Margin Notes



In Richard Gentry and Gene Ouelette’s new book Brain Words- How the Science of Reading Informs Teaching we are introduced to the flip folder technique of word study for grades 2-6As teachers it is so difficult to navigate the myriad of word study activities crowding the internet, not knowing if any of the ideas presented will be effective. This Look-Say-See-Write-Check-Rewrite multisensory procedure is research based and helps students’ study and learn words. 

 Gentry and Oulette outline the steps in using this approach as follows: 

(“Brain Words”, p.111)

  1. Students place a sheet of paper under the flaps and write their word study words in the left-hand column under the Look-Say-See flap. The paper under the other two columns is left blank. 
  2. Have students open the first flap and look and say the first word. The students then close the flap and try to picture it. 
  3. Next the students lift the second flap and write the first word from memory. They then lift the first flap and check the word for correct spelling. 
  4. Lastly, after closing the first two flaps, the students lift the third flap and rewrite the word for additional practice and then they check it again with the first flap 

If you are interested in learning other techniques and procedures that are grounded in research to teach reading and spelling, then you are sure to love Brain Words. You will find many practical classroom activities for daily teaching that you can try tomorrow!  



In All Because you Matter, Tami Charle captures her audience with this heart felt story that serves to remind children that they matter.  While this story was written to tell, “especially those [children] from marginalized backgrounds, that no matter where they come from, they matter”, any child can benefit from this lyrical tribute.     

The pictures of this story by award-winning illustrator Bryan Collier’s do not go unnoticed, with each page carefully illustrated.   

This is a must-have for your classroom library! 



What I Was Reading

In “The Queen’s Gambit” Is a Sports Drama, Manuel Betancourt draws parallels between the story of chess prodigy Beth Harmon’s triumph over the trauma of her childhood to become a world-class chess champion to sports dramas like Rocky and Friday Night Lights:

Visually, the drama finds new ways of making chess (yes, chess!) as exciting a spectator sport as anything else. Her match with Harry Beltik (Harry Melling) in that first tournament of hers is shot almost like a fencing duel, each move a calculated strike; a later speed chess matchup feels as dynamic as a squash game; while her later games in Moscow, against the best from the best from the Soviet Union, lean heavily on the pageantry of it as a spectator sport, like a soccer match being watched in hushed silence.

 What Moves I Notice the Writer Making

  • This paragraph contains only two sentences: one short and one very long. The writer definitely did not use a hamburger paragraph graphic organizer for this one!
  • The addition of “(yes, chess!)” to the first sentence addresses the reader directly, making us aware that they know we may have a hard time believing what they are going to say, but they are confident they will convince us if we read on. This small interjection adds energy and voice.
  • The second sentence contains an incredible amount of detail, but it works because of the pattern of an example from the show + an example from the world of sport + a semi-colon. Each specific scene from the show the writer has chosen to support their point is paired with a spectator sport described in a way that a fan of the sport will completely relate to.

Possibilities for Writers

  • Use this paragraph as part of a punctuation inquiry. Ask yourself what you notice about the author’s punctuation choices, what conclusions you can make, and what patterns you see emerging.
  • Model a sentence of your own after this one by incorporating semi-colons and commas.
  • Experiment with addressing the audience directly to show you have anticipated what they might say about your ideas.
  • Read this passage as a writer to notice and name interesting craft moves and discuss how they impact you as a reader.




New York Times best-selling author of The Reading Strategies BookJennifer Serravallo, has just released a new book called, “Connecting with Students Online (Grades K-8), based on her own and other educators experiences’ during the COVID-19 pandemic.   Jennifer’s book offers more than 55 step-by-step teaching strategies and videos showing conferring, small groups, messages for caregivers, student conversation and collaboration.  In addition, her book addresses deeper topics on assessment and progress monitoring, student engagement and accountability, supporting students’ social and emotional needs, getting books into students’ hands and avoiding teacher burnout. (Heinemann, 2020) 

Jennifer’s book gives educators a “how-to” not only in building relationships with students but also building relationships with caregivers during remote teaching environments.  Additonally, she offers a “how-to” in adapting to the new online setting, focusing on the social and emotional learning needs of students.   

This rescource also guides educators to consider priorities that matter most during online instruction and how to schedule the day to maximize the teaching and learning.  Also included are suggestions for highly engaging short lessons and tips for conferring with small groups of students.  

Whether you are in a home learning situation now or have the potential to move to a home learning situation, any teacher would benefit from the section, Connecting Goals Across Reading and Writing in Chapter #3, where she offers a side-by-side chart to give you a visual of how simple it is to connect goals across subject areas.   




I Read Canadian Day is “a national day of celebration of Canadian books for young people. This is a day dedicated to ‘reading Canadian’ and will empower families, schools, libraries and organizations to host local activities and events within the week.” source


The ASD-W Literacy Team would like to encourage all ELA Teachers K-12 to promote I Read Canadian in their schools. What a great way to celebrate the richness and diversity that Canadian Literature has to offer.

Teachers can sign up their school and find a Tool Kit for Educators here.  As you will find, the tool kit is chock-full of activities, book lists and advice on how to book author’s visits. Additionally, there is a Tool Kit for Librarians. Please share this information with school librarians!

Happy reading (Canadian)!




The first day of school is always special: it is the start of a new year, new backpack, and new shoes. But this year is extra special as Faizah’s older sister, Asiya, gets to wear her hijab-made of beautiful blue fabric, just like the ocean. The first day of wearing a hijab is important. It means being strong. It is a thing of beauty.

But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful. Asiya faces hurtful comments at school about her hijab. However, Asiya remembers the words her mother told her, “Don’t carry around the hurtful words that others say. Drop them. They are not yours to keep. They belong only to those who said them.” This is how Asiya keeps strong, is able to keep her head high, ignore the bullies and carry on with her day.

Faizah overhears those comments and cannot understand how someone cannot see the beauty of the ocean-blue hijab and what it stands for. She cannot wait for the day when she, too, will wear a blue hijab, just like her sister.

This book is a story of family, love and faith. It shares the lesson that the parts of ourselves that might make us appear “different” are worth celebrating.


Angela Lardner, after teaching high school English for 13 years, is currently teaching Grade 4 at Stanley Consolidated School. When not teaching, she can be found reading, working on puzzles, or spending time with her two dogs, Apollo and Thor.



This debut YA novel from Carrie S. Allen, Michigan vs. The Boys, is so compelling that it rockets this author to the top of my automatic reads list. There are so many good reasons that you would want this book on the shelf in your classroom. In fact, it won’t stay on the shelf for long. The protagonist, Michigan, shows determination and strength of character as she grows as an athlete and a young woman. She learns what it truly means to be a brave.

I opened the cover of this novel tentatively, thinking it was a book about hockey. I’m not much into hockey. But by the end of chapter two, I was committed. While there is a central focus on the sport that will appeal to athletes in general, the familiar conflict of women needing to fight for equality in every aspect of life permeated the narrative. This, and Michigan’s tenacity, is what drew me in. Michigan just wanted what every talented and aspiring young athlete wants, a chance to play. Her team was scrapped due to budget cuts and after exhausting the other pitiful options, she chose to secretly try out for the boys team. She had the skill, the grit, and the determination; but, everything else seemed to be against her.

This book would appeal to a wide variety of readers, but I can’t wait to recommend it to the hockey players and fans in my classroom, as well as those students with a strong sense of social justice. I’m guessing that once one or two students read it, it will continue to get passed around. You might want two copies.

Debbie Grillo teaches English and Growth, Goals & Grit at Leo Hayes High School. If you are looking for her on evenings and weekends she can be found either walking the trails  of Fredericton while listen to her latest audiobook or reading in the comfiest chair in the house.



You may be familiar with Austin Kleon from his previous books, Steal Like an Artist, The Steal Like an Artist Journal, and Show Your Work. If you know Kleon’s work, you already know that his writing is a fantastic resource for the workshop classroom. He encourages writers and creators to surround themselves with inspiration and share their ideas with others.

In the introduction to his most recent book, Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad, Kleon tells readers. “I wrote this book because I needed to read it.” He describes it as a list of 10 principles that have helped him sustain his creativity, many of which he has stolen (borrowed?) from others.

Don’t Stop is organized into 10 chapters with each one highlighting a strategy for finding, maintaining, and even jumpstarting the creative spark:

  1. Every Day is Groundhog Day.
  2. Build a Bliss Station.
  3. Forget the Noun, Do the Verb.
  4. Make Gifts.
  5. The Ordinary + Extra Attention= The Extraordinary.
  6. Slay the Art Monsters.
  7. You Are Allowed to Change Your Mind.
  8. When in Doubt, Tidy Up.
  9. Demons Hate Fresh Air.
  10. Plant Your Garden.

The chapters are filled with advice and encouragement to help readers discover (or rediscover) their passion. The suggestions range from simple: “Airplane mode can be a way of life,” and, “Keep your tools tidy and your materials messy,” to complex: “Your real work is play,” and “Leave things better than you found them.”

Keep Going is a quick read that invites deep and lingering reflection and would be a terrific addition to a secondary classroom library. It is also a resource I’d recommend for writing teachers because it’s filled with quickwrite possibilities and can be used as a mentor text for multimodal composition.