Margin Notes



Click on the image above to watch the book trailer



Margin Notes is thrilled to announce an exciting summer blog series showcasing a series of book trailers created by Megan Young-Jones’ talented grade 6 students at Hanwell Park Academy . These trailers will engage you as teachers, and we hope you will share them with your students in the future, as a means of:

  •  Generating Interest: Book trailers are designed to capture the attention of viewers and create curiosity about the book. By showcasing trailers to students, teachers can create a buzz around specific books or authors, motivating students to read those titles.
  • Providing Visual Representation: Book trailers provide a visual representation of the story, characters, and settings, providing background information that supports comprehension.
  • Creating a Multimedia Experience: Today’s students are  accustomed to consuming multimedia content and book trailers tap into this familiarity and provide a different medium through which students can engage with literature. By presenting books through movie trailers, we can bridge the gap between traditional print reading and other forms of media that students consume.
  • Promoting Critical Literacy: Book trailers can help develop and reinforce important literacy skills. Students need to analyze the trailer’s content, make inferences about the story, and assess its appeal. Additionally, book trailers can spark discussions among students, encouraging them to share their thoughts and opinions about the book.
  • Presenting Models: For students choosing to create their own book trailers, these student book trailers can helpe them understand the the purpose and elements of a book trailer and can be analyzed for their effectiveness.

We hope you enjoy this viewing opportunity over the summer months. A special thank you to Megan Young-Jones, who tirelessly fosters a love of reading in her students, and who took on this project in the last wild weeks of middle school!



Four Eyes by Rex Ogle and Dave Valeza is a graphic novel dealing with the adjustments of starting middle school. The memoir focuses on when Rex begins a new year without his elementary friends due to re-drawn school catchment areas. He is faced with all the typical drama of locker combinations, height differences, trying to fit in and new academic expectations. As if that is not hard enough, Rex discovers that he needs glasses which his mother cannot afford.

This piece of Ogle’s story includes important themes around the topics of divorced families, poverty, bullying, friendships and school. Although very age-appropriate, he does not shy away from the realities of divorced parents fighting about money, the cruelness of peers and generational conflict.  At the same time, this realistic coming-of-age story encompasses the sweetness of grandparents, an accepting portrayal of stuttering and the joy of new friendships.

Ogle’s portrayal of how friendships change was powerful. People change and those who were your friends throughout elementary may not be the same as you grow up. The message that you don’t need to change to find a group of friends that show belonging, laughter and support is one that every middle grader needs to hear. This book would be a great addition to a grade 5 and 6 classroom library.



As the school year draws to a close, it’s time for literacy teachers to take a well-deserved break and enjoy the summer months. The literacy team want to extend our heartfelt appreciation for your dedication and hard work throughout the year. You have tirelessly nurtured a love for reading and writing in your students, sparking their imagination, and empowering them with essential literacy skills. As you embark on this well-deserved break, remember the profound impact you have made in the lives of your students. Take this time to celebrate yourself and all that you and your students have achieved. You are true champions of literacy, and we look forward to witnessing your continued success in the coming year. Enjoy your summer, and we’ll see you refreshed and ready to embark on another amazing literacy journey!

Jane, Jill, Christie, Melissa, and Sonja

Farris, G. Summer Reads. Cup of Jo.



Nic Stone begins her book Chaos Theory with a beautiful letter to the reader where she shares a glimpse of her personal story and reasons for writing this book. It, along with the following page, offers several content warnings. She cautions readers about suicide and self-harm discussions as well as triggering content around “living with brain chemistry that functions in a way that occasionally obliterates your innate survival instincts.” Yet, her letter also details that these topics are exactly why she wrote the book. She hopes the story provides comfort for those who relate along with compassion and learning for those who are watching from the outside.

Chaos Theory follows Shelbi and Andy through a chance connection and weaves together their stories of struggle, friendship and love. These teens are dealt situations with alcoholism, abortion, bipolar diagnosis, divorce, and betrayal. Sounds heavy, right? It is. But it is also a positive view of seeking therapy, creating support systems, owning mistakes and taking action to live your best life.

Through a narrative mix of text messages and prose, the story shares the message that mental health is as important as physical health – and how the two are linked. The topics covered make this recommendation one for mature YA readers.



As another school year comes to an end, it creates time for teachers to pause, take a deep breath, and engage in a process of self-reflection. The end of the school year is an opportune moment to look back, celebrate accomplishments, learn from experiences, and envision a brighter future. Reflecting on the past year can provide valuable insights, renew enthusiasm, and pave the way for personal and professional growth. You may do this by:

  • Celebrating successes
  • Reviewing personal and professional learning
  • Seeking feedback from collegues and students (see Pernille Ripp’s Blog Post here)
  • Committing to self-care
  • Setting new goals

In May, the NYT’s Learning Network published 10 Ideas for Reflecting at the End of the School Year which includes prompts for teachers and students such as:

  • What do you want to remember about this school year? Why?
  • What surprised you?
  • What challenged you?
  • What successes are you most proud of?
  • What did you learn, whether in or out of school?
  • How have you grown?
  • How could you build on that growth next year?
  • When did you leave your comfort zone this year? How did you stretch yourself? What happened when you did?
  • What did you struggle with, or even fail at, this year? What was hard about it?

Our literacy team also suggests considering the following:

  • What professional learning this year engaged or motivated you?
  • What classroom routines and conditions most supported student learning?
  • When did you feel the most prepared and engaged this year as a teacher?
  • What did you do this year to ensure that all students felt seen and heard and valued? What more would you like to do to support this?
  • What was one breakthrough moment you had this year with a student? Can you use this in the future?
  • How were you successful with engaging students? Can you build on this next year?
  • What was the highlight of your year, and how can you create the conditions to include similar moments?
  • What is something you would like to try next year? What learning do you need?
  • What barriers held you back from being the teacher you hoped to be this year? Is there anything in your control that could help you overcome the barrier?

It can be difficult to give ourselves the time and space for reflection that we know is essential for students. We hope the ideas here will inspire you to take the time to celebrate your accomplishments, learn from your experiences, and set new goals that will benefit you and your students.



Former professional hockey player Akim Aliu tells his life-story in the graphic memoir Dreamer, co-authored with Greg Anderson Elysee and illustrated by Karen De La Vega. Aliu, who was born in Nigeria and spent his early years in Ukraine, moved to Toronto in 1997, and discovered the game of hockey. Although the game was too expensive for his immigrant parents, and, as his brother liked to remind him, “black people don’t even play hockey” his obsession with the game only grew.

Wearing a pair of $9 hockey skates purchased at at yard sale, Akim hit the ice for the first time. Like, literally hit it. He was 10 years old at the time, which, in the opinion of many, is much too old to ever dream of playing competitive hockey, let alone even dream about playing in the NHL. But Akim knew deep down that this was his game. In the book he states that finding hockey made moving to Canada make sense and felt that hockey was the thing that would “make [him] make sense”. Fast forward three years and the hockey prodigy was playing for the prestigious Toronto Marlboros Hockey Club, and then the OHL, and then the Chicago Blackhawks made Akim their second pick in the second round of the National Hockey League Draft.

Before reading this memoir, I knew nothing about Akim Aliu, but I was already rooting for the young hockey player on the front cover. I was expecting an, “overcome the obstacles” and “keep dreaming” story, but what I read was something much more important.  The overt racism, the hazing, the abuse this young hockey player endured was shocking, but Aliu’s courage to stand against it is something that may very well change the future of hockey. His current organization makes me believe this even more.

Overall, Dreamer is a raw and powerful memoir that offers a firsthand account of the experiences of a Black hockey player in a predominantly White sport. Aliu’s story is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and a call to action for those who want to make sports a more inclusive and welcoming space for all athletes – which I hope is everyone.



Reflection is an important part of daily learning for students, and the end of the semester/year provides an opportunity for students to combine all those reflections and think deeply about what they learned, their growth, and what they can take with them as they move forward. It provides an opportunity to analyze what they have learned/skills they have gained throughout the entirety of a course. Providing opportunities for students to reflect allows them the time necessary to gain insight into themselves as learners. As important as it is that teachers know their students as learners, it is equally important that students understand who they are as learners, and what this means for them as they navigate life both inside and outside of school.

Below you will find some prompts that could be used in conferences, in a written reflection, or as a whole-class discussion. These prompts could be shared with students who can then choose the prompts that will best guide their reflection. It is important to note that these questions are just that – a guide – not a list of questions that must be answered, as not all prompts will connect with the learning of every student.

Sample Reflection Invitations:
• What is the most important thing you learned this year about yourself as a reader/writer?
• What challenges did you face thisyear and how did you work through them?
• What text(s) most changed your thinking on a topic this year?
• How does what you learned this year connect to your life outside of school?
• What required the most effort from you?
• What goals did you set for yourself that you were able to accomplish? How did you do this?
• What were your most memorable learning experiences this year, and what made them so?
• What areas of reading/writing/speaking are you more confident in at the end of this year and what do you think helped gain that confidence?
• What makes you proud of your work this year/semester?
• Who were you as a reader in September and how has that changed?
• Who are you as a writer now, in comparison to who you were in September?
• Did your work this year confirm/challenge or change your thinking about yourself as a learner or the world?
• How did mini-lessons/feedback/conferences/peers motivate and support your learning?
• What do you want to take with you from this class into your other personal and academic pursuits?
• What is a goal you made for yourself and what steps did you take to work towards that goal?
• What is something you hope your teacher next year knows about your learning?