Margin Notes




What I Was Reading:

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, written by Samin Nosrat and illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton, is informative, readable, and beautiful. I appreciate Nosrat’s ability to be incredibly knowledgeable and accessible at the same time and MacNaughton’s gorgeous images bring the book to life.

As I read, I noticed a number of places where Nosrat inserts an exclamation point in the middle of a sentence (yes, the middle!) as opposed to at the end. Here are three examples:

  1. If something shifts and you sense the zing!, then go ahead and add salt to the entire batch. (28)
  2. Compare this to what happens when you heat or freeze mayonnaise—it’ll break quickly!—and the magic of butter will become clear. (83)
  3. At an age when my primary goal in baking was to eat something—anything!—sweet, this was a minor problem: my brothers and I gobbled up whatever came out of the oven. (97)

What Moves I Notice the Author Making:

  • Inserting an exclamation point into the sentence delivers energy and emphasis to the word or phrase. It adds voice by making it clear the writer is passionate about cooking and food but doesn’t take herself too seriously.
  • In sentence 1 I can practically feel and taste that “zing!” from the added salt. The use of italics makes the word seem like a sound (taste?) effect.
  • In sentence 2 the exclamation point used with the phrase “it’ll break quickly!” feels like a caution. If I try heating or freezing mayonnaise, I know what will happen, and I won’t be able to say I wasn’t warned.
  • In sentence 3 the “anything!” following “eat something” demonstrates that in her early baking days, she would have eaten bad baking rather than no baking. Anything sweet was “gobbled up.”

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Read these sentences as a writer to notice other interesting craft moves and discuss how they impact you as a reader.
  • Reflect on the similarities and differences between the three examples. What patterns do you notice?
  • Use one of the sentences as a model and write an example of your own.
  • Revise a sentence in your writer’s notebook or work in progress by using this move to add emphasis.
  • Look for similar examples of this and other unique punctuation choices in your reading.

Here’s my example:

Imagine my surprise when I opened the front door and found my cat, Charlie—an indoor cat!—on the outside: the wrong side of the door for an indoor cat.



Gene Yuen Lang’s 2020 graphic novel chronicles not only the journey of the 2014-15 O’Dowd Dragons varsity boys basketball team’s run at a state championship, but also his journey as an author documenting their season. This structure provides the reader with not only an intriguing sports story, but also allows Yang to delve into the conscience and process of a writer. Through its 430+ pages, Dragon Hoops weaves its way through various relatable and prescient themes, from the author’s own bias against basketball, through the assumptions and prejudice that bubble under the surface of many North American communities, to the unifying power of sport and bonding through a shared experience, no matter one’s role in the journey.

The O’Dowd Dragons have demons to hunt down and conquer at the beginning of the 2014 season. Alumnus, and current teacher/coach, Lou Richie is chasing an elusive state title. Having not only lost as a coach the previous year, but also fueled by experiencing a heartbreaking and controversial loss in the final as a Dragon himself 26 years earlier, Richie is hopeful that this is O’Dowd’s year. Yang (a teacher at O’Dowd High School himself during the 2014-15 season) uses Coach Lou’s personal story as the springboard into the lives of those invested in the team and their dream of hoisting the state championship trophy. Along the way, we get to ride shotgun with Yang as he learns the stories behind the team, its players, and its coaching staff. Slowly, but surely, we begin to get pulled in, just Yang did, to the Dragons’ team, understanding why this is more than a sport, and why it means so much to those involved.

Dragon Hoops is not a difficult read but demands the attention of its reader – it’s not a straightforward season documentary of wins and losses. Readers need to hold the pieces of the puzzle Yang is laying for a little while as he builds his narrative one section at a time. The finished piece is worth the work – like any story, fact or fiction, you must get to know the characters in order to truly care for their journey. Yang is as much a character here as those of the team. His journey, however, is just a little different, leaving the reader to root for him in a slightly different way.

Yang, as an author, pulls few punches in addressing issues he and his subjects grapple with. Themes can be mature, but not graphic, and language can be explicit, but is written in typical comic grawlixes leaving the reader aware of the intended word, without the full impact of seeing it written out on the page. Yes, this is a sports book. But it so much more. A reader may be turned off by the athletic side, but once they meet Yang – both author and character – those doubters that give it a chance will see that Dragon Hoops, like sports, is really about the people involved in the game, and the lives they live with, through and for each other.

Will Milner is an English & Outdoor Education teacher at Fredericton High School. Taking advantage of a break in coaching forced upon him by the pandemic, he is presently working on finishing his MEd thesis on Outdoor Education. Whenever possible he likes to spend time reading and playing outside with his young daughter Olivia, who is looking forward to their new puppy arriving later this spring.



Renee Watson’s Ways to Make Sunshine is a sweet story following Ryan Hart, a young girl working though the struggles of life. When her Dad loses his job, and her family needs to move to a smaller house due to money being tight, Ryan is disheartened and worried about what her new life might look like. While navigating her new normal, Ryan comes to understand what her mom means in her reminder, “Ryan, we’ll all still be together. This is just a house. We are the ones who make it a home. Home is wherever we go” (p.16). Ways to Make Sunshine celebrates family, friendship, and home.

Throughout her fourth-grade year, Ryan struggles with new realizations around race, class, gender, and social injustice. Her wit, determination, and kind heart guide her journey towards self-identity and always finding the joy – the sunshine – in hard times. There may not have been a better year for this publication!

I couldn’t agree more with the comparison the publisher and other reviewers make between Ryan Hart and Ramona Quimby. Ryan Hart, with her independence, spunk, and integrity, is sure to steal a piece of each reader’s heart with this first book in Renee Watson’s new series. I am already looking forward to reading the second book in the series, Ways to Grow Love, which will be published this year.

Katie Prescott is a believer in the power of story and a lover of family, food, and the outdoors.



In the newly-developed literacy curriculum developed for our province, text is defined as “not just the written word—other examples include an oral story, a musical score, a piece of art, a mathematical equation, a dance, a chemical formula, a game, a network of linked web pages, an advertisement, a video, an outfit.”

We celebrate this expanded definition of “text” because it encourages us to reconsider not just what forms and genres students are exposed to, but also to reflect on what it means to read and to compose.

Film Club is a fantastic resource for teachers curated by The New York Times Learning Network. These short documentaries, many of which have running times shorter than 10 minutes, can be incorporated into high school ELA classrooms just like any other short text. For example, they can be used as:

  • quickwrites
  • mini-lessons
  • small-group and whole-class discussions
  • critical thinking prompts
  • mentor texts
  • building background knowledge
  • part of a theme-based text set
  • self-selected independent reading

Reflect on what percentage of texts your students consume. How do you incorporate texts such as these short documentaries? We’d love to hear your strategies in the comments!



What child doesn’t lose it when they hear the word “butt”? Jonathan Stutzman is sure to capture any student’s attention with his triumphant celebration of the tushee. 

Although the subject matter of this book is comical, children will learn more about their “hind-end” than they realize!  Who knew these powerful muscles had such purpose or that, as Jonathan would suggest, “The gluteus really is the maximus!

This over the top hilarious book is sure to bring a smile to anyone that reads it and evoke much followup conversation.



When Stars Are Scattered is the graphic retelling of author, Omar Mohamed’s, experience growing up as a Somalian refugee in a Kenyan refugee camp. After his father is killed, Omar and his nonverbal little brother, Hassan, get separated from their mother and are forced to flee their village to the camp where they are “fostered” by an older woman living there. Omar knows that their best chance to leave the camp and change their future would be for him to get an education. But with no money, no supplies, and a brother who needs his care, Omar must choose between surviving the present or changing their future. The story spans the fifteen years Omar and Hassan spend in the camp and weaves their own stories with the stories of the people closest to them, as they try to navigate the truth of growing up in a refugee camp.

This book is a necessary addition to any classroom library. It is a story of survival, heartbreak, and the human spirit. Omar’s storytelling, combined with Victoria Jamieson’s graphics, created a book so compulsively readable that I was unable to put it down. It made me laugh and cry, as well as consider the ways in which education can shape our lives. It is a perfect mentor text for in-depth discussions around refugees, disabilities, loss, access to education, sexism, family, and survival. Though this book deals with some heavy topics within the refugee experience, the overarching message is one of inspiration, hope, and compassion. It is a great book for having conversations around empathy and inclusion, all while making refugee stories extremely accessible to a middle grade and young adult audience. Every child and adult should read this book, and I can wait to incorporate it into my ELA classroom.

Lauren Sieben is a High School ELA teacher at John Caldwell School in Grand Falls, New Brunswick. Her favourite activity is reading books. Her second favourite activity is talking about them.



If you are familiar with Jennifer Serravallo’s The Literacy Teacher’s Playbook K-2/ 3-6you will no doubt have tried some of the many assessment tools she suggests, helping you understand deeply what students know and can do. 

One such assessment tool is called Jot Notes and is used to determine what students understand in their comprehension of text. Jennifer states “what meaning students are making in a text is one of the trickiest parts of assessing reading.” She suggests having students write about, speak about, or answer questions about their reading to make comprehension visible and to allow students’ individual needs by offering a variety of ways in which they respond 

Jot Notes are a quick and easy way for students to respond. We may ask a student to stop and jot as they read independently or pause during a read aloud at predetermined places and ask students to jot a quick note, reaction, question, reflection, or idea on a sticky note or in their reader’s notebook. For example, if you are assessing the students’ abilities to visualize you may ask them to describe what they are picturing or to assess inference and how characters change over time, you may ask students to describe what kind of a person the character is at the beginning and at the end of the book.  

A tip that teachers have shared with us to help save time is to ask students to label stickies with their name and the date before the read aloud or independent reading, this allows teachers to collect and file them in a students’ reading profile quickly and easily.  

Try this tomorrow! 

Image is page — Literacy Teacher’s Playbook K-2 p22 Heineman