct
18

What I Was Reading

I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You is a letter written by David Chariandy to his daughter a decade after they were faced with a racist comment on an outing together. The author had taken his then 3-year-old on an outing and was confronted by a woman who told them “I was born here. I belong here.” After a decade of reflection, he writes to his daughter about it, opening with:

“Once, when you were three, we made a trip out for lunch. We bussed west in our city, to one of those grocery-store buffets serving the type of food my own parents would scorn. Those over-priced organics laid out thinly in brushed-steel trays, the glass sneeze guard just high enough for you, dearest daughter, to dip your head beneath it in assessing, suspiciously, the ‘browned rice’ and ‘free-range carrots.’ And in that moment, I could imagine myself a father long beyond the grasp of history, and now caring for his loved one through kale, and quinoa, and a soda boasting ‘real cane sugar.’”

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making

These opening lines immediately set the tone as a letter written by a father to his daughter. The first words, “Once, when you were three…” introduce the memory of a shared experience from a decade prior and the author recreates the event through details that his daughter might not remember because of her age. This serves a second purpose, which is to bring the reader into the event and establish the context for why the letter has been written. He refers to her directly, as “you” and “dearest daughter” creating a tone of intimacy. I felt the authenticity in the message. The writing is heartfelt and honest.

Possibilities for Writers

* Describe a vivid memory of an event you shared with someone by writing directly to that person about the experience.

* Consider options for the kinds of writing that might have an increased impact if they are addressed directly to the audience.

* Revise a draft in your notebook by rewriting it to address your intended audience.

* Find examples of other places where the writer directs their message to the audience and reflect on the impact of this craft choice.

Object Lessons

Oct
16

Object Lessons is a series of essays “about the hidden lives of ordinary things, from combinations to incarnations, sincerities to solutions” published online by The Atlantic. These essays are fascinating combinations of history, analysis, commentary, and personal narrative. They would be terrific mentor texts for writers delving into explanatory writing that focuses on why or how something came to be or how something works.

Book Relay 2018-19

Oct
12

This year, 40 educators are participating in our Book Relay.  In teams of 5, readers will read and circulate a collection of titles.  We took pictures of their stacks before mailing them out.

Grades 6-8:

BR 1

(more…)

Craft Studio: After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay

Oct
11

What I Was Reading

After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay introduces us, through alternating perspectives, to Bunny Thompson, a basketball star who has accepted a scholarship to a prestigious prep school, and Nasir Blake, the best friend and teammate Bunny left behind when he switched schools. As Bunny navigates feelings of guilt over the opportunity he has received and questions whether he has made the right decision, Nas is harbouring feelings of resentment about Bunny leaving without giving him any advance warning and of worry for his cousin Wallace who is being evicted from the apartment where he lives with his grandmother.

Early on, Bunny returns to the neighbourhood court where he has played ball his whole life:

“It’s not as nice as St. Sebastian’s gym, but this is my home court. This is where I started really playing ball with Nasir once we graduated from the low-hanging crate nailed to a telephone pole on our block. I know every crack and dip like the back of my hand. I know if the shot’s going to drop by the sound of the clang when it hits the steel rim. I know the lights click off at ten but you can still see enough to keep shooting if the moon is bright. (more…)

The Art of the Sentence

Oct
09

The website hosted by Tin House is a terrific spot for finding samples of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry as well as interviews with writers and reflections on their craft. I especially like the regular feature, The Art of the Sentence.  Each post focuses on a beautifully crafted sentence or passage. The writer analyses the sentence, shares information about the author and their style, and reflects on the impact the writing has had on them.

Not only are these excellent mentor texts for students to write their own versions of The Art of the Sentence, I really appreciate the way each post models reading through the lens of a writer and not only noticing but naming aspects of the writer’s craft. The posts also weave in elements of personal narrative as the writer explores their experiences as a reader. They read like personal essays and might also be used to explore organization structures that combine analysis and narrative. Sharing The Art of the Sentence with students is a way to invite them to notice, share, and celebrate the sentences and passages that impact them in their independent reading.

Using Infographics In Your Classroom

Oct
05

If you are interested in incorporating infographics, What Is an Infographic: The History and Evolution of Data Visualization, is an excellent starting point. This primer on data visualization defines infographics, identifies different types with a list of key features and examples, and provides a timeline of the history of infographics.

This information would be a terrific way to launch an infographic genre unit study that involves students both reading and creating infographics. This site, Daily Infographic, is one of my go-to sources, making it easy to gather lots of examples to share with students. Infographics are everywhere and students can also collect examples to share and discuss.

Winner! Winner! #ASDWReads…

Oct
03

Congratulations to Melissa Canam for being the winner of our draw for participating in #ASDWReads on Twitter for the month of September!  We will have your prize of a book in your hands ASAP.

To be in the draw for the month of October, snap a picture of a book you just finished and tag it with #ASDWReads on Twitter.  The more you read, the more entries you get-happy reading:)

September Stacks

Oct
03

We’ve been very busy visiting classrooms for book talks. Thanks to all the teachers who invited us into their classrooms to share some of our favourite titles with their students. We got some wonderful recommendations from them too! Here are some shots of our September Stacks:

(more…)

#ASDWReads

Sep
06

Since we had such a great time this summer looking at all the titles you shared on Twitter with the hashtag #ASDWSummerReads, we decided to continue the book love throughout the school year!  The hashtag is now #ASDWReads and we encourage you to snap a picture of the book you are enjoying then post it on Twitter and add #ASDWReads.

We gave away 5 books to teachers at the end of the summer and we will be drawing a name every month for a book to send to the lucky winner.  The more you post, the higher your chances are.  Happy reading!

Guest Writer Heidi Muise Recommends Far From The Tree by Robin Benway

Sep
04

Far From The Tree is realistic fiction that tells a touching story of three adopted siblings who eventually meet and learn the true meaning of family. This beautifully written story grabs the reader right away in the first chapter when you are introduced to Grace, an only child in her adoptive family. Pregnant at sixteen, giving up her “Peach” for adoption, the reader is drawn to her struggles of finding the perfect family for her baby, and her decision to search for her own biological mother. Thus, she discovers that she has two biological siblings, Maya and Joaquin. As the chapters switch from sibling to sibling, we see how each of the teenagers have lived very different lives.

Maya, the youngest and most vocal sister, struggles living with an upper-class family of redheads while she is the only brunette. Her sarcasm and humour draws the reader into her story. Her adoptive family starts to fall apart and she apprehensively begins to build a new relationship with her new found siblings. The stress of her relationships is also played out in the story with her girlfriend, Claire and her adoptive sister, Lauren.

Joaquin, the oldest brother, was not as fortunate as his siblings and spent most of his life raised in foster care. His unshakable fears from spending 17 years in foster care system show how he struggles to build relationships. When asked by his sisters to help search for his birth mother, he has no desire to find her. Gradually, he begins to trust his new siblings and together they start their quest to find for their birth mother.

This tear-jerking YA novel is a National Book Award winner and it does not disappoint. The multi-layered characters express how dysfunctional families can be, yet shows the importance of family at the same time. It is written in third person narrative and touches on teen pregnancy, adoption, foster care, alcoholism, and family. It is an emotional read and I would highly recommend this to my grade 8 students!

Bio for Heidi Muise:

I am a grade 8 Language Arts teacher at Ridgeview Middle School. Passionate about reading,  I love doing read alouds with my students and conferring about their reading.  In my spare time, I can be found at a sports’ field or arena cheering on my three daughters, Adrianna, Olivia, and Carly.