Margin Notes

GUEST WRITER ANGELA LARDNER RECOMMENDS DEAR EVAN HANSEN BY VAL EMMICH

Feb
19

“Dear Evan Hansen,dearevanhansen-thenovel
Today is going to be an amazing day, and here’s why…”

Well, not all of Evan Hansen’s days are amazing.

Evan has a letter mix-up with Connor Murphy, a troubled teen whom Evan barely knows. Evan wrote the letter to himself as part of his therapy; however, Connor picked it up off the printer and kept it. When tragedy strikes, Connor’s family finds the letter, thinking Connor wrote it to Evan.

Evan, not being able to tell the truth to the grieving family, plays along with the idea that he and Connor were best friends. Evan creates an imaginary world of memories and experiences of the “friendship”, all in the good-spirit of trying to bring peace and comfort to Connor’s family.

Soon, Evan’s lies start to get out of control. They start consuming his life, his friend’s life (as he assists Evan with the charade) and his relationships, especially the relationship he is developing with the girl of his dreams…Connor’s sister, Zoe!

When the “charade” becomes too much, Evan needs to come clean with what he has done. He needs to be honest with himself, the world and Connor’s family. How will he do this? What will be the consequences?

Today is going to be an amazing day…until it is not.

This book is about finding one’s voice and doing what is right, no matter the consequences. Life is not always easy, but by following our hearts and doing the right thing, it does get better.

Angela Lardner is a teacher at Stanley Consolidated School. She teaches mostly high school English. When not at work, she spends her time with her fur babies and reading.

CRAFT STUDIO: GMORNING, GNIGHT! BY LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA

Feb
14

What I Was Reading: gnight

Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks For Me & You is a collection of inspirational and encouraging words for the beginning and end of each day. Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the musical Hamilton, compiled the best of his daily messages from his Twitter account for this book. Accompanied by artwork by Jonny Sun, these greetings challenge, inspire, and empower readers with their brief and honest bits of wisdom.

Here are three excerpts from the book:

GMorning GNight Excerpt 1GMorning GNight Excerpt 2GMorning GNight Excerpt 3

 

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

* Each set of greetings begins with a variation of “Good Morning” and “Good Night”

* Each greeting directly addresses the reader.

* The advice uses verbs, insinuating that the advice is actionable and attainable.

* Each greeting is three to four sentences in length.

* The varying sentence lengths and use of punctuation for pause and intonation allow the voice of the writer to sound more relaxed and inviting.

* The illustrations are simple, black and white, and allow the reader to connect them to the greetings with their own interpretation.

Possibilities for Writers:

* Using Miranda’s greetings as a model, write your own Gmorning, Gnight! messages. They could be based on what you need to hear or what you want to tell someone else.

* Illustrate your greetings yourself based on what you think best represents your words.

* After writing your messages, ask a friend or a classmate to create an illustration that they connect to the greetings.

* Write about how one of the above excerpts spoke to you and may have been what you needed to hear.

* Revisit a draft in your notebook and find a place that can be rewritten to address the readers directly. Consider varying your sentence lengths, using one-word sentences, and playing around with punctuation to create a voice that is relaxed and conversational.

Try This Tomorrow: 19 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Ikea Employees

Feb
12

Mental Floss recently published, “19 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Ikea Employees” an article filled with neat insider information about “what it’s like to work for one of the world’s most recognizable retail stores.” At first, I paid attention to the organizing structure, thinking it would make an interesting mentor text for using titles to identify separate subtopics or ideas and make information writing flow. Then, I realized that the whole concept makes this article a powerful invitation for students to write about the behind-the-scenes secrets of something or someplace they have expert knowledge about. Think of how much you would learn about your students (and they could learn about each other) from these behind-the-scenes secrets!

A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti

Feb
07

When we meet Annabelle Agnelli at the beginning of A Heart in a Body in the World, she is running. She was accosted by a drunk at a local take-out and she took off. This isn’t something she planned—she started to run and didn’t stop.

“Where is she going? No idea.Why is she going? Well, sometimes you just snap. Snapping is easy when you’re already brittle from the worst possible thing happening. It is easy when you’re broken and guilty and scared. You snap just like that. Like the snap has been waiting around for the right moment.”

Annabelle runs until dark and then calls to tell her grandfather to say she isn’t going to stop. She’s going to run from their home in Seattle to Washington, DC. 2719 miles. A half-marathon every day.

Anyone who has run long distances alone knows that it’s just you and your thoughts. Annabelle has experienced a traumatic event, and as she runs she battles anger, fear, and flashbacks to what happened with someone she refers to only as the Taker. At first, Annabelle is quietly running for herself with the support of her road crew—Grandpa Ed driving the RV, and her logistics team—her younger brother and two friends. Soon, however, there is a Go Fund Me, a YouTube video, t-shirts, and interviews. Annabelle’s run attracts media attention and she is met by supporters who consider her an activist.

As Annabelle crosses the country, we accompany her on a journey that is both physically and emotionally unrelenting. She is haunted by guilt and anxiety, wondering if she is to blame for what happened. As she works through these emotions we learn, bit by bit, the details of the tragedy. She overcomes the grueling physical challenge of running 13 miles every day in the heat of summer and she finds the strength to see what the Taker did with new clarity.

This is a gripping story told through a unique narrative. I look forward to recommending it to high school teachers and students.

WINNER!

Feb
05

Congratulations to Melissa Canam for winning #ASDWReads for the month of January! Thank you for sharing your reading moments, and we hope you enjoy your new book.

If you would like to enter the next draw, just snap a photo of a book you read in February and post it on Twitter under #ASDWReads. We look forward to seeing what books are keeping you company while you stay warm this month!

Guest Writer Malcolm Mulligan Recommends Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Feb
05

The first in the Arc of a Scythe series, Scythe is set on a future earth where science has eliminated death and hunger and the world is governed by a computer called the Thunderhead. People are free to lead their lives in whatever way they choose. Most citizens marry multiple times and have several families because they can make themselves younger whenever they choose, most often before they turn “too gray”. One of the consequences of this ability is an awkward family reunion since children can end up being older than their parents!

Since natural death has been eliminated, the Thunderhead has decreed that scythes are necessary to keep the population down to a level that can be maintained. Scythes have complete control over who, when and where they will “glean” their selected citizens. When a scythe announces to a citizen that they have been selected for gleaning, they willingly allow the scythe to end their life because if they resist, their entire family will be gleaned. Imagine!

The story focuses on two high school students who have been randomly selected by a scythe to be his apprentices. Once selected, they must leave their homes and families to go live in a home with another apprentice to learn “the art of killing” and become a scythe: a government agent that has but one role – to assassinate citizens.

Weaved within the narrative are several topics of interest for students to consider:

* Having no choice in your future career and being forced to learn something you have no interest in, or worse, something abhorrent to your values

* State-sanctioned murder as a way to control population growth

* The meaning of life

* The implications of everlasting life on earth

* The effects of having a constant companion

This series will appeal to readers who enjoy fantasy and dystopian genres. The second book in the series, Thunderhead, is just as engaging, and I can hardly wait for the third book, Toll, to be released. In the meantime, I am flying through Shusterman’s first series Unwind.

Malcolm Mulligan has been teaching at Leo Hayes for the past eleven years. He enjoys scuba diving, photography, playing guitar, and travelling. His reading life includes an addiction to Science-Fiction and his new love for Young Adult Fiction.

Craft Studio: Hunger by Roxane Gay

Jan
31

What I Was Reading:

Roxane Gay opens Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by telling us exactly what it isn’t:

“The story of my body is not a story of triumph. This is not a weight-loss memoir. There will be no picture of a thin version of me, my slender body emblazoned across this book’s cover with me standing in one of my former, fatter self’s jeans. This is not a book that will offer motivation, I don’t have any powerful insights into what it takes to overcome an unruly body and unruly appetites. Mine is not a success story. Mine is, simply, a true story.”

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

* Roxanne Gay takes a unique approach to introducing her memoir. Instead of attempting to capture the reader’s attention by indicating what she will discuss in the pages to follow, she states very clearly what she will not. She clearly defines what this memoir isn’t.

* She acknowledges and addresses what readers might be expecting of a traditional weight-loss memoir: motivation, insight, success. Each is ruled out explicitly.

* The image she creates of herself standing in one leg of her jeans to display how much weight she has lost is easy for the reader to imagine because it has become a cliché. She seems to be letting us know up front that if we think it is that kind of typical weight-loss memoir, we are terribly mistaken.

Possibilities for Writers:

* Students can discuss the impact of beginning a piece of writing by addressing the reader directly and tell them what their writing isn’t going to be. They can brainstorm a list of possibilities.

* Invite students to borrow Gay’s technique in a draft. For example:

-This restaurant review is not going to tell you how excellent the food is. Instead, it will describe the stellar service.

-This essay is not going to persuade you to vote for a particular candidate. This is essay is about why you should vote.

-Most memoirs are about a lesson learned. I’m going to tell you about a lesson taught.

Try This Tomorrow: Poetry Rx

Jan
24

On the Paris Review website, you’ll find a regular column called Poetry Rx. Here is the description from the site:

“In our column Poetry Rx, readers write in with a specific emotion, and our resident poets—Sarah Kay, Kaveh Akbar, and Claire Schwartz—take turns prescribing the perfect poems to match. This week, Claire Schwartz is on the line.”

The letters are emotional and honest and the recommendations are fascinating. The recommending poet also includes a description of why they made the selection and bits of analysis of the poem are woven into the response.

Not only is this interesting reading and a terrific source of poem suggestions, it would also be an engaging activity for students to undertake. They can recommend a poem to a literary character, historical figure, person in the news, or even an inanimate object and provide the reasons for their choice modelled after the originals.

Guest Writer Devin McLaughlin Recommends Wildcard by Marie Lu

Jan
22

Wildcard is the much-anticipated sequel to Marie Lu’s Warcross, a dystopian sci-fi novel set largely in the world of virtual reality. Wildcard begins almost immediately after the conclusion of Warcross, throwing the reader into a whirlwind of action, paranoia and technology. Emika Chen, our protagonist, is torn between the man she loves, Hideo Tanaka, with his controversial ambitions and the man she was initially hired to capture, Zero. Zero and his crew will stop at nothing to put a stop to Hideo Tanaka and his entire plan. Meanwhile, Emika finds herself as a target when someone puts a bounty on her head. This is just the beginning of the action-packed, adrenaline fueled adventure that serves as a worthy follow-up to the original.

In some ways I find myself torn with Wildcard. On one hand, the secondary characters take a bit of a backseat in this sequel. For example, a lot of what made Warcross compelling was the way Hideo’s character was established and later developed; readers would regularly be wondering what was going on in his mind and how his actions should be interpreted. Here, we see and hear very little from Hideo and unfortunately this simplifies Emika’s relationship with him in some ways. I found myself wondering why she still wanted to be associated with him. On the other hand, Marie Lu continues building Emika as an intelligent and skilled hacker/bounty hunter. We follow her through seemingly insurmountable situations that test her physical and emotional abilities, while further shedding light on her recklessness.

For students in upper middle school and high school, there is plenty to enjoy in Wildcard. As a true “sequel” it brings even more action, adventure, mystery, and intrigue. But where Wildcard truly excels is in its exploration of themes associated with online privacy, teamwork, the importance of free will and the responsibility that comes with having power over others. These are not only heavy issues in this book, but they play a role in the lives of youth today. As Emika determines where she stands on these issues, the reader follows along, likely challenging their own thoughts and perspectives. All in all, students who enjoyed Warcross will want to read Wildcard too, at the very least to conclude the story. Upon finishing it, they may find themselves thinking more about video games and social media and how those online platforms can affect the decisions we make in our day-to-day lives.

My name is Devin McLaughlin and I am a middle school Language Arts teacher at Harold Peterson Middle School in Oromocto, NB. I love reading and my favourite aspect of teaching is introducing students to new and exciting books and seeing their reactions as they make their way through them.

Try This Tomorrow- Taylor Mali’s Metaphor Dice

Jan
17

It’s all fun and games until someone writes a poem. Taylor Mali, who many teachers know from What Teachers Make, launched a KickStarter campaign to develop Metaphor Dice.

Each set of Metaphor Dice contains 12 dice: 4 red concept dice, 4 white adjective dice, and 4 blue object dice. Players are instructed to “Roll the dice until you formulate a metaphor that speaks to you, one that you think you could explore for a few minutes of writing.” There are options for playing alone and playing in a group.

We begin every literacy team meeting with a quick write and recently we decided to try out the dice. We each took a set, rolled once, and wrote for a few minutes off of the combination we got on the first try. Initially, I had no idea where time+backhanded bullseye would take me, but I ended up getting started on a piece of writing that I will return to because I ended up having lots to say. By stringing those three, seemingly unrelated words together, I found the seed of a writing piece that I probably would not have otherwise discovered.

Taylor Mali’s Metaphor Dice are a unique way to mine for writing idea and inspiration and to experiment with combinations of words.