Margin Notes



We Will Rock Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins is the companion book to the #1 New York Times bestselling book We Don’t Eat Our Classmates. Penelope has returned as the only T-rex in her class who is (believe it or not) often overlooked.  Since learning that she could not eat her classmates, Penelope has made many friends at school.  However, being a T-rex, as you can imagine, makes it difficult for Penelope’s classmates to “see” her rather than the dinosaur. The thoughtful use of both traditional narrative text and speech bubbles will allow children and teachers to share this book in a variety of ways. Possibilities to consider include using as a reader’s theatre or mentor text after sharing as a read aloud.  However you decide to use this text, I am sure you will agree that Ryan T. Higgins has once again crafted a delightfully funny story about  the fear of trying something new, self-doubt and the power of support and friendship in overcoming that fear.  I bet the ending will make you smile too.



Throughout the year we will be sharing a round-up of resources that might be helpful as you develop opportunities for learning to share with your students. The following are suitable for K-5.

I Am Reading by Kathy and Matt Glover is full of ideas to invite and inspire young readers to make meaning and find the joy in reading any text. Open the book to find whole-class minilessons, suggestions for establishing reading workshops in K-1, action plans to get you started and 25 online video clips of children making meaning and teachers supporting them.

A must read for anyone working with young emergent readers!

Jennifer Serravallo, the author of A Teacher’s Guide to Reading Conferences takes you through the art of conferring with students, replete with infographics and special features including 9 videos of her teaching in K–8 classrooms.

If you are passionate about getting books into the hands of students, then Game Changer by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp is the resource for you. It is packed with practical and resourceful information on, but not limited to, curating successful school and classroom libraries, the power of book ownership, and the importance of accessing books with many cultural and social representation.

In the second edition of Reading with Meaning, Debbie Miller shares her new thinking about how to teach comprehension strategies to children in grades K-3.  You will find specific examples of modeled strategy lessons for inferring, questioning and synthesizing information to name a few. Do not skip the chapter on how to successfully develop book clubs as a way for children to share their thinking.

How Do I Build it?


“Children and adolescents need meaningful and consistent access to books at school and home.  When they have access to books, they read more and they read better. Period. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s true.”

Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp, Game Changer 2018


As a classroom teacher you know the importance of having a well-stocked inclusive library.  You also know that building or curating that library is easier said than done. During my conversations with teachers and when having the opportunity to share my enthusiasm for every classroom to have that accessible and inclusive library I am often presented with the question, “What do I buy?” What do you recommend”?  Like you and these teachers, I do not have unlimited access to books, nor do I know all the soon to be released titles or student favorites.  When all of us are living the same reality of limited funds, we want to make wise choices when we select books.

One quick and extremely easy way to find out about new books and books children love, is to follow grade 5 teacher @ColbySharp on Twitter or to check out his videos on YouTube. His posts include favorites of his own and or his students. His videos offer genuine feedback and share why the book should be put into the hands of students.  Beyond providing insight on what titles to gather for your classroom, he also provides an excellent model of how to “book talk” books for your students to generate excitement, buzz and that, “next to be read” list.

To further learn about the power of books and book access for students consider reading Game Changer by Donalyn Miller & Colby Sharp.  Much of what Colby Sharp models in his videos is explained in much greater detail in this book.

Happy reading and viewing.

10 Minutes on Twitter


Since starting @ShelfieTalk in 2015 with my colleague Kim, I have not ceased to be amazed by the power of Twitter for personal professional learning. The new perspectives, ideas, tools, and resources I have access to as part of this virtual community are invaluable.

Here is a short list of gems I found by scrolling my timeline for 10 minutes:

The 2020 National Book Award Long List: Young People’s Literature via The New Yorker

The 2020 Shortlists for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre Book Awards

Poetry Is a Way to Connect Us During These Uncertain Times by Georgia Heard (CCIRA)

The Fall 2020 Issue of Teaching Tolerance Magazine

Tips for Engaging Students in Virtual Instruction with the Camera Off from Edutopia

A Moving Writers post called The Life-saving Power of Routines

What are your favorite Twitter accounts for professional learning? We’d love to see your recommendations in the comments below!

Welcome to Margin Notes 2020-21!


Welcome to another year of Margin Notes! We are very excited to introduce our newest members of the team Tracy Davis, Colleen Dyer-Wiley, Signe Williams, and Sonja Wright.  

When we created Margin Notes in 2018, our target audience was teachers of Grades 6 to 12. This year, thanks to the expertise of the new members of our blogging team, we’re going to expand our content with a K-12 focus. 

We look forward to connecting, learning, and growing with you this year! 

Resource Round-Up


Every Monday we’re sharing a round-up of resources that might be helpful as you develop opportunities for learning to share with your students.

CBC Books has compiled a list of 20 Canadian titles for kids and teens to read for National Indigenous Heritage Month.

What’s Going On in This Graph, is a regular series hosted by the New York Times Learning Network. Students are invited to read and respond to a wide range of graphs, maps, and charts.

CBC Books has curated a collection of 73 Canadian Short Stories available online for free.

Teaching Tolerance offers a vast collection of resources and teaching strategies with an emphasis on democracy, social justice, and anti-bias.

Lyrikline is a searchable website of poets and poems (in print, audio, and video format) from around the globe.

Resource Round-Up


Every Monday we’re sharing a round-up of resources that might be helpful as you develop opportunities for learning to share with your students.

The Teach Living Poets website is filled with resources related to contemporary poetry, including an extensive interactive library.

Foreshadow is a digital serial anthology of YA short stories.

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, has assembled an extensive list of Great Talks Most People Have Never Heard.

Brightly curates extensive reading lists by topic and interest for both  tweens and teens . (There is an option, but no obligation to purchase titles through the site.)

MG Book Village is a source of fantastic information and ideas related to Middle Grade books. Teachers of Grades 6-7 will find lots of book recommendations. This site also houses the Books Between podcast.

Resource Round-Up


Every Monday we’re sharing a round-up of resources that might be helpful as you develop opportunities for learning to share with your students.

Teach This Poem features one poem each week, accompanied by related resources and activities designed to help teachers quickly and easily bring poetry into the classroom. You can subscribe to the weekly Teach This Poem email.

Moving Writers is one of our go-to sources for ideas. They are currently featuring many lesson ideas and mentor texts for teaching literacy remotely.

The Beaverbrook Art Gallery offers a number of ways to stay connected with their programmes and resources. These options are categorized on their website by Read, Listen, Watch, and Create.

This post from the School Library Journal blog offers podcast playlists for students of all ages.

Writer’s Digest has curated a list of 100 poetic forms ranging from abstract to zappai.


Resource Round-Up


Every Monday we’re sharing a round-up of resources that might be helpful as you develop opportunities for learning to share with your students.

If you are interested in history and architecture, take part in the virtual York Street Heritage Quest. You can also, go to York Street and view the architecture as it is now in person.

Parlay is library of ready-made discussion prompts that encourage higher-order thinking and connect learning to the events and ideas shaping our world. This is free to teachers until the end of this academic year. It can be done as online round table discussions or in class Socratic Seminar style discussions.

As the largest not-for-profit exclusively for young people and social change, Do Something’s millions of members represent every US area code and 131 countries.

The Encyclopedia of Gear, created by Outside Magazine, is described as “187 amazing stories about everything we use.”

This School Library Journal feature by Mahnaz Dar provides links to 19 webcomics for middle-grade and young adult audiences.

Atomic (Reading) Habits Part 3


This is the third post in a series of reflections on what Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear tells us about creating Atomic Habitsenvironments where students develop lifelong reading habits. You can read the previous posts here and here.

According to Clear there are four laws of behavior change. The first three laws—make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy—increase the odds that we will perform a behavior. The fourth law—make it satisfying—increases the odds that we will perform that habit again and again:

“We are more likely to increase a behavior when the experience is satisfying. This is entirely logical. Feelings of pleasure—even minor ones like washing your hands with soap that smells nice and lathers well—are signals that tell the brain: ‘This feels good. Do this again, next time.’ Pleasure teaches your brain that a behavior is worth remembering and repeating.”

“…The Cardinal Rule of Change: What is rewarded is repeated. What is punished is avoided. You learn what to do in the future based on what you were rewarded for doing (or punished for doing) in the past. Positive emotions cultivate habits. Negative emotions destroy them.”

“The vital thing in getting a habit to stick is to feel successful—even if it’s in a small way. The feeling of success is a signal that your habit paid off and that the work was worth the effort.”

“…the identity itself becomes the reinforcer. You do it because it’s who you are and it feels good to be you. The more the habit becomes part of your life, the less you need outside encouragement to follow through.”

“The most effective form of motivation is progress. When we get a signal that we are moving forward, we become more motivated to continue down that path.”

In our efforts to support students in developing lifelong reading habits, we have to ask ourselves how we can create the conditions for students to find intrinsic motivation to continue growing as readers?

Here’s what we know doesn’t work when it comes to motivating students to read: extrinsic rewards and accountability measures such as reading logs.

In No More Reading for Junk Barbara A. Marinak and Linda B. Gambrell highlight the perils of offering extrinsic rewards in an effort to motivate students to read:

The work that is perhaps the most informative on this issue is a study by Deci and his colleagues that suggests that if you reward a student who enjoys reading with an extrinsic reward (such as points, food, or money), the students may choose to read less frequently once the incentive is discontinued (Deci et al. 1991). The concern then is that extrinsic rewards may have a detrimental effect on the intrinsic motivation to read, particularly for those students who are already intrinsically motivated to read.

Interesting evidence also suggests that individuals are motivated by the reward itself (Deci 1975). For example, if we are paid to do a task such as reading, it may result in a decrease in our desire to read; however, being paid may be very effective in motivating an individual to make money. In other words, we tend to view the “reward” as desirable and valuable. Therefore, if we want to develop the intrinsic desire to read, books and extra time to read are probably the most effective rewards.

…research indicates that classroom environments that provide access to a variety of reading materials, reading activities that are relevant, and opportunities for student choice are more likely to nurture reading engagement and achievement (Anderman and Midgley 1992; Gambrell 2011; Guthrie, Wigfield, and VonSecker 2000).

Marinak and Gambrell refer to the classroom practices that nurture and sustain the development of motivation to read as the ARC of motivation:

  • afford access to a wide variety of print,
  • invite children into relevant reading experiences, and
  • afford as much choice as possible.

In “Can Reading Logs Ruin Reading for Kids,” journalist Erica Reicher acknowledges that reading logs are often used with the best of intentions—to encourage students to read: “The goal of these logs is to promote the habit of recreational reading, or at least to create the appearance of it. The basic idea seems to be this: If kids who read regularly gain significant benefits, then it should be mandated that all students read regularly so they, too, can enjoy those benefits.” Unfortunately, as the research on the negative impact of extrinsic rewards and punishments on motivation reveals, this strategy often has the opposite effect: “This research would suggest that reading logs have a similar effect on children’s reading habits, especially their desire to read for fun, making reading less of a pleasure and more of a chore. Imagine telling your child that she must draw pictures for at least 20 minutes daily—and also record how much time she spent drawing and how many different colors she used.”

According to Pernille Ripp, “We’re constantly asking kids to do something with their reading, and then wondering why they’re choosing to leave us and never picking up another book. They can’t wait to get out of school so that they don’t have to read.”

Teri S. Lesesne, author of Reading Ladders: Leading Students from Where They Are to Where We Want Them to Be, reminds us that motivating students to read is only a job half-done: “Once we connect students to books, we cannot abandon them. We need to provide them with some guidance to help them continue to develop as readers.” Lesesne suggests using reading ladders as a strategy for scaffolding students toward more challenging, independent reading:

Simply, a reading ladder is a series or set of books that are related in some way (e.g., thematically) and that demonstrate a slow, gradual development from simple to more complex. Ideally, the first rung of the reading ladder is a book that already has found a connection to the student. The second rung is a book that is almost identical to the first, thereby making it likely that the student will read it. At each successive rung, the books will be reminiscent of the ones that preceded them but are increasingly complex. Sometimes the books move from genre to genre; occasionally, the books remain within a genre. There are no hard-and-fast rules here. The intent is to move readers from their comfort zone to books that represent more diversity.

The reality, though, is that the only way to be this kind of book matchmaker for students, motivating them to incrementally challenge themselves to read texts of more complexity, is to know the readers in our classes and to have a wide familiarity with titles to recommend to them.

It’s important to note, however, that not all reading has to be hard for students. If we are motivated by things that bring us pleasure, it stands to reason that if reading is not a satisfying experience, it will not become habitual. That’s not to say reading must be easy, but it must bring a feeling of accomplishment to readers. As Kylene Beers has said on many occasions: