Margin Notes

CRAFT STUDIO: THE BOOK OF (MORE) DELIGHTS

May
30

What I Was Reading:

The Book of (More) Delights by Ross Gay is based on the same premise as his previous collection, The Book of Delights: a year’s worth of brief essays, beginning and ending on his birthday, that celebrate the delights he encounters in his daily life. Gay explains that for the second collection he “kept to the same constraints—write them daily, write them quickly, and write them by hand—though truth be told, I was a little looser with those this time around, for one of the delights of a constraint, or a rule, is breaking it.”

Also like the previous collection, these essayettes as Gay calls them, are filled with inspiration for developing our own personal practice of delight by tuning into and documenting the small and large things that bring us joy.

Gay’s prose often reads like his poetry—alive with rhythm and energy. His sentences are complex, filled with strong imagery and emotion, and uniquely punctuated. This sentence is just one of a hundred I marked while reading:

As is my mother’s way sometimes, she offered this dime of wisdom as we were driving home from a sweet Christmas at my brother’s, almost in passing, dipping into a serious or serious-ish conversation, grave maybe is the better word, as is common for us, when she said—describing her grandchildren, now sixteen and fourteen years old, who will forevermore call her Munga, which is precisely how the oldest couldn’t say Grandma, both of whom still sometimes like to sleep over, or come over for a meal, and for whom she always bakes a this or a that (that requires some clarification: the best pound cake, eighteen kinds of cookies, etc.), and goes to games major and minor, traveling often quite far to sit on the hard stands despite the arthritis creeping into her lower spine, and worries on their behalf, for she changed their diapers and bathed them and when their parents were off early to work she was the one who got them off to school, which included, after waking them up very gently, soothingly as a loon singing their diminutive names, I kid you not, making for them whatever breakfast they wanted, I think they called it putting in our orders, usually eggs and bacon for the one, and chocolate chip pancakes for the other, and who still not infrequently takes them to doctor’s appointments and always makes the award ceremonies and the concerts, and if ever their folks are caught up she’s the one takes over—They saved my life.

What Moves I Notice the Author Making:

  • There is a lot going on in this sentence punctuation-wise!
  • One of the unique elements of Gay’s style that I really appreciate is the way he interrupts himself in his writing. In this sentence, Gay pauses his original thought to add background details about his mother and sets them apart with a pair of dashes. It feels as though we are in conversation and he has veered off mid-thought to give me the important backstory.
  • When I read this extra-long single sentence with its variety of punctuation and combination of phrases, I could feel the energy behind the pacing. I felt myself inhale with the first dash and exhale when I reached the second one.
  • At first glance, this appears to be a giant run-on sentence, but it is really an exemplar for comma use and transition words.
  • This sentence would be perfect for a fluency mini-lesson that invites students to describe how the punctuation guides their reading expression.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Notice and name other interesting craft moves in this passage.
  • Explore the types of punctuation and their unique purposes in the sentence.
  • Identify the transition words and explain how they connect parts of the sentence to the whole.
  • Reflect on how the punctuation impacts the way you read it. Watch for interesting pacing strategies in other texts you read.
  • Use Gay’s technique of interrupting a shorter sentence by adding details such as anecdotes or examples.
  • Revise a draft in your writer’s notebook by incorporating some of the craft moves you notice in this excerpt.

 

 

CRAFT STUDIO: GOOD DIFFERENT BY MEG EDEN KUYATT

May
23

What I was reading:

“Good Different” by Meg Eden Kuyatt is a captivating and heartwarming novel that delves into the lives of middle school students navigating the challenges of identity, acceptance, and friendship. To read more about this novel in verse, check out the book recommendation here.

 

Text:

For Mrs. V’s Homework Assignment On Why I Like Pebblecreek Academy

By Selah Godfrey

Why do I like Pebblecreek?
It’s a silly question. Of course
I like Pebblecreek. I just do.

I like the sound of the whole class reciting
the same jingle, or singing the same song, together.

I like the way my best friend Noelle wiggles her eyebrows
in the goofy Noelle way and makes me laugh
when we’re in class or on cleanup duty.

I like that the stairwells always smell like Pebblecreek stairwells
and the classrooms always smell like Pebblecreek classrooms.

I like that I’ve been in the same school building
every year of school and know where all the rooms are.

At Pebblecreek, there’s a way for doing everything:
raise your hand to speak in class
electronics off and put away
no makeup
lunches and jackets on the shelf
in your assigned spot
just outside the classroom.

Even though lots of kids complain
about all our rules, I like
that I don’t have to think about
what to wear
and know what I’m
supposed to do.

Everyone at Pebblecreek is part of the Pebblecreek family,
and it really feels like that,
like all the teachers are my aunts and uncles who always tell us at the end of each day,
“You are loved and worthy
and can do great things.”

At Pebblecreek, all the kids invite each other
to each other’s parties.
Even if we aren’t all close
They’re always there,
Because we’re stuck with each other
In the same classes each grade,
so we kind of have to get along.

I like that everyone knows me
As the Girl Who’s Good at Drawing
and people always say nice things about my drawings
and ask me to draw them.

I like that there’s a place for me at Pebblecreek.
Pebblecreek might not be perfect
but it’s familiar
and I never want to change it,
like a pair of favorite shoes
that even if they’re falling apart
you tape up and try to fix
because they’re special and important
and yours.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  1. Descriptive Language: The author uses sensory details to describe the environment and atmosphere of Pebblecreek Academy. Descriptions like “the stairwells always smell like Pebblecreek stairwells” and “classrooms always smell like Pebblecreek classrooms” evoke a vivid sense of familiarity and routine. She capitalizes what she is known for as if it is an official title.
  2. Character Development: Selah introduces and describes her best friend, Noelle, showcasing a personal connection and adding depth to the narrative. This helps create a more relatable and engaging story.
  3. Voice and Tone: The tone of the piece is personal and reflective, conveying the author’s feelings and experiences. The voice feels authentic, which allows readers to connect with the narrator’s emotions and perspective.
  4. Repetition and Rhythm: The repetition of phrases like “I like” and the consistent structure throughout the piece create a rhythmic flow, emphasizing the author’s sentiments and reinforcing the central theme of fondness for Pebblecreek Academy.
  5. Symbolism and Metaphor: The analogy of Pebblecreek being compared to a pair of favorite shoes that one wants to keep despite their imperfections is a metaphor that adds depth and emotional resonance to the author’s feelings towards the school.
  6. Themes of Belonging and Community: The text explores themes of belonging and community within the school, emphasizing the sense of belonging and acceptance the narrator feels among her peers and teachers.

 

Possibilities for Writers:

Writer’s can:

  • Reflect on their own communities and buildings where they feel they belong.
  • Practice crafting vivid and sensory descriptions of places, whether it’s a school, a neighborhood, or any familiar environment. Detailing the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings associated with a place can create a strong sense of atmosphere and nostalgia.
  • Experiment with using metaphors and analogies to describe feelings, experiences, or places. Similar to Selah’s comparison of Pebblecreek to a pair of favorite shoes, writers can use metaphors to evoke emotions and connections.
  • Experiment with the style of narrative. Try using repetition, varied sentence structures, or different points of view to convey emotions and experiences effectively.
  • Write about that they are known for like how Saleh is known as “the Girl Who’s Good at Drawing”.

 

 

 

CRAFT STUDIO: THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT MINI STUDY

May
16

When all 2 hours and 2 minutes of The Tortured Poets Department dropped, the reactions of swifties and non-swifties alike dominated online spaces. Since students (and their teachers) are reading and debating the merits of these digital texts, it seems like an excellent opportunity to leverage this current engagement and create a mini craft study.

After I pulled together a small collection of reviews that range from glowing to mixed to negative, I identified a learning target from our ELA curriculum: evaluate an author’s effectiveness using textual support. Then, I selected a paragraph from each of the reviews that demonstrates the use of textual support:

Taylor Swift: The Tortured Poets Department / The Anthology Album Review  (Pitchfork)

It’s not Swift’s fault that we’re so obsessed with her, but this album gives the impression that she can’t quite hear herself over the roar of the crowd. Tearjerkers like “So Long, London” and “loml” fall short when every lyric carries equal weight. There’s no hierarchy of tragic detail; these songs fail to distill an overarching emotional truth, tending to smother rather than sting. It would help if Swift were exploring new musical ideas, but she is largely retreading old territory—unsurprising, perhaps, given that the last three years of her life have been consumed by re-recording her old albums and touring her past selves. The new music is colored in familiar shades of Antonoff (sparse drum programming, twinkly synths) and Dessner (suppler, more strings). Songs sound like other songs—“I Can Do It With a Broken Heart” like Midnights’ “Mastermind”; the intro of “So Long, London” like that of Folklore’s “My Tears Ricochet.” Her melodies feel staid, like they are made to fit the music, rather than the other way around.

Taylor Swift’s ‘Tortured Poets Department’ Is More Puzzling Than Poetic  (Huffington Post)

When it comes to Swift’s music, I often think of a concept introduced by Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers on their podcast Las Culturistas: Taylor Swift vs. Tayla Swiff. In their analysis of “folklore” and “evermore,” they posit that at her best, Swift portrays her genuine self in her music, exuding raw emotion and vulnerability. At other times, she leans too far into Tayla Swiff (the name they have given her public persona), and tries to wink at her listeners that she’s in on the joke of her celebrity, or worse, garner pity for her struggles as one of the most powerful women in the world. Tayla is alive and well on “The Anthology”: She writes of the hyper-attention on her breakups, saying, “Come one, come all / It’s happenin’ again / The empathetic hunger descends” in “How Did It End?” and in “The Prophecy,” she claims, “Don’t want money / Just someone who wants my company”…

Taylor Swift: The Tortured Poets Department review  (AV Club)

Swift is hardly the only artist whose work is in conversation with itself, nor is she the first to return to ideas on multiple albums. But The Tortured Poets Department exists in the inescapable shadow of the incredible volume of music immediately preceding it. It’s easy, on many tracks, to point to an analog, musically or lyrically, from a previous album. “Who’s Afraid Of Little Old Me?” is this album’s “mad woman”; the reference to CPR on “So Long, London” inevitably recalls “You’re Losing Me.” Perhaps this wouldn’t be a detriment if we had time away from these repetitive themes. But Swift has released eight albums in the last four years, and the influence of that hyperproductivity is evident in Tortured Poets. Production-wise, many of Swift’s collaborations with Jack Antonoff sound like Midnights B-sides, or worse, like 1989 Vault Tracks (essentially, C-sides). Songs that are brand new feel done before within this Taylor Swift Experience context.

Taylor Swift’s ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ Review  (Billboard)

Furious rhetorical questions and errors in judgment dot the Tortured Poets Department lyrics, as Swift aims at a target beyond vulnerability, that allows her wide listenership to understand her heart and mind. In a career defined by her songwriting, Swift has never placed so much emphasis on her words — the production, courtesy of Swift and close collaborators Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner, seems to evaporate at points, the music almost incidental compared to the lyrics. The warm synth-pop of Midnights serves as the closest reference point, but that album was cleanly orchestrated, while The Tortured Poets Department wants to get in the mud with soft-loud dissonance and tracklist sprawl. Really, the album is in conversation with her entire catalog — a country-pop chorus here, a Folklore folk tale there — while still making time to explore the unknown.

Album Review: Taylor Swift’s ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ is written in blood (NPR)

Swift’s musical approach has always been enthusiastic and absorbent. She’s created her own sounds by blending country’s sturdy song structures with R&B’s vibes, rap’s cadences and pop’s glitz; as a personality and a performer, she’s all arms, hugging the world. The sound of Tortured Poets offers that familiar embrace, with pop tracks that sparkle with intelligence, and meditative ones that wrap tons of comforting aura around Swift’s ruminations. Beyond a virtually undetectable Post Malone appearance and a Florence Welch duet that also serves as an homage to Swift’s current exemplar/best friendly rival, Lana Del Rey, the album alternates between co-writes with Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner, the producers who have helped Swift find her mature sound, which blends all of her previous approaches without favoring any prevailing trend. There are the rap-like, conversational verses, the reaching choruses, the delicate piano meditations, the swooning synth beats. Antonoff’s songs come closest to her post-1989 chart toppers; Dessner’s fulfill her plans to remain an album artist. Swift has also written two songs on her own, a rarity for her; both come as close to ferocity as she gets. As a sustained listen, Tortured Poets harkens back to high points throughout Swift’s career, creating a comforting environment that both supports and balances the intensity of her storytelling.

Taylor Swift’s New Album, ‘The Tortured Poets Department,’ Could Use an Editor: Review  (NY Times)

Plenty of great artists are driven by feelings of being underestimated, and have had to find new targets for their ire once they become too successful to convincingly claim underdog status. Beyoncé, who has reached a similar moment in her career, has opted to look outward. On her recently released “Cowboy Carter,” she takes aim at the racist traditionalists lingering in the music industry and the idea of genre as a means of confinement or limitation.

Swift’s new project remains fixed on her internal world. The villains of “The Tortured Poets Department” are a few less famous exes and, on the unexpectedly venomous “But Daddy I Love Him,” the “wine moms” and “Sarahs and Hannahs in their Sunday best” who cluck their tongues at our narrator’s dating decisions. (Some might speculate that these are actually shots at her own fans.) “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived” is probably the most satisfyingly vicious breakup song Swift has written since “All Too Well,” but it is predicated on a power imbalance that goes unquestioned. Is a clash between the smallest man and the biggest woman in the world a fair fight?

Invite students individually or in small groups to notice and name the various types of textual evidence as well as the range of techniques for incorporating it they find in each of the excerpts. Then ask them to rank each of the reviewer’s use of textual evidence from most to least effective and explain their decision. In other words, they’ll be evaluating the reviewers’ effectiveness using textual support.

You could use these reviews for a number of different mini craft studies, including:

  • Select paragraphs that focus on the same element of TTPD and compare points of view or perspectives.
  • Give students different highlighters to identify analysis, summary, and examples and compare the ratio across excerpts.
  • Compare sections of each text where the writer is persuading the audience. List the techniques and evaluate their effectiveness.

This framework for organizing mini craft studies (curate a collection of texts, identify a learning target or focus, select a paragraph or excerpt from each text, and inviting students to notice, name, and evaluate the effectiveness of the techniques) can be adapted for any collection of responses, reactions, reviews, and hot takes on something your students are reading and talking about (a new product/movie/series/game, the outcome of a sporting event, a current event, etc).

No matter what your mini craft study focuses on, you can extend students’ learning by asking them to find examples of similar craft moves in their reading and by incorporating them into their writing.

 

CRAFT STUDIO: WRITING HOOKS USING HIDDEN TRUTHS BY ELLY SWARTZ

May
09

What I was reading:

Hidden Truths by Elly Swartz is a novel told in the perspectives of two middle school students about friendship, trauma, and the lengths at which we will go to fit in. Read more about this book and why it is great for middle school classrooms here.

The text:

Hidden Truths opened with a hook that had me considering the power that the first few words can carry for the experience of the reader. It read:

“I didn’t know today would matter.

I didn’t know it would change everything.

I thought what mattered had already happened.

I was wrong.”

Moves I noticed the author making:

  1. Short fragmented sentences. Similar to poetry, or a novel in verse, these fragmented sentences are done with purpose to pack a punch after each thought.
  2. The repetition of “I didn’t know” at the start of the lines creates a sort of flow and reinforces the inner struggle of the main character.
  3. The structure. Having the “I didn’t know… I didn’t know… I thought… I was…” structure at the start of each of these sentences gives us a sense of conflict right from the start. It gives us the sense that the character is dealing with something that has deeply impacted them and hooks the reader to want to know more.

Possibilities for writers:

  • Try writing their own hooks using the “I didn’t know… I didn’t know… I thought… I was…” structure.
  • Try using fragmented sentences to create a sense of inner conflict.
  • Write about a situation that they were wrong, trying to use repetition to reinforce struggle.
  • Look through their own independent reading to try to identify and recreate craft moves in hooks.

CRAFT STUDIO: ABOVE GROUND BY CLINT SMITH

Apr
25

What I Was Reading: 

Clint Smith’s latest collection, Above Ground, examines the emotional landscape of fatherhood, particularly how parenthood has reshaped his perspective on the world. Through poems that explore personal and historical legacies, Smith reflects on the complexities of raising a family amidst societal upheaval. He captures both the joy of seeing the world anew through the eyes of a child and the weight of navigating a turbulent political and social climate.

In “This Is an Incomprehensive List of All the Reasons I Know I Married the Right Person,” the poet employs several craft moves to convey the depth of their love and appreciation for their partner:

This Is an Incomprehensive List of All the Reasons

I Know I Married the Right Person

Because on weekends you wrap your hair with a scarf

and you have so many different scarves that come in

so many different colors and now when I’m out in the world

every time I see a colorful scarf I think of you and I think

of the weekends which are the best days because they are

the days that you and I don’t have to worry about work

or deadlines just bagels and bacon and watching this small

human we’ve created discover the world for the first time.

Because when you laugh you kind of cackle, no I mean you

really cackle like you take a deep breath in and out comes

something unfiltered and unrehearsed and it’s cute

but also scary and isn’t that the perfect description of love?

Because when you watch The Voice you talk to the judges

as if they are waiting for your consultation. Because you

always ask the restaurant to make your pizza extra crispy

and then you put it in the oven for another thirty minutes

anyway after they deliver it. Because when you wake our son

up in the morning you are always singing. Because when

I read you poems I love you always close your eyes

and tell me your favorite line. Because on my birthday

you had my friends make barbecue

and we had leftovers for weeks. Because I like my cinnamon rolls

with maple syrup and honey mustard and you still kiss me

in the morning. Because you hold my hand

when I’m scared and don’t know how to say it.

What Moves I Notice the Author Making: 

  • Using vivid imagery to describe specific moments and habits shared with their partner, such as wrapping hair with scarves, laughing with a cackle, and watching their child discover the world.
  • Including specific details that create a sense of intimacy and familiarity, such as the routine of weekend mornings with bagels and bacon, or the way their partner likes their pizza extra crispy.
  • Weaving together both small, everyday details like wrapping hair with scarves and requesting extra crispy pizza, with deeper, more intimate moments such as holding hands when scared. This juxtaposition emphasizes the significance of both the day-to-day and profound experiences shared in relationships.
  • Repetition of the phrase “because” at the beginning of each stanza emphasizes the cumulative effect of these reasons and reinforces the central theme of the poem.
  • Utilizing enjambment, where lines flow into each other without punctuation at the end of a line, to create a smooth and continuous rhythm, mirroring the ongoing nature of their love and appreciation.
  • Appealing to the senses, describing the taste of cinnamon rolls with maple syrup and honey mustard, the sound of morning singing, and the touch of holding hands when scared.

Possibilities for Writers: 

  • Observe the small moments and details in their own lives and relationships, drawing inspiration from the unique aspects of their experiences, just as Smith does.
  • Reflect on their own feelings and experiences, identifying moments or traits that stand out in their relationships and considering how these moments reflect their love and appreciation for their connections.
  • Experiment with using repetition, enjambment, sensory details, etc., using the form of this poem as a guide.
  • Tap into their emotions and express them in their writing, mirroring the sincerity and depth with which the poet conveys their love and appreciation for their partner.
  • Analyze this poem as an example of effective revision and editing, examining how the poet has meticulously chosen each word and phrase to convey meaning and emotion, and applying similar attention to detail in their own writing process.

 

CRAFT STUDIO BY GUEST WRITER TAHEERA MAMUJEE: SEAL SONG

Apr
18

What I was reading: Seal Song by Andrea Spalding–available on Sora

What moves I noticed the author making:

  • Using staggered italicized writing, with “-ing” verbs being heavily used with the italicized to suggest present movement and action
  • Having the italicized sections be a poetic break in between the narrative text
  • Adding a sense of urgency through the use of fragmented sentences
  • Having somewhat of a pattern of rhyming schemes (i.e. splashing, dashing, thrashing–plunging, lunging–flashing, slashing)
  • Organizing the stanzas to amplify and connect with the actions taking place in the narrative

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Using present “-ing” verbs to express action and movement to a scene
  • Adding rhyming words into a poetic stanza in a repeated yet not overly obvious fashion
  • Connecting poetic stanzas with ongoing action in a narrative
  • Using italicized words as a method to break the fourth wall or add another layer of description to a text
  • Imagining how you could use fragmented sentences in narrative writing and trying to add to a piece you have written

CRAFT STUDIO BY GUEST WRITER IAIN MCMASTER: THE IMPORTANCE OF SCRUTINIZING SCI-FI AND FANTASY STORIES

Mar
28

What I was reading:

In preparation for a genre study on transactional writing that incorporates research, I had been looking for essays and articles that connect with the interests of secondary school students. After much searching, I had a collection of texts that demonstrated good writing, but were too dense and academic to serve as mentor texts for students. There will be opportunities to use these, but they were not what I had in mind. Finally, I turned to Twitter and realized that this task would have been much easier if I had done so in the first place (I realize that this is common knowledge for most teachers by now). For instance, I found an article by Ben Lindbergh in The Ringer called “The Importance of Scrutinizing Sci-Fi and Fantasy Stories” (28 June, 2022). In it, Lindbergh makes the case for engaging thoughtfully and critically with popular sci-fi and fantasy texts. Lindbergh sets up his argument by welcoming the passionate responses that people have to these genres, both positive and negative, while objecting to one particular stance:

“There’s only one strain of responses to stories like these that truly bums me out: the suggestion that they aren’t worthy of impassioned analysis or critical inquiry, be it primarily positive or negative. That stories about space wizards or dragons or superheroes are inherently silly or unserious, and that those who have issues with their plotting or pacing or depictions of characters should just stop overthinking things. That they aren’t supposed to make sense, and that the only way to enjoy them is to turn one’s brain off before boarding the ride. That they’re purely escapist, popcorn pablum. That they’re just for kids, and that it’s a waste of time to engage with them on an intellectual level as well as a visceral level.”

What moves I noticed the author making:

In this passage, Lindbergh presents the objections of a hypothetical critic of sci-fi and fantasy. He sets up his point in a casual tone – “bums me out” – before presenting a sequence of assumptions that a sceptic might bring to sci-fi and fantasy stories. Each new sentence builds on the last, always beginning with “that,” to emphasize the point he is making. This repetition is an effective way of conveying strong emotions.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Using Lindbergh’s paragraph as a mentor text, writers might think about an assertion they are making in their writing and consider the counter-points that a hypothetical critic could make.
  • Writers might use Lindbergh’s paragraph as a template and structure a paragraph around the repetition of sentences beginning with “That” to emphasize an idea they feel strongly about.
  • Writers could be encouraged to think about a topic that they feel is not taken seriously and explain why they think it should be.
  • Writers might try moving between a casual and a formal tone, or between a playful and a serious tone, in a single paragraph.

 

CRAFT STUDIO BY GUEST WRITER TANYA SENECHAL: THE FIREKEEPERS DAUGHTER

Mar
21

What I Was Reading:

The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley tells the story of eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine Firekeeper, who struggles to feel accepted within both the White and Indigenous communities in which she belongs. Daunis attempts to stay connected with her Ojibwe side, that of her late hockey-hero father but gets dragged into a local murder investigation that hits close to home. This novel is not only fast paced and well-crafted, but it centres Indigenous teachings at its core, as Daunis fights to save those she loves and protect her community.

 

I love my Elders.

I thought I had no resources on the ferry, except for the one lone Elder. But one led to another, and another. A resource I never anticipated during my time of dire need.

I’m reminded that our Elders are our greatest resource, embodying our culture and community. Their stories connect us to the language, medicines, land, clans, songs, and traditions. They are a bridge between the Before and the Now, guiding those of us who will carry on in the Future.

We honour our heritage and our people, those who are alive and those who’ve passed on. That’s important because it keeps the ones we lose with us. (453)

What Moves I Notice the Author Making:

  • The Indigenous “We” connects not only a community but a people. Daunis is one part of the whole, forever connected to her Ojibwe culture.
  • The use of language such as “stories connect us,” “bridge between,” and “honor our heritage” focuses on the community, not on the individual.
  • Boulley capitalizes Before, Now, and Future, showcasing Time as animate, as a living entity.
  • The focus is on Elders being the holders of Indigenous culture and the importance of Elders.
  • Boulley begins with a simple statement, then expands on the idea until the reason for that statement is evident, showing the cyclical nature of all things.

Possibility for Writers:

  • Notice and name another interesting craft move in this passage.
  • Write a paragraph in which you use the Before, Now and Future, similarly to Boulley, making Time animate.
  • Write a simple statement and expand it until the reason behind that statement is evident while using the cycle technique.
  • Revise a draft in your writer’s notebook by incorporating some of the craft moves you notice in this excerpt.
  • Previously in the novel, Boulley mentions the Seven grandfather teachings that the Anishinaabe live by – wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility, and truth. Have students find examples of these teachings in the excerpt and have them write about their own words by which to live.

 

CRAFT STUDIO: BECOMING A WORD COLLECTOR

Jan
18

Whether you call it “word collecting”, “looking for interesting language”, or “word harvesting”, it all boils down to the same thing: you and your students are looking for words, writing those words down somewhere, and then discussing those words.  Collecting words can be done in a myriad of ways, and for a variety of reasons in the classroom.

 

One reason might be for looking at, and discussing, author’s craft.  This could be modeled through a “Think Aloud”, where you read aloud a text and pause and write down a few words/phrases that you want to think about later. Then, after reading, you discuss what you’re thinking (and students can join in). You can then have students collect words/phrases from their own books.

Here are some things you and your students might notice about words in the books you read:

Words/phrases that are:

  • descriptive
  • setting the mood/tone
  • figurative language
  • rare words (uncommonly used)
  • colloquialisms
  • synonyms/homonyms, etc.
  • alliteration

After students have collected words, you can discuss their meanings and why the author might have chosen that word/phrase:

  • How does it affect the meaning?
  • What other words could the author have used?
  • How would that have changed the story?
  • How can we use that word/phrase in our own writing?

Research has demonstrated that helping students become “word aware” is an important part of vocabulary acquisition. Taking the time to discuss words and frame it as “author’s craft” is another way to expose students to words and their meanings, while also supporting word choice in writing.

 

 

CRAFT STUDIO: ACCOUNTABLE BY DASKA SLATER

Jan
11

What I was reading:

Accountable by Daska Slater brings readers into the unsettling aftermath of a high school student’s private Instagram account where racism and sexism are disguised as humor. Slater explores the complexities of accountability in the digital age, probing the impact of harm behind screens and challenging readers to think about what it truly means to be held accountable in an online era. Read the Margin Note’s recommendation here.

This book is full of craft studies as it uses a variety of forms to tell the history, context and personal stories behind the account. The text for this craft study can be found here.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  1. Repetition: The repetition of “You can…” establishes a pattern, emphasizing the various ways harm can be inflicted. This creates a rhythmic flow, intensifying the impact of each method described.
  2. Conventions around the repetition: The repeated pattern starts with a single word to describe how you can do it followed by a comma and a more detailed description. Ex: “You can do it indirectly, through rumors or exclusion or assumptions.”
  3. Analogies and Metaphors: By likening racism to a weapon—a blade honed by repeated use—the author employs vivid imagery, creating a tangible and visceral understanding of the pervasive and enduring nature of racism’s impact.
  4. Historical Context: Referencing “centuries of wounds” contextualizes the weight of racial discrimination, underscoring that every act or expression carries the weight of a history stained with injustices.
  5. Rhetorical Question: The closing question—”So what do you do with all that history?”—engages readers, prompting reflection and inviting contemplation on how individuals grapple with the legacy of racism and its pervasive effects.

 

Possibilities for Writers:

Writers can:

  • Write where their thinking takes them after reading the text.
  • Borrow the craft moves. Use the beginning line “THERE ARE LOTS OF WAYS TO ___________ ANOTHER HUMAN BEING” and follow the repetition of “you can *single word*, *more description of single word*
  • Write about how they would answer the question the text ends with.

“So what do you do with all that history? The person who made the joke or used the slur didn’t commit all of racism’s many crimes, but they still used the same weapon, its blade honed by repeated use.”

  • Write their own opinion piece on the topics in the text.