Margin Notes

TRY THIS TOMORROW: THREE TOOLS FOR TALK 

Jun
23

In their resource, Breathing New Life into Book Clubs: A Practical Guide for Teachers, Sonja Cherry-Paul and Dana Johansen guide educators on how to use book clubs to create a culture of reading.  

When students are placed together to carry conversation, the discussion might begin with the question “What do we talk about?” One response suggestion in this resource is to offer the three tools of talk. This strategy can help learners who struggle to find ideas worth sharing along with those who have ideas but need support to start a conversation. 

What’s on your mind? 

This question can start a conversation with any thought, sticky-note or quote to break the silence and teach learners that their ideas are valuable. It might be a thought about a character, an important event, an interesting detail etc.  

Audacious Questioning 

All group members can ask questions that may or may not have answers. The questions could be why something happened, what others predict will happen next, help to clear up confusion or ask about an event. Students can write sticky notes with questions as they arise in reading and bring them to the discussion or ask as the discussion progresses. 

Author’s Moves 

Once students learn to read like a writer, they know how to see the craft moves of an author. Students can discuss these moves together. They could talk about the structure, the language, the perspectives, the theme etc.  

Once you introduce, model and practice the three tools for talking, you can individualize feedback and support to groups when you notice which area they are leaving out of discussions or support them in including a variety of subtopics in each branch. 

If you are interested in learning more about starting, running and assessing book clubs, this title offers a practical guide to your teaching. The mini-lessons, tracking suggestions and immediately applicable advice is invaluable. 

Cherry-Paul, S., & Johansen, D. (2019). Breathing New Life into book clubs. Heinemann Educational Books. 

 

 

JENNIFER CHAN IS NOT ALONE BY TAE KELLER

Jun
21

There are just some authors who are an immediate “yes”. Tae Keller has become one of those authors for me, ever since reading her Newbery Medal winning novel “When You Trap a Tiger“. So, when I found out that she had a new middle grade novel coming out on April 26th, I pre-ordered it. And, let me tell you, it does not disappoint.

Mallory, the narrator of the story, is so real and raw. I love how we are privy to all of her thoughts, insecurities, and feelings. She is a complicated character and is not simply “good or bad”. The shame and guilt she feels over her actions and those of her friends is written with sensitivity, and I certainly felt empathy for her- despite the fact that as a parent and a teacher I wanted to tell her to give her head a shake many times.

This is a story of bullying, aliens (yes, I said “aliens”), being the “new kid”, standing up for what is right, and speaking up for others EVEN when it makes you stick out. This novel would be an amazing read aloud for a grade 6 or 7 class.

I highly recommend you add this to your TBR stack of summer reads. And if you haven’t read “When you Trap a Tiger”, add that one too!

PROMOTE A LEAP, NOT A LOSS: SUMMER, HOLIDAY AND WEEKEND READING

Jun
16

As educators we want to ensure that our students have daily time to read each day when they are with us at school.  To keep this momentum, it is important that we consider ways to set students up to read at home on weekends, holidays and of course over the summer.  With summer fast approaching teachers may want to consider the following suggestions from Intervention Reinvention by Stephanie Harvey et al, on how to prevent the phenomenon known as “summer slide”.  These strategies may be especially helpful when brainstorming ways to support our more vulnerable learners who according to research experience higher degrees (80%) of stalled learning over the summers break.

  • Consider having students make a vacation reading plan. Have children plan ahead and get them talking about what they would like to read and prepare copies of books/ebooks, and teach them how to access books at the public library. Photocopy calendar pages and conference with students to support their interest and reading plan.

  • Consider sending students home with books that were carefully book matched to their interests using books from your classroom library.
  • Consider organizing book swaps before the school year ends. Put out a call for gently used books and book match with your students and set up a display letting families know books are available and that they are welcome to what interests them.
  • Consider promoting book ownership through giveaway promotions. Studies have found that book ownership when paired with a summer reading programs has more impact when no strings are attached (Allington, McGill-Frazen 2010). Students build home libraries of high interest books and pride in book ownership.
  • Consider keeping the school library open over the summer. Advertise it as a one-time special events or exclusive offer. It may be easier for students to access the school library rather than the public and even if students have been sent home with books, allowing access to the school library with allow them to refresh their stack. Perhaps a new interest has popped up over the summer, and accessing the library allows them to continue that interest.

Get together with colleagues and the school administration to discuss these ideas or brainstorm  other out of the box ideas to support students over the summer.  Plan for a leap and not a loss!

To learn more about Intervention Reinvention and other reading volume interventions strategies click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GUEST WRITER LAUREN SIEBEN RECOMMENDS FINDING JUNIE KIM BY ELLEN OH

Jun
14

From We Need Diverse Books co-founder, Ellen Oh, Finding Junie Kim is a powerful and important middle grade book that focuses on family, hope, and survival, all while delivering a punch. Based on the author’s own family stories from the Korean War, this is an eye-opening and candid look at a piece of history that is underrepresented in both the middle grade and young adult genre.

Finding Junie Kim follows our young protagonist, Junie, who struggles with her own demons, friendship issues, and acts of racism in her school. She is then assigned an oral history project, for which she interviews her grandparents and learns about their struggles and experiences growing up during the Korean War. Taking inspiration from her grandparents’ courageous stories, Junie finds ways to overcome her own personal struggles and make changes in the world around her. The story beautifully connects the trauma of war with modern hate crimes, while also including conversations around bullying, depression, & friendship dynamics. It does all of this with sensitivity and without diminishing any of the topics, keeping it relatable and suitable for a middle school audience.

Finding Junie Kim was a very insightful middle grade novel and would make a great mentor text for many reasons. The book is split into sections told in part realistic fiction from Junie’s first-person perspective and in third-person historical fiction from both of her grandparents. It is also split into time periods, with different sections telling the stories from different years, which would lend well to practices around both framing a story and discussing point of view. The grandparents’ interviews are a wonderful way to provide many details about the historical setting that many students may not have much background information in and would make a great mentor text for how to weave background information throughout a story. Finding Junie Kim would also make an excellent class read aloud or book club book, as it is a fitting example of a window/mirror/sliding glass door book that any student or adult alike can learn from. Middle grade students need this book for many reasons, and I am so looking forward to all the ways I will incorporate it into my classroom.

 

Lauren Sieben is a Grade 8 ELA teacher at Perth-Andover Middle School. Her favourite activity is reading books. Her second favourite activity is talking about them.

CRAFT STUDIO: CAST AWAY: POEMS FOR OUR TIME

Jun
09

What I Was Reading:

Cast Away: Poems For our Time by Young People’s Poet Laureate Naomi Shihab Nye is a collection of poems about trash that will inspire any reader to take more care regarding the things we leave behind. Recommended for ages 10+, the poems are accessible, relevant, and relatable. Here is one of the poems in the collection:

 

Trash Talk 326

Did anyone ever say you were their girlfriend
or boyfriend and you barely even knew them?

Did they tell your friends they had insight
and could guess what you might do next?

Did they say you called them when you
didn’t even know their number?

What did you do about people like this?
Did you argue, tell them off?

Or walk calmly past them in the hallway
as if they were a locker or a clock?

 

What Moves I Noticed the Writer Making:

  • The poet speaks directly to the reader (you), which creates a sense of intimacy between poet and reader
  • The poet tells a story by asking a series of questions
  • The poet never tells the reader how she feels about the situation. Her feelings are inferred through the questions she chooses to ask
  • The first three stanzas set up the problem and the last two stanzas is where she is asking how others have handled the situation

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Use the format of the poem (asking questions of the reader) to tell your own story of an event/situation
  • Write the story of what you think happened between the poet and this person
  • Write back to the poet, answering the questions as they pertain to you
  • Write a letter of advice to the poet on what to do if she is ever in this situation again

THE COMFORT BOOK BY MATT HAIG

Jun
07

In the introduction to The Comfort Book, Matt Haig writes

It is a strange paradox, that many of the clearest, most comforting life lessons are learnt while we are at our lowest. But then we never think about food more than when we are hungry and we never think about life rafts more than when we are thrown overboard.

So, these are some of my life rafts. The thoughts have kept me afloat. I hope some of them might carry you to dry land as well.

This wonderful collection is a series of notes Haig wrote to himself to help him through hard times. Haig shares them in the hopes that readers will also find them helpful when things are bleak: “When times are hard, we need a deep kind of comfort. Something elemental. A solid support. A rock to hold onto. The kind we already have inside us. But which we sometimes need a bit of help to see.”

Entries range from a few words to a few pages. Some are presented as prose while others read like poems. Haig reflects on the truths the lowest points in his life have revealed: “Time disproves the lies depression tells. Time showed me that the things depression imagined for me were fallacies not prophecies.” He presents his thinking in a wide range of formats including quiet observations, thoughts to remember on a bad day, realizations, advice, a playlist, a book list, a list of don’ts, and recipes. As a whole, this collection works together to remind readers of one of the themes interwoven throughout the book, that “Nothing is stronger than a small hope that doesn’t give up.”

The Comfort Book is one of those fantastic texts that you can read straight through in one sitting read slowly, stopping to savor each selection; you can read it in order or dip in and out as you like. It is also filled with mentor texts and quickwrite opportunities.

CRAFT STUDIO: FREAK THE GEEK BY JOHN GREEN 

Jun
02

What I’m Reading: 

John Green’s short story “Freak the Geek” is the story of two friends who have been named the targets in a school tradition to be pranked for a day. The pair run to escape and reflect on their friendship, school traditions and values. The author moves the story forward at a quick pace. He uses action mixed with short dialogue to demonstrate the quick movement that is happening during the conversation. 

Excerpt: 

“I never really thought about it before,” I tell Kayley as we simultaneously duck under a low-hanging oak branch, “but just the phrase ‘Freak the Geek’ is just hugely lame.” 

 “Yeah,” Kayley says. “True. It’s almost like the name was thought up by a bunch of mustachioed purple-hued maltworms.” Kayley likes using Shakespearean insults. I get down on one knee in a flash to pull up my sock — a girl has to protect herself from poison ivy. “Richard III?” I guess.  

“Henry IV,” she says. I nod. I can hardly hear the girls behind us anymore; I mostly just hear our breath coming fast and hard and the ground scrunching beneath us.  

“Like, admittedly I am not an expert in slang,” I say, “but isn’t freaking usually kind of sexual?” Kayley turns around to me and runs backward just long enough to say, “Example?” 

 “‘Madam, I wish to freak your body.’ Or, ‘My heart desires to become freaky with you.'” 

Moves I Notice the Author Making: 

  • The author uses quotation marks to show the words spoken. 
  • Sentence punctuation goes inside the quotation marks. 
  • Each time the speaker changes, the paragraph changes. 
  • The quotation marks close for the speaker tag (“Kayley says”) and re-open to finish the dialogue. 
  • The characters have internal thoughts while speaking out loud. 
  • The character actions are described between speech. 
  • When description sets up the dialogue, there is a comma before the quotation mark. 

Possibilities For Writers 

  • Write whatever comes to mind. 
  • Write about traditions that your school has and whether or not you think these are good traditions to have. 
  • Write a conversation trying some of the craft moves in this model. 
  • Write about slang words in you vocabulary, when to use them and how they might be misinterpreted by someone who is “not an expert in slang.” 

PINK: A WOMEN’S MARCH STORY BY VIRGINIA ZIMMERMAN

May
31

Picture books can be used in variety of ways in the literacy classroom and well-known author and educator Pernille Ripp believes,

there is no “too old” for picture books. In her July 2015 blog post she outlines five reasons why picture books should be in every classroom and available for every reader:

  • Picture books give us a common language.
  • Picture books can teach us complex matters in a simple way.
  • Picture books can make us feel successful when we have lost our way.
  • Picture books relieve stress.
  • Picture books can make us believe that we can read well.

To read the entire blog post you can click here.

Knowing that picture books can provide all these positives in the classroom, please take a moment to check out Pink A Women’s March Story by Virginia Zimmerman and illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma. Told from the prospective of a young girl name Lina, the story provides the reader context and history for the January 2021 Washington D.C. Women’s March.  Lina learns that one small person can become part of a much wider and larger movement and that no one is ever too small to make a difference.

Beyond the lessons of perseverance and personal growth, readers will learn about taking a stand for one’s beliefs and that we all have a role to play in our democracy. Pink A Women’s March Story provides common language, makes a complex issue understandable, and is accessible for readers. To learn more about the authors and Pink A Women’s March Story click here.

ROTATING CLASSROOM LIBRARIES

May
26

Last year the ASD-W Literacy team asked literacy teachers of grades 6-12 to complete a reading volume survey. That survey provided our team a multitude of valuable information.  One piece of data that resonated with me was the fact that 80 of the 84 respondents shared that they use personal funds to purchase books for their classroom library. We know that classroom libraries are recommended to include 20-30 books per student and that these titles need to appeal to a diverse audience and include selections accessible for all students.  This need for books can creates a financial burden for many teachers who want to provide students with rich reading experiences .

Given this reality for teachers, may I suggest a strategy to stretch both personal and school funds.  The recently published, Intervention Reinvention by Harvey et al suggests that teachers share books with colleagues to “maximize classroom library resources and ensure that every student has access to a range of appealing and varied texts” p. 144.

        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • By knowing your own library well, you can decide which topics, genres, or formats are needed to rotate to supplement your own library.
  • Connect with colleagues in your building and reach out to see if they are willing to collaborate and rotate books.
  • Identify rotating books with a sticker on the back or inside cover.
  • Organize rotating books in bins or a separate shelf.
  • Check out the school book room. If titles are available here, ask the administrator if these can be part of a rotating collection.
  • Finally, don’t forget to borrow from the school and the public library.

Curating a diverse well stocked classroom library is a huge challenge. Working with colleagues can stretch and strengthen your resources and knowledge of texts.

To learn more about Intervention Reinvention and other reading volume intervention strategies click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE INITIAL INSULT DUOLOGY BY MINDY MCGINNIS

May
24

I’ve been a long-time fan of author Mindy McGinnis, and her most recent publications, The Initial Insult and The Last Laugh left me an even bigger fan. This YA thriller duology features fast paced, plot driven page-turners that many readers will devour in a single read. Allusions to many Edgar Allan Poe stories are found in both titles, adding another layer of allure for many readers.

The Initial Insult

Tress Montor wants answers and she’ll stop at nothing to get them, including killing her (ex) best friend Felicity Turnodo. When the girls were in grade 4, Tress’ parents were driving Felicity home late one night…and were never seen again. Felicity was found wet and unconscious and alone on the riverbank and claims to have no memory of what happens. Tress has a plan to “help” Felicity re member. It’s Halloween and the teens of Amontillado are celebrating in an old, abandoned house. Tress lures Felicity to the basement, ties her up, and brick by brick begins to build a wall that will be the last thing Felicity sees if she can’t give Tress the answers she is so desperately searching for. Add to all of this the fact that there is a black Panther on the prowl, making the situation more tense and dire.

Told in alternating viewpoints, we learn both the girls’ histories and their current realities, all while wondering, is Tress actually capable of killing her former best friend?

 

The Last Laugh

The story continues in The Last Laugh immediately following the final event in The Initial Insult. There is a search party organized to find Felicity, which Tress joins (even though she obviously knows where Felicity is). But Tress is barely hanging on. Her injury from the tiger is infected and she fears she is losing both her arm and her mind. She also knows there is no way she can tell a doctor what happened. Her best friends charm that she shared with Felicity suddenly seams to have it’s own heart beat and Tress is finding it more and more difficult to tell what is real. Her 18th birthday is approaching, and another twist comes into play. Tress’ cousin Ribbit simply cannot have her be alive for the occasion. As some secrets get revealed, many more are just coming into play. Prepare for some major twists and turns in the plot. Where The Initial Insult had readers wondering if there is any way Felicity could make it out alive, in The Last Laugh it is Tress’ life on the line.

 

Mindy McGinnis does not hold back for her audience of YA readers. There are dark and twisted plot lines, family secrets, and lives are lost. Readers who enjoy a good thriller are going to love this duology.