Margin Notes

GUEST WRITER LINDSAY PEREZ RECOMMENDS THE PARIS PROJECT BY DONNA GEPHART

Mar
31

Paris ProjectMiddle school student Cleveland Rosebud Potts has a dream: A dream to escape her life in Sassafras, Florida and travel to Paris, France where everything will be “parfait”.

Cleveland comes up with an idea – The Paris Project: A list of six items that will prepare her for Paris. There is only one problem: Life.

This novel follows Cleveland’s journey to deal with what life throws her way as she checks the items off her list to say “Good Riddance!” to Sassafras, Florida only to learn “C’est la Vie“.

The Paris Project is a great addition to any middle or high school classroom library. Students will connect and relate with Cleveland’s journey as she navigates her way through middle school.

Lindsay Perez teaches at Nashwaaksis Middle School.

CRAFT STUDIO: HUMANS OF NEW YORK BY BRANDON STANTON

Mar
26

What I Was Reading:

Humans of NYThis book brings a whole new meaning to the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Using photographs and short pieces of text, Brandon Stanton captures the stories of diverse New Yorkers who catch his eye on the city streets. Short texts that vary in length from a sentence to a page sized paragraph accompany the photographs, making for a casual but captivating read. As a reader, you immediately connect with the humans in the photographs and are greatly moved by their stories.

You can read many of the stories on the Humans of New York website.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • The photographer/writer is giving others a voice.
  • Using images to tell powerful stories.
  • Organized in a way that the stories can be read in any order.
  • Using different ways to tell stories. Some photographs are accompanied with short dialogues; some are the stories they share; and some are simple observations made by the photographer/writer.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Choose a picture that you feel tells a story of you. What do you think this picture says about you?
  • Caption a picture that you once took of somebody else, either with an observation, some dialogue, or a short story that explains the picture.
  • Ask your friends/family to send you some photos they have taken of you and choose one that you feel tells a story. What does it say?

Guest writer Rebecca Landry is a Bachelor of Education Student at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton and has an undergraduate degree from the Université of Moncton with a major in French and a minor in English. She hopes to become a Language Arts teacher at the Middle/Secondary school level.

GUEST WRITER ANGELA LARDNER RECOMMENDS WHAT IF IT’S US BY BECKY ALBERTALLI AND ADAM SILVERA

Mar
24

What If It's UsArthur is in New York for the summer when he meets Ben at a post office. Ben is bitter at the world and is there to mail out his ex-boyfriend’s items when he notices Arthur’s awkward ways.

However, when a marching band and proposal at the post office separate Ben and Arthur before they can exchange numbers, let alone names, it seems like their stars are not aligned. But Arthur will not be deterred.

Arthur decides to go to extreme measures to find Ben; he wants the romance and the chance to see what the universe has in store for them. And Ben is curious about him, too. When they finally do find one another, it is a balancing act of getting the perfect first date (four or five times over), the disappointments of unmet expectations, and the realization that life is not a Broadway show, most of the time.

Ben has been in relationships before; this is Arthur’s first one. Together, they help one another find love and true friendship. They control their fate and destiny, with a few ups and downs along the way, in true teenage drama.

This book explores what it means to find your first love and to follow your heart. It makes you believe in love at first sight and takes you back to your teenage years of puppy love, crushes, jealousy, and suspicions. It has all the drama of balancing the fine edge of ending a relationship yet trying to remain friends with that someone, while also trying to start a new relationship with someone new.

Angela Lardner is a teacher at Stanley Consolidated School. She teaches English 9, English 112, English 122 as well as Resource. Her greatest joys are reading and her 2 dogs: Thor and Apollo.

CRAFT STUDIO: THE PRINCESS SAVES HERSELF IN THIS ONE BY AMANDA LOVELACE

Mar
19

What I Was Reading:

princess saves herselfMy co-operating teacher recommended I read this poem from The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace when she was using it with her creative writing class for students to read and imitate with any topic relevant to them. I like this poem because it’s a poem about facing the world and learning to stand on your own two feet. I think this poem is a great fit for high school students because of the message it sends (it refutes the fairytale idea of the prince saving the day when what we need to understand is that we can save ourselves) and because of the writing moves it shows writers.

Warning I:

this is not a
Fairy tale.

there is no
princess.

there is no
damsel.

there is no
queen.

there is no
tower.

there are no
dragons.

there is simply
a girl

faced with the
difficult task

of learning to
believe in

herself.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • Using parallel structure to create the idea of what this poem is not about.
  • Using periods as an emphasis as to what this poem is not about.
  • The author titles this poem Warning I to alert the reader that this poem will connect with other poems in the collection.
  • The author has organized the short stanzas in order to emphasize each point.
  • The writer organizes her writing in a way that invites students to emulate the writing.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Writers can brainstorm events in their own lives that have not had a “fairytale” ending and choose one in order to write their own “Warning” poem.
  • Writers can follow the organization of the poem to allow for emphasis on each point they make leading up to the final point.
  • Writers can play with punctuation to create the emphasis they want and impact the message sent to the reader.

My name is Katie Morgan and I am a pre-service teacher at UNB. I am from Newfoundland and am currently obsessing over Instagram poetry!

GUEST WRITER WILL MILNER RECOMMENDS STRANGERS BY DAVID A. ROBERTSON

Mar
17

StrangersAdmittedly, I was not ready for this book. I began with several others on the go and exams looming around the corner. I felt like it was going in fits and starts, and I was ready to give up. The thing is, once exams were over, I went back to it and finished it in a day!

David A. Robertson’s first instalment of The Reckoner Trilogy takes us to the (fictional) Manitoba town of Wounded Sky where we’re drawn into the lives of a community still reeling a decade on from a devastating school tragedy that claimed the lives of many of the town’s young people. We’re immediately thrown into the schemes of Choch, the coyote trickster of First Nations’ lore, as he plots to coerce Cole Harper back to the town that drove him away for his role as hero and scapegoat in the fire ten years ago.

After the tragedy ten years ago, Cole, along with his grandmother and aunt, moved to Winnepeg. As we see the broken and conflicted life that they have pieced together since leaving Wounded Sky, the inevitable becomes clear: Cole must return and face the demons that await him back home.

What follows is the beginning of a mystery that, while already well under way, really starts to unfold as soon as Cole touches down at the rural community’s airstrip. Cole is forced to face not only the conflicting emotions of his old friends and neighbours, but he must also try to reconcile his current life with his painful past.

Along the way, Choch is weaving his way in and out of Cole’s life, pulling strings, playing games and adding a supernatural level of uncertainty to Cole’s attempt to straighten his life, and his community, out. Trust is scarce, and suspicion is rampant – what really happened all those years ago, and why are people dying now that Cole has returned?

Strangers does contain violence, and mature language/content, so it is best suited to more mature readers. Its themes of family and friendship, and community and belonging ring with sufficient universality that most readers should find themselves drawn into Robertson’s story. Once hooked, as I was, it seems unfair that by the end of the book, Cole’s story has really just gotten started.

Will Milner is an English & Outdoor Pursuits teacher at Fredericton High School, where he also coaches soccer and track & field. When not teaching, or coaching, he can be found with his wife Jen outside with their dogs and playing with their daughter Olivia.

CRAFT STUDIO: INTRODUCTION TO POETRY BY BILLY COLLINS

Mar
12

What I Was Reading:

I was first introduced to Billy Collins during a time in my life when I had no desire to enjoy poetry, and I was a little disappointed to discover that there was a poet out there – a Poet Laureate out there – whose poems I couldn’t help but love. Since then, I have gone through several cycles of forgetting he exists, then rediscovering him, and being equally excited by his poems each time. There’s something irresistible about the way he defies all the pretentious and irritating “rules” that turn so many people off of poetry. Many of Billy Collins’ poems are laced with cynicism, but somehow make me feel light-hearted and optimistic. “Introduction to Poetry” is probably one of his poems that does this the most explicitly. While re-discovering it recently, I was struck by how effective his use of simple and original metaphors is.

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • Collins uses vivid and intriguing imagery to engage many of his readers’ senses (sight, sound, and feeling) in a way that leads us to understand and feel the unsettling truth in his message.
  • He uses line breaks (sometimes multiple) in the middle of sentences to control the flow of his ideas.
  • He uses metaphors to express an idea/opinion – in this case a criticism of how students approach, and are taught to approach, the analysis of poetry.
  • He uses very simple language to convey his ideas.
  • He uses contrasting metaphors to depict the way something is vs. the way it ought to be (two different metaphors to depict two different approaches/perspectives on analyzing poetry: i.e. stanzas 1-5 contrast with stanzas 6 and 7).
  • He also uses these contrasting metaphors to create a shift in tone at the end of the poem (i.e. between stanzas 5 to 6).

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Try to use original imagery to engage as many of the five senses as you can.
  • Try creating a shift in tone by using contrasting imagery.
  • Use contrasting metaphors to describe two different perspectives on the same idea.
  • Communicate an idea using metaphors and similes.
  • Experiment with breaking up sentences onto multiple lines and see how that changes the cadence and flow of your writing. Does this enhance the delivery of your message?
  • Billy Collins’ writing shows us that there is beauty in the simple. Try expressing an idea in one sentence. Revise your sentence using simple language. Does this revision make a greater impact?
Thea Froehlich is a pre-service teacher pursuing her B.Ed at the University of New Brunswick.  She loves spending time outside and staying active, especially in the form of whitewater kayaking.

GUEST WRITER JOANNE MCDONALD RECOMMENDS PATRON SAINTS OF NOTHING BY RANDY RIBAY

Mar
10

Patron Saints of NothingPatron Saints of Nothing engages the reader in a journey of self-discovery with Jay Reguero, a high school student in his senior year, who lives in Michigan with his American mother and Filipino father. His father, having left the Philippines to give his children a better life when they were young, expects Jay to go to an Ivy League college to make the move seem worth the stakes it has cost him—great personal shame and grief from some family members who deem him a traitor.

Disappointingly, Jay has an estranged relationship with his father, who has few meaningful conversations with him, and a shallow relationship with his best friend, Seth, who only shares his love of gaming and playing basketball. It is only Jay’s cousin, Jun, living in the Philippines with whom Jay has a deep relationship with from a memorable vacation when he was ten and the subsequent years of letter writing, that is, before Jay stopped responding to Jun’s letters.

Early on in the story, the reader discovers that Jun had been living on the street for a few years and was shot by the police for doing drugs. While questioning his parents, Jay is introduced to President Rodrigo Duterte’s harsh campaign on cleaning up crime in the Philippines, leaving him feeling ashamed for not knowing or understanding what his Filipino family has been enduring while he has lived a fear-free existence in the United States. When an anonymous person messages Jay from a fake account, indicating that Jun’s death was not related to drugs and that he didn’t deserve to die, Jay embarks on a journey back to his “other” homeland to clandestinely uncover the truth behind his cousin’s death since no one will talk about it. From there, Jay is faced with getting in touch with his Filipino roots; developing an understanding of his father; and coming to grips with the fact that people aren’t always what they seem, which has to be okay.

I would recommend this novel to anyone who loves a good mystery or coming of age story and/or who is interested in mixed-race identity, family bonding, social responsibility, and current issues in the political sphere of the Philippines.

Joanne McDonald teaches grade 9 English, Writing 110, and Canadian Geography 120 at Oromocto High School. Over the past couple of years, she has become passionate about getting great books into the hands of her students and has reconnected with her old creative writing self.

30 DAY WRITING HABIT 2020

Feb
27

Here at Margin Notes we are loving the importance teachers are placing on sharing their reading and writing identities with their students and the many ways in which they are doing so.

The 30 Day Writing Habit created by Jill Davidson provided another opportunity for teachers to jump-start their writing for 2020 and share their writing experiences with their students . Beginning on January 6th, approximately 70 teachers in ASD-W received 30 consecutive days of writing inspiration and were invited to share their writing using the hashtag #ASDWWrites. For teachers already using a writer’s notebook this helped in developing a more consistent writing habit, and for teachers wanting to experience the process of writing and sharing it with their students for the first time, this created the opportunity to do just that.

Here is a sample of  writing inspiration from day 17:30 Day writing habit

After completing the 30 Days of Writing, teachers were able to share their feedback on the experience. Here is some of what the teachers shared:

“Writing is hard and is a journey that you need to commit to if you want to see improvement. I like feeling how my students may feel in the writing classroom.”

“It’s tough, hard, vulnerable, thought-provoking, heart-wrenching, frustrating, beautiful, insightful, and creative – all on one page sometimes! I cannot expect it to come easy or be easy for my students. But it also cannot be something that we all avoid – it brings much more to us as writers and is worth the temporary agony.”

“The thing that stuck out the most was the importance of building writing stamina. Even though I was engaged in the topics, the amount of time I spent writing grew with each day I wrote. I also learned that I needed to take breaks after writing, especially if I wrote for long time.”

For further reading on the importance of writing when you are a teacher of writing, we suggest the following:

Sharing Our Vulnerabilities as Writers: Writing and Revising Even When You Don’t Want To by Jeff Anderson

On Joy, Teaching, and the Deep Satisfaction of Writing by Penny Kittle

Teacher to Teacher: On Being a Writer and Establishing a Writing Identity by Lynne R. Dorfman

 

 

GUEST WRITER BRANDON LEBLANC RECOMMENDS DEAR MARTIN BY NIC STONE

Feb
25

It is only appropriate I share Nic Stone’s Dear Martin in  February, Black History Month inDear Martin both Canada and the United States, let alone during the current political climate.

Justyce McAllister is a young African-American who excels in academics and aspires to attend Yale after graduation. He participates in a debate club with a small group of friends, notably Jared, a white student with skewed views on race relations, and Sarah-Jane (SJ) Friedman, a confident speaker unafraid to challenge Jared in the club meetings. The story follows Justyce, his friend Manny, SJ, and Jared’s crew through a series of social situations and events in which discrimination rears itself, leading to tense, even violent incidents. From Justyce’s wrongful arrest, through a tasteless costume party in which a member of the group dresses as a Klansman, to a street confrontation, the reader is taken on a jarring and unsettling journey through the day-to-day life of a young black man trying to move beyond societal stereotypes without losing touch with his community.

Throughout the story, Justyce writes letters in his journal to Dr. King, presented in more of a conversational tone and handwritten-style font, where he is free to rhetorically ask Martin why he still has to endure racism decades later. From his friends’ aloof attitudes to his mother’s disapproval of his romantic interest in SJ, Justyce feels he has no one to whom he can turn.

The author presents a remarkable writing style. Typical of modern YA fiction, the perspective is present tense, a technique conducive to readers wishing to immerse themselves in the moment. Dialogue is often presented without tags, as though in a play—character name: spoken line. The debate sequences flow organically as a result. Stone’s style of writing should appeal to reluctant and enthusiastic readers alike.

Adolescents today have a general knowledge of Civil Rights, who the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was and how equal rights are not yet guaranteed. While many of our cultural icons are African-American/Canadian, there remains a lack of true understanding of the daily hurdles young black people face.

This story succeeds for precisely this reason. Young adult readers will invest in a narrative that relates to them. Stone masterfully conveys the complexities of race relations in a way young people from all cultures can understand. Most notably, the young characters reveal through talk what text books and lectures cannot. There is a lot of heart in this story; be advised you may find yours broken when it reaches its climax. As it should, before true understanding can be found.

Brandon LeBlanc is an English, French, and Social Studies teacher at Stanley Consolidated School.

CRAFT STUDIO: “AN OPEN LETTER TO THOSE WHO WANT TO LIBERATE ME FROM WEARING MY HIJAB” BY AMIRA B. KUNBARGI

Feb
20

What I Was Reading:

“An Open Letter To Those Who Want To Liberate Me From Wearing My Hijab” by Amira B. Kunbargi is a bold, honest, and witty letter to people who make false and harmful assumptions about women and girls who choose to wear Hijab. There are many beautifully written parts in this letter. Here is one section that stands out with moves writers may want to try:

I don’t need your life jacket. I am not drowning in dogmatism or ideological idiocy. Nor am I prisoner to a patriarchal rampart. I am not brainwashed, backward, or bound. You don’t need to rescue me so stop trying to save me.

I don’t need saving. What I need is respect.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • She begins claiming authority and control over her identity.
  • She uses words that others may have used to define her and strips them of their power.
  • She uses short, simple sentences, each with its own claim.
  • She shows her mature understanding of the world by using complex words within her short sentences.
  • She repeatedly uses the word “I”, which centers her as the one reclaiming the power others have tried to take away.
  • She ends with a clear statement of what she desires, what she needs.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Using a similar format, confront a stereotype or a label others have used to define you.
  • Be bold and specific with your word choice – using words in your writing that others have used to define you.
  • Address the possible political or cultural ideas of thought that have lead to you being labeled or stereotyped.
  • End with a demand of what you need from people around you in order to feel safe and valued.