Margin Notes

WISHES, LIES AND DREAMS BY KENNETH KOCH

Apr
27

 

Kenneth Koch was a professor of English at Columbia University and a celebrated poet. He is the author of numerous books of poetry and other published writings. His book, Wishes, Lies and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetry, was originally published in 1970. This book, which is co-authored by the students of P.S. 61 in New York City, documents his journey teaching students to write poetry.

I really enjoyed reading this book and, despite the fact that this book is 51 years old, it is charming and sweet. It would be a great mentor text to use with students. There are so many poems in this book!

His ideas for teaching students poetry certainly hold up in the present day. In fact, Anne Elliot and Mary Lynch, authors of Cultivating Readers, use his “I used to…Now I…” formula for an activity on p. 117 of their book.

Wishes, Lies and Dreams is full of great, quick lessons that would be easy to replicate in today’s classroom. I would recommend this book if you are a teacher who is always looking for new ways to incorporate poetry. I can guarantee that you’ll be inspired!

Find out more about the book here.

 

AFRAID OF THE DARK BY GUYLEIGH JOHNSON

Apr
22

Afraid Of The Dark by DartMouth, NS author Guyleigh Johnson tells the story of sixteen year old Kahula through short fiction and poetry. In her author’s notes, Johnson shares, “I created Kahula for the students whom I’ve supported in recent years that wanted material they could relate to, something they could understand and feel. I created Kahula for the little black girls who feel rejected and need reassurance that they are worthy and every bit of special.”

At a time when many teachers are considering the importance of representation in the classroom, this is a title I urge you to consider reading and sharing with students.

You can learn more about poet Guyleigh Johnson here:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/community/author/guyleigh-johnson-1.5622470

https://www.facebook.com/GuyleighJohnson/

https://writers.ns.ca/author-spotlight/guyleigh-johnson/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbqcCoADtembSWWyNoB-8xA/videos

 

HOW TO READ A BOOK BY KWAME ALEXANDER AND MELISSA SWEET

Apr
20

Did you know that Kwame Alexander, best known for his young adult fiction titles written in verse, such as Solo, Swing, The Crossover and Booked also writes picture books? Some of his works include The Undefeated, Animal Ark and Out of Wonder. I would like to recommend you take a moment of time to consider another of his titles, How to Read a Book illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Image from Alexander, K. (2019). How to Read A Book. HarperCollins Publishers.

 

In this text, Alexander writes a poem rich in imagery, vocabulary, and onomatopoeia that espouses the pleasures and sheer delights found in reading a book.  My favorite passage is:

Alexander, K. (2019). How to Read A Book. HarperCollins Publishers.

 

Powerful as Alexander’s words are, so too are Sweet’s illustrations.  A combination of watercolors, mixed media, handmade and vintage papers and found items blend to provide powerful representations that echo the author’s words.

Alexander will draw the reader in from the first page and leave the reader reflecting on their own reading experiences with his parting words…

“NOW, SLEEP, DREAM, HOPE. (YOU NEVER REACH) —THE END.” (25-27)

Learn more about Kwame Alexander and Melissa Sweet.

GUEST WRITER ANGELA LARDNER RECOMMENDS DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD: POEMS, QUOTES, AND ANECDOTES FROM A-Z BY IRENE LATHAM AND CHARLES WALTERS

Apr
08

This book combines two of my favourite things: poetry and quotes!

By using a wide range of poetic forms and addressing various topics such as: diversity, tenacity, hope, kindness, gratitude, and love, (and many more) the authors describe the world they want to see, by going through the alphabet.

Mixed in with each poem, there is also a quotation related to the word, an anecdote from one of the authors about a personal experience they have had, and a “Try It!” prompt for readers to take action.

And the artwork, by Mehrdokht Amini, is beautiful.

This book offers so much opportunity for discussion, writing, and personal growth. It could lead to change within in the reader and within the world; it could lead to a better world.

GUEST WRITER WILL MILNER RECOMMENDS DRAGON HOOPS BY GENE YUEN LANG

Mar
25

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.

GUEST WRITER KATIE PRESCOTT RECOMMENDS WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE BY RENEE WATSON

Mar
23

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.

BUTTS ARE EVERYWHERE BY JONATHAN STUTZMAN

Mar
16

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.

GUEST WRITER LAUREN SIEBEN RECOMMENDS WHEN STARS ARE SCATTERED BY VICTORIA JAMIESON AND OMAR MOHAMED

Mar
11

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.

All BECAUSE YOU MATTER BY TAMI CHARLES

Feb
23

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! 

CONNECTING WITH STUDENTS ONLINE BY JENNIFER SERRAVALLO

Feb
16

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.