Margin Notes



Well, that went fast! It feels like we were just wishing you a wonderful summer, which we hope you had. As sad as it is to say goodbye to summer, we are very much looking forward to the year ahead. There are many new literacy teachers in our district, so we would like to take a minute to introduce the literacy team: 

Jill Davidson – Literacy Subject Coordinator grades 6-12, FEC & OEC 

Jane Burke – Literacy Subject Coordinator grades K-12, WEC 

Christie Soucy – Literacy Learning Coach grades 6-12, OEC & FEC 

Melissa Walker – Literacy Learning Coach grades 6-12, OEC & FEC 

Sonja Wright – Literacy Learning Coach grades 6-12, WEC 

Lauren Sieben – Literacy Learning Coach grades K-8, WEC 

Our typical blogging schedule includes a weekly Book Recommendation and another post that is a Try This Tomorrow, a Craft Studio, or a Literacy Reflection. We hope that you will subscribe to our blog to gather ideas, inspiration and new book titles. 

Looking forward to connecting, learning and celebrating with you throughout the 2023-24 school year.  



Click on the image to watch the book trailer



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.



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.



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?



Last week, on an episode of The Good Doctor, the main storyline was quite compelling. It was about a woman with Long Covid who was suffering from debilitating brain fog. She yearned for the days before she caught Covid; when she was able to do her job as a biologist, remember daily tasks and string words together that made sense.

To counteract her symptoms of brain fog, she would write out poems in her notebook and try to memorize them. The poem Instructions on Not Giving Up by Ada Limon was the poem she reads at the end of the episode. My first thought was “How have I not heard this poem?”. It’s such a beautiful evocation of spring.

This would be a great poem to enjoy during Poetry Month.

Ada Limon reads the poem here:

Instructions on Not Giving Up by Ada Limon

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.



April is Poetry Month and Margin Notes will be featuring ideas for celebrating poetry this month…and all year long.

We’ve updated our Poetry Month Resource Round-Up. You can access it here.



For poetry writing inspiration, enjoy I Want to Write Something So Simply by Mary Oliver

I want to write something

so simply

about love

or about pain

that even

as you are reading

you feel it

and as you read

you keep feeling it

and though it be my story

it will be common,

though it be singular

it will be known to you

so that by the end

you will think—

no, you will realize—

that it was all the while

yourself arranging the words,

that it was all the time

words that you yourself,

out of your own heart

had been saying.


To inspire you reading, enjoy Grant Snider’s comic Understanding Poetry

You will also find poetry ideas in our Craft Studio and Try This Tomorrow posts.

Happy Poetry Month!




Jeff Zentner’s In the Wild Light is a coming-of-age story that follows Cash Pruitt and his friend Delaney Doyle as they prepare to leave their tiny Tennessee town. Growing up in Sawyer, Tennessee, has come with its challenges for the teens, both of whom lost mothers to the opioid crisis that ravaged their community, and both coming from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. But, when the pair make the scientific discovery of the decade, they each receive a scholarship to the prestigious Middleton Academy in Connecticut. This leaves Cash with a difficult decision – leave behind the town he loves and his dying Papaw or let Delaney, his best friend in the world, leave Sawyer without him.

This book would be a great addition to any high school classroom library. Zentner is able to masterfully capture the complexity of tragedy and loss, the confusion that comes with first loves, and the comfort of home. This book explores themes of belonging, relationships and resilience which will resonate with many students.  It should also be noted that this book has some profanity, explores issues of drug addiction and has one scene depicting a sexual assault.

Matt Whipple is a BEd student at the University of New Brunswick. He can often be found adventuring outdoors or coaching youth sports.



In our final post of 2022 we would like to thank you for your following and wish you a restful and joyful holiday. We hope you enjoy great company, food, and of course, a book you’ve been waiting to read! We look forward to connecting with you in 2023!



By Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.

Notes friends tied to the doorknob,

transparent scarlet paper,

sizzle like moth wings,

marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,

lists of vegetables, partial poems.

Orange swirling flame of days,

so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,

an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.

I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,

only the things I didn’t do

crackle after the blazing dies.



I love it when my nightly scrolling is productive. Twitter can be a fantastic resource for inspiration and sharing ideas. Kate McCook (@KMcCookEnglish) so generously shared her idea of moody mentors. Here are the steps she outlines:

  1. I decided to focus on how to add mood to our pieces.
  2. I pulled out two favorite mentor texts, the openings to the memoirs The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls & Educated by Tara Westover, and called them “Moody Mentor Texts”
  3. I handed students a list of mood words & we defined new ones.
  4. We identified moods in each piece.
  5. We identified writing moves each author used to create the moods we noticed.
  6. We reassessed our drafts to see if we had established mood (and what mood)
  7. We chose two “Moody Mini Moves” to emulate in our own drafts.

I loved this idea so I tracked down the two mentors listed. Here are some excerpts:

Text #1

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

Chapter 1: A Woman on the Street

I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster. It was just after dark. A blustery March wind whipped the steam coming out of the manholes, and people hurried along the sidewalks with their collars turned up. I was stuck in traffic two blocks from the party where I was heading.

Mom stood fifteen feet away. She had tied rags around her shoulders to keep out the spring chill and was picking through the trash while her dog, a black-and-white terrier mix, played at her feet. Mom’s gestures were all familiar — the way she tilted her head and thrust out her lower lip when studying items of potential value that she’d hoisted out of the Dumpster, the way her eyes widened with childish glee when she found something she liked. Her long hair was streaked with gray, tangled and matted, and her eyes had sunk deep into their sockets, but still she reminded me of the mom she’d been when I was a kid, swan-diving off cliffs and painting in the desert and reading Shakespeare aloud. Her cheekbones were still high and strong, but the skin was parched and ruddy from all those winters and summers exposed to the elements. To the people walking by, she probably looked like any of the thousands of homeless people in New York City.

It had been months since I laid eyes on Mom, and when she looked up, I was overcome with panic that she’d see me and call out my name, and that someone on the way to the same party would spot us together and Mom would introduce herself and my secret would be out.

I slid down in the seat and asked the driver to turn around and take me home to Park Avenue.

The taxi pulled up in front of my building, the doorman held the door for me, and the elevator man took me up to my floor. My husband was working late, as he did most nights, and the apartment was silent except for the click of my heels on the polished wood floor. I was still rattled from seeing Mom, the unexpectedness of coming across her, the sight of her rooting happily through the Dumpster. I put some Vivaldi on, hoping the music would settle me down.

I looked around the room. There were the turn-of-the-century bronze-and-silver vases and the old books with worn leather spines that I’d collected at flea markets. There were the Georgian maps I’d had framed, the Persian rugs, and the overstuffed leather armchair I liked to sink into at the end of the day. I’d tried to make a home for myself here, tried to turn the apartment into the sort of place where the person I wanted to be would live. But I could never enjoy the room without worrying about Mom and Dad huddled on a sidewalk grate somewhere. I fretted about them, but I was embarrassed by them, too, and ashamed of myself for wearing pearls and living on Park Avenue while my parents were busy keeping warm and finding something to eat.

What could I do? I’d tried to help them countless times, but Dad would insist they didn’t need anything, and Mom would ask for something silly, like a perfume atomizer or a membership in a health club. They said that they were living the way they wanted to.

After ducking down in the taxi so Mom wouldn’t see me, I hated myself — hated my antiques, my clothes, and my apartment. I had to do something, so I called a friend of Mom’s and left a message. It was our system of staying in touch. It always took Mom a few days to get back to me, but when I heard from her, she sounded, as always, cheerful and casual, as though we’d had lunch the day before. I told her I wanted to see her and suggested she drop by the apartment, but she wanted to go to a restaurant. She loved eating out, so we agreed to meet for lunch at her favorite Chinese restaurant.



Text #2


Educated by Tara Westover

After Dad took up preaching against milk, Grandma jammed her fridge full of it. She and Grandpa only drank skim but pretty soon it was all there – two percent, whole, even chocolate. She seemed to believe this was an important line to hold.

Breakfast became a test of loyalty. Every morning, my family sat around a large square table and ate either seven-¬grain cereal, with honey and molasses, or seven-grain pancakes, also with honey and molasses. Because there were nine of us, the pancakes were never cooked all the way through. I didn’t mind the cereal if I could soak it in milk, letting the cream gather up the grist and seep into the pellets, but since the revelation we’d been having it with water. It was like eating a bowl of mud.

It wasn’t long before I began to think of all that milk spoiling in Grandma’s fridge. Then I got into the habit of skipping breakfast each morning and going straight to the barn. I’d slop the pigs and fill the trough for the cows and horses, then I’d hop over the corral fence, loop around the barn and step through Grandma’s side door.

On one such morning, as I sat at the counter watching Grandma pour a bowl of cornflakes, she said, “How would you like to go to school?”

“I wouldn’t like it,” I said.

“How do you know,” she barked. “You ain’t never tried it.”

She poured the milk and handed me the bowl, then she perched at the bar, directly across from me, and watched as I shoveled spoonfuls into my mouth.

“We’re leaving tomorrow for Arizona,” she told me, but I already knew. She and Grandpa always went to Arizona when the weather began to turn. Grandpa said he was too old for Idaho winters; the cold put an ache in his bones. “Get yourself up real early,” Grandma said, “around five, and we’ll take you with us. Put you in school.”

I shifted on my stool. I tried to imagine school but couldn’t. Instead I pictured Sunday school, which I attended each week and which I hated. A boy named Aaron had told all the girls that I couldn’t read because I didn’t go to school, and now none of them would talk to me.

“Dad said I can go?” I said.

“No,” Grandma said. “But we’ll be long gone by the time he realizes you’re missing.” She sat my bowl in the sink and gazed out the window.

Grandma was a force of nature – impatient, aggressive, self-possessed. To look at her was to take a step back. She dyed her hair black and this intensified her already severe features, especially her eyebrows, which she smeared on each morning in thick, inky arches. She drew them too large and this made her face seem stretched. They were also drawn too high and draped the rest of her features into an expression of boredom, almost sarcasm.

“You should be in school,” she said.

“Won’t Dad just make you bring me back?” I said.



Text #3:

Here is a link to a blog post on mood with more moody mentor texts from poetry and pop cultures videos. The clip from One of Us is Lying could spark a book talk!

If you have another moody mentor, leave it in the comments!