Margin Notes

Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet


I have been meaning to read Cloud and Wallfish ever since I heard Jill book talk it to middle school classes.  So, when I opened up my book relay package and saw my next read was this one, I couldn’t wait to dive in and I was not disappointed!

This may be a book written for 8-14-year-olds, but wow, did it ever pull me into the story, and truth be told, I am not a big fan of historical fiction. Or maybe I am and just didn’t know it because I was fascinated by the setting: Berlin in 1998.

We meet our main character, Noah, when he is still living a pretty typical life for an 11-year-old in the US. He goes to school, plays soccer, and looks forward to his friends’ birthday parties. He does have the “Incredible Stutter” but still… a pretty typical life. However, that life comes to an abrupt end on a random afternoon in 1989 when Noah’s parents pick him up in a car he has never seen before, begin to discard anything that could reveal his identity, and are acting in a way that is so bizarre it’s almost scary. (more…)

Dr. Mary Howard


Recently, Fredericton teachers were treated to a PL session facilitated by Dr. Mary Howard, author of RTI From All Sides: What Every Teacher Needs to Know, Moving Forward with RTI: Reading and Writing Activities for Every Instructional Setting and Tier, Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy
Work that Matters,
co-author of Literacy Lenses, and co-host of the weekly #G2Great twitter chat. If you are not already following Mary on Twitter, you can find her at @DrMaryHoward.

Mary’s session focused on the crossroads we are at in regards to Response to Intervention. As she explains, “We can either use response to intervention as an opportunity to rebuild a positive climate or allow it to dissolve into something that takes us even farther from the reason most of us became teachers.”

Opening up the session, Mary warned her audience that after 40+ years of teaching, she no longer has a filter, and this was very much appreciated by the teachers in attendance because she was able to voice what so many teachers have been thinking. (more…)

Anticipation Guides


What it is: a pre-reading strategy used to activate prior knowledge and spark interest about key concepts in a reading or unit of study. Teachers create these statements and provide them to students prior to a reading or unit of study. These statements are then revisited after the learning has occurred to document any changes in thinking. As such, it serves as both a pre and post-assessment. More so, it can be used to guide class/group/partner discussion about key concepts.  Here is a one I used with a group of students who were reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

As with most topics, we generally have pre-conceived ideas and beliefs, even if these are largely unconscious. Use the anticipatory guide below to help you uncover your beliefs about these topics, and also to investigate whether these change as a result of your reading.



Before Reading   After Reading
There are times when you should tell your sister’s/brother’s/friend’s secrets to an adult.
If you do not consume alcohol as a teenager, you will not be accepted by teenagers who do.
You can be happy and sad at the same time.
The “cool” kids at school are the happiest.
There are certain things that are “off –limits” to talk about with your friends.
Good readers are good writers.
Being a wallflower means you are not participating in life.
Learning how to make friends is more difficult in high school than in middle school.
Adults forget what the intensity of a crush is like for a teenager.
If adults really knew what happened at teenage parties they would be shocked.

Teaching Literacy in the Visible Learning Classroom by Hattie et al lists the following three steps for creating anticipation guides:

  1. Identify the major concepts. What are the main ideas in the passage or unit of study?
  2. Consider your students’ prior knowledge. What misconceptions are they most likely to hold?
  3. Write five to ten statements pertaining to the unit. Don’t make them all factual – be sure to create open-ended statements as well. Look again at your major concepts to make sure you are creating statements that relate to larger concepts rather than isolated facts. For example, for a reading about drama in literature, the titles of various plays would not be useful.

If you try anticipation guides with your students, we’d love to hear how it went!



Congratulations to Katie Prescott for winning a copy of Patty McGee’s amazing book, Feedback That Moves Writers Forward!

We will throw it in the school mail-enjoy:)

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani


In the Author’s Note of her book, Veera Hiranandani provides the context for her captivating historical fiction novel, The Night Diary:

During the days of August 14 and August 15, 1947, India gained independence from British rule and was partitioned into two republics, India and Pakistan.  The partition came after centuries of religious tension between Indian Hindus and Indian Muslims.  There were many people who did not want India split into two countries, but it was ultimately agreed upon by the leaders in charge.

Set against this backdrop is Nisha’s story, told through diary entries written to her dead mother.  We meet Nisha’s family: her father, her twin brother Amil, and her grandmother. As tensions build, and their beloved cook, Kazi, is attacked, Nisha’s Papa decides it’s time for the (more…)

Feedback That Moves Writers Forward by Patty McGee


As teachers of writing, we have great hopes for our students. And we also have a lot of questions. Where do we start? How can we empower young writers? How can we ensure our students progress in their writing? How can we get them to take risks? And the list could go on and on. If you are asking these same questions, Patty McGee has some advice for you.

While writing through the lens of feedback, McGee pulls from educational research, learning theories, and her own action research which is why this resource is one that will speak to all writing teachers. Your thinking will be deepened on topics such as:

  • The need for growth mindset
  • How feedback can work inside a system that requires marks
  • The importance of the writer’s identity
  • Strategies to try when writers are stuck
  • Goal setting
  • Choice, ownership and agency
  • Reflecting for Learning


Am I There Yet? The Loop-de-Loop, Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood by Mari Andrew


With almost 800 000 followers on Instagram, Mari Andrew’s poignant watercolour posts speak to many, and so too will her book. In 8 chapters, using a series of personal essays, and the illustrations that led to her Instagram success, Andrew shares her journey to adulthood under themes such as Heartbreak and Loss, Finding Purpose, and Overcoming Disappointment.

What is clear in both the illustrations and the essays is that Andrew is an observer of life. In the stories she shares, she compares her life to the route of a metro line she is riding, notes how it is only the brave who can have true empathy, and explains how you can’t force an experience to live up to your expectations. The pieces exploring grief, both her writing and her illustrations, are stunning in their articulation, for example when she writes, “Acceptance is not a relief, it’s the realization that you will always carry grief with you.”

Yet, although at times your heart will feel for Mari Andrew, her humour shines through many of the pieces and while you’re (more…)