Margin Notes

TRY THIS TOMORROW: MARGIN NOTES HAS A SHAREPOINT!

Nov
19

As a teacher, something that fills me with joy is the ability to quickly locate something I need, precisely when I need it and without a lot of frantic searching. 

So, in an effort to make the lives of K-12 literacy teachers easier across ASD-W, the literacy team has developed a SHAREPOINT site.

This has been a labour of love and I’m excited to show you what we’ve developed!

You can find the link at the bottom of this post (link will work for all teachers in ASD-W).

The first thing you’ll see is:

Buttons that take you to our Margin Notes Blog, to information on the three strands and a link to the EECD curriculum site.

Scroll down bit and you’ll find:

Buttons that take you to “Essentials” – all the documents you’ll need to teach Literacy K-12.

Then, if you keep scrolling:

You’ll find more buttons that take you to resources that you will find helpful and interesting.

Keep scrolling…

And you’ll find our Literacy Webinars!

Lastly, you will find…

Upcoming Literacy Events! You can add these to your outlook calendar to stay up to date.

We encourage you to check it out and please share this blog post with others who might this information helpful. We hope teachers will feel like we’ve handed them the easy button!

 

GIVING THE GIFT OF WRITING

Nov
17

I have just received my copy of Cultivating Writers by Anne Elliott and Mary Lynch and was so excited to find a whole chapter on making the why of writing visible, knowing that author’s purpose is so important in engaging young writers in the writing process. As Elliott and Lynch state “the why needs to be made clearly visible.” With my copy of the book tucked under my arm I headed into a grade 3 classroom to try out the following lesson. 

Giving the Gift of Writing is a highly engaging lesson to help students think about and articulate the various and valuable reasons we write.  

  1. Place many tools for writing into a gift bag stuffed with brightly coloured tissue paper. Include items such as pencils, markers, loose-leaf, a notebook, a greeting card, a calendar, sticky notes etc…
  2. Bring your students together in their writer’s huddle and display the gift bag to create excitement. 
  3. Slowly remove each item and ask students to think about why these items have been collected into one bag and how they are connected. 
  4. After all the items have been removed ask students to talk with a partner and think of one word that describes how the items are connected. 
  5. Have pairs share their ideas with the whole group. Some possible student responses: writing, art, making things, things to write with, gifts. 
  6. Once students have shared their initial thoughts ask them What is the purpose of writing tools?  Below is a chart of responses by grade 3 students:

7. Share all the reasons you chose to share these items with them. I cannot say it better than the authors: 

 

Extension: Over the next few days ask students to share the reasons they believe the authors of the books they are reading or listening to choose to write these books. Chart student thinking next to the title of the book. 

Get ready to hear your students’ thoughts about why writers write and start cultivating thoughts about why students themselves write. And use this information as data for assessment! 

Try this tomorrow… 

 

TRY THIS TOMORROW: STUDYING CRAFT IN WRITING WORKSHOP

Oct
27

With many teachers moving to teaching using the workshop model, and with an emphasis on choice to give voice and autonomy to the writers in our classrooms, we are frequently asked, “How do you teach mini-lessons in workshop when students are writing in many different genres and forms?”. Studying craft and process are two ways in which you can organize mini lessons that are not genre dependent.

Here is an example of a craft study:

Yesterday as I was preparing to book talk Heroine by Mindy McGinnis, I was refreshing my memory of the book by reading the back cover, which includes:

“I am not a wasted person. I am not prowling the streets. I am not an addict. I am a girl spinning her locker combination. I am a girl who got a B on her math test. I am a girl who has two holes on the inside of her arm, but they do not tell the whole story of me.”

I was struck by the use of what Jennifer Serravallo calls “Tell What It’s Not (to Say What It Is)” and I was thinking what a great mentor text this excerpt would be for students.  Following the advice from THE RULE OF THREE (BECAUSE THREE BECOMES A THING), which states, “Three makes it a ‘thing’. Three (or more) similar texts allow students to answer the question, “What do you notice about the way these texts are written?” and find commonalities across the samples.  Groupings of texts widen the opportunities for writers to look at the text and ask themselves what elements they might like to incorporate into their own writing.  So, I asked myself where else I have seen this strategy used, and I remembered the following two pieces:

Excerpt from Hunger by Roxanne Gay: “The story of my body is not a story of triumph. This is not a weight-loss memoir. There will be no picture of a thin version of me, my slender body emblazoned across this book’s cover, with me standing in one leg of my former, fatter self’s jeans. This is not a book that will offer motivation. I don’t have any powerful insight into what it takes to overcome an unruly body and unruly appetites. Mine is not a success story. Mine is, simply, a true story.”

Excerpt from An Open Letter to Those Who Want to Liberate Me From Wearing My Hijab by Amira B. Kunbargi: “I don’t need your life jacket. I am not drowning in dogmatism or ideological idiocy. Nor am I prisoner to a patriarchal rampart. I am not brainwashed, backward, or bound. You don’t need to rescue me so stop trying to save me. I don’t need saving. What I need is respect.”

Studying craft in a variety of genres (in this case fiction, memoir, open letter) allows students to see how craft moves work across genres and helps them envision where, when, and for what purpose they may use the craft move being studied. For more ideas on studying craft in your writing workshop, check out the Craft Studio section of Margin Notes.

Try This Tomorrow: How Sure Are You? (Uncertain to Certain Line)

Oct
20

Research shows that students already know up to 40% of what we teach them.

Let’s sit with that fact for a minute…40%.

To me? That’s a lot of wasted time. A lot of time we don’t have to waste! 

So, it is really important that we take time figuring out a way to determine what our students already know, before we teach it to them anyway. 

In the book “Developing Assessment -Capable Visible Learners: Grades K-12” by Douglas Fisher,  Nancy Frey and John Hattie, they describe many wonderful activities to help us create assessment capable learners. One of my favourites is the “How Sure Are You?” strategy.  

 

 

Here is the strategy in a nutshell:

  1. You draw a line on the white board like this:

2. Then, depending on what you are introducing, you give the students a term, question, or statement to define or answer on a post-it note.

3. Then you ask “How Sure Are You?” and have students place their post-its on the line. Here are some grade 6 students answering the question “What is poetry?” and putting their post-it notes on the line.

This is what it looked like when they had placed their answers.

You can see they are all over the place! Some students were certain, some uncertain and some in the middle.

Important information gleaned from this 5 minute activity:

  • Most students said something to the effect of “poetry has to rhyme”.
  • The majority of the students were uncertain or thought their answer was probable.
  • Some of the students who were certain, really weren’t!

I gleaned all that just from reading their post-it notes quickly as students were transitioning to the reading corner.

Later that day, the LA teacher and I debriefed and decided to focus on poetry mentor texts the next day. I brought in a crate full of poetry books and we had the students read widely. They wrote down what they noticed about the poems. Then, we co-constructed a list as a class.

Here are some of their thoughts:

  • Can tell a story
  • Is descriptive
  • Can be emotional
  • Poetry has a form
  • Can be written in shapes
  • Does not need punctuation
  • Rhymes (or doesn’t)

 

 

Without doing this quick check-in activity, we wouldn’t have known what the students’ confusions and misunderstandings were about poetry.

Try it tomorrow!

The MENTOR TEXT AND BOOK TALK COMBO

Oct
14

“Teachers who are engaged readers do a better job of engaging students as readers. According to Morrison, Jacobs, and Swinyard (1999), ‘perhaps the most influential teacher behavior to influence students’ literacy development is personal reading, both in and out of school’ (p. 81).” Preparing Teachers with Knowledge of Children’s and Young Adult Literature, NCTE, 2018).

When we read and bring our reading lives into the classroom, our students benefit. Our experiences as readers help us develop literacy curricula that is responsive and authentic, and they help us develop a shared language for reader-to-reader conversations. Our personal and professional literacy lives provide us with the insider knowledge we need to support our students on their own journeys of developing and growing as readers, writers, communicators, listeners, thinkers, and citizens.

One of the simplest ways to make our reading lives visible to students is with the mentor text and book talk combo.

In What you Know by Heart, Katie Wood Ray describes what it means to read like a teacher of writing:

“Every time we see writing, we are seeing what we teach. We are seeing examples of what’s possible in writing, and so we have to read the texts we encounter across our lives differently than other people. We read these texts like teachers of writing. We are on the lookout for interesting ways to approach the writing, interesting ways to craft sentences and paragraphs and whole texts, interesting ways to bring characters to life or make time move or get a point across. When we read, we are always on the lookout—whether we intend to be or not—for interesting things we might teacher our students how to do.”

Reading in this way is a habit of mind for us as literacy teachers; we read everything with our eyes open for mentor text possibilities.

When we share these mentor texts with students in mini-lessons, writing conferences, inquiry units into genre or form, or quickwrites, we can incorporate a quick book talk or description of our how we came across the text and give students a glimpse into our life as a reader.

A few years ago, I started collecting these mentor possibilities in my writer’s notebook. This reading ritual has helped me developed the skill of reading like a teacher of writing and it provides an artifact of my reading life that I can show students when I share my notebook:

Combining book talks with mentor texts is a quick and easy strategy for sharing your reading life with students that you can try tomorrow.

TRY THIS TOMORROW: DESTINATION KNOWN/UNKNOWN

Oct
08

The first weeks of writing workshop are filled with establishing daily routines, getting to know our students as writers, setting up writer’s notebooks and supporting students in generating topics that they might want to write about. In Anne Elliott and Mary Lynch’s newest professional resource, Cultivating Writers, they share a neat activity to show student writers “…that their neighborhood, community, city, country, and world are all sources of writing potential.” The activity is called Destination Known/Unknown.

Using the template shown below, follow/model the following:

  1. Show students that the center represents the location closest to where they live (i.e neighborhood) and subsequent circles moving outward represent increasing distances from their home: community, city, country, world.
  2. In the innermost circle, model for students how to generate places in their neighborhood they enjoy going to and are linked to a memory; e.g, local park, hockey arena, skate park, local diner, variety store, etc.
  3. Have students generate ideas for other destinations. Whether students have first-hand knowledge and experience traveling to a particular destination or need time to investigate and research a dream location, writing about a place opens up a world of endless landscapes and adventures.
  4. Once students have generated ideas for each circle, have them share some of the locales and tell the class about an adventure they had there, or an adventure they dream of having.

This activity will surely generate some great writing topics, but activities like these do so much more. They connect student’s writing to their world outside of school, they let us better know our students, and they build an authentic writing community with the sharing of ideas.

This is just one activity from this amazing resource, and we recommend Cultivating Writers to every teacher of writing who believes as these authors do that: “We have the responsibility, the obligation, and the duty to create an environment in which kids flourish into writers who have the skill and the will.”

Here is the template:

 

 

Crafting Reader Profiles K-5

Oct
06

“When someone tells us they are not a reader, it is not enough to simply hand them what we deem to be a great book.  The first step is to ask why and then get to know that child. “  Pernille Ripp

As we begin another school year our first few weeks of school are inundated with activities. In primary school, interest inventories circle around asking children what their favorite colors are, favorite animals, and what they like to do for fun.  But what if you had an inventory that would gather so much information about a child that you could have weeks’ worth of planning beyond knowing their favorite color?

The “I Am A Reader Who” list poem, from Anne Elliott and Mary Lynch’s Cultivating Readers book (Grades 3-8), encourages teachers to dig deeper into getting to know their students in order to support them in recognizing how they have developed as readers over time and exploring their reading habits and preferences.

Before students create their own,” I Am a Reader” list poem, the authors suggest posting promts around the room on chart paper to encourage classroom discussion and support students in thinking about themselves as readers.

Questions as suggested by the authors include:

  • Where do you like to read?
  • When do you like to read?
  • How do you choose books?
  • Who do you like to read (authors)?
  • What do you like to read (topics/genres)?

It is important to model your own thinking aloud before having students independently travel between the charts individually or in small groups to add their own ideas. I also love the authors’ suggestestion of having follow-up conversations that highlights any trends, connections, and a-ha moments before having students create their own I am a Reader Poem.

Check out, an “I Am a Reader” poem already completed by a student this year:

Try this Tomorrow: BHH Reading (Book, Head, Heart)

Oct
01

My favourite way to get students talking, thinking, and writing about a text is to use the BHH Framework from the book Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst.

BHH Anchor Chart

This anchor chart can be introduced and displayed in the classroom and can be referred to all year long.

I generally introduce the questions with a Picture Book. But, any text that stirs emotions will work.

Some of my go-to, thought provoking reads are:

As I read, I pause and “think aloud” as I model answering the questions that the book inspires me to answer.(Not all questions need to be used every time with every text).

Then, using different texts, we think and respond to the questions as a class, sharing our thoughts and feelings. It doesn’t take long before students are using the questions to independently think and write about texts!

I really love how open ended the questions are, and how they can lead to all sorts of conversations and writing ideas.

Here are Kylene and Bob talking about the BHH Framework:

The BHH Framework really does encourage students to think deeply about texts. And, as an added bonus, this framework can be used across subject areas and with all ages.

I have seen this used successfully in classrooms K-12.  

Try it tomorrow!

TRY THIS TOMORROW: IMAGE READING

Jan
08

“The most powerful words in English are, ‘Tell me a story’”
– Pat Conroy

Start With JoyWe are very excited to join educators tonight on Twitter for the ShelfieTalk with Katie Egan Cunningham centered around her book Start With Joy (2019)!

In her chapter on “Story”, Katie talks about the power of image reading:

One of the simplest ways to spark a storyteller voice in students is to have a daily image to talk about. It can be an image from a recent read-aloud, an image of children the same age as your students engaged in something joyful, or a compelling photograph of somewhere you’ve been or of a landmark site. When the image is character driven, it can spark discussion about what the character might be thinking, feeling, or saying. Students get to image the life of the character beyond the photo as they develop their storyteller voice. When the image is setting driven, it can spark discussion about what students see, what makes them think, and what makes them wonder. Any image can be used to imagine other sensory details like smells and sounds that we can’t see but we can invent. When images are used as a foundation in understanding stories, students are given a primer in the craft techniques that will soon make their verbal and written stories that much stronger (p. 108-109).

Three of her suggestions for using images to encourage students to ask, “What’s the story here?” are:

• Invite students to create their own captions for what they see
• Join online conversations to see what students around the world come up with
• A weekly caption contest

In her book Teaching Talk, Kara Pranikoff suggests using these three questions to springboard idea growing around images:teaching talk.jpg

• What are you thinking?
• What ideas do you have about this picture?
• What specific details give you these ideas?

Visible Thinking suggests the following sentence starters to spark talk around works of art, images, and other interesting things:

• I see…
• I think…
• I wonder…

The New York Times suggests asking these questions of images:

• What’s going on in this picture?
• What do you see that makes you say that?
• What more can you find?

If you are interested in using images with your students as a way to spark your storytellers, to use talk to grow thinking, or to inspire wonder, here is a compilation of resources to find images that might work for you:

“The best photos of 2019” by National Geographic 

“2019: Top 100 Photos” by Time Magazine

The New Yorker: Daily Cartoon

“Paintings That Will Make You Question Everything Wrong In This World”

“Images to Inspire” by Once Upon a Picture

“Elderly People Look At Their Younger Reflections In This Beautiful Photo Series” by Tom Hussey

“A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words” from Odd Stuff Magazine

“What’s Wrong With Today’s Society Captured In 58 Though-Provoking Illustrations” By Al Margen

“What’s Going On in This Picture” by The New York Times

10 MINUTES ON TWITTER

Nov
14

Since joining Twitter in April, 2015 I by the inspiring, interesting, useful, creative, and practical ideas and resources available to me every single time I drop in, no matter what time of day or night.  Sometimes when I recommend Twitter as a source of personal professional learning and collegial connections, educators express concern that they don’t have time.

I thought it would be interesting to set a timer for 10 minutes, log onto Twitter, and show you what I find.  I’ve included Twitter accounts so that you can expand your professional learning network if you are not already following these accounts.

The 10 Best Nonfiction Books of the 2010s via @Time: This list is surely to create debate as well as offer a few new TBR titles.

A List of 14 Children’s Books About Families of All Kinds via @pragmaticmom:Friendly reminder…picture books are fantastic for readers of all ages!

The NCTE Statement on Independent Reading via @NCTE: “Protecting this instructional time is imperative to supporting students in building strong reading habits that will carry outside of the classroom and create lifelong readers.”

Little Beasts: When did it become cute to dress kids up like a different kind of animal? via @Slate: This would be an interesting mentor text for writing to explore a recent trend.

An Interview with Steve Gardiner called How Sustained Silent Reading Keeps Students Curious and Engaged via @KeystoneReading: Gardiner reminds us of the benefits of daily independent reading and explains why 10-15 minutes of each day has a greater impact than one hour per week.

Comic Sans Turns 25: Graphic Designer Vincent Connare Explains Why he Created the Most Hated Font in the World via @goose_lane:An entertaining and informative history of Comic Sans and why we (love to) hate it.

Using Twitter as a professional learning tool doesn’t require a large investment of time. Just a few minutes each day is all you need to find ideas and resources and to connect with other educators. The challenge is not finding interesting things in ten minutes on Twitter, it’s limiting yourself to only ten minutes!