Margin Notes

Try This Tomorrow: Poetry Rx

Jan
24

On the Paris Review website, you’ll find a regular column called Poetry Rx. Here is the description from the site:

“In our column Poetry Rx, readers write in with a specific emotion, and our resident poets—Sarah Kay, Kaveh Akbar, and Claire Schwartz—take turns prescribing the perfect poems to match. This week, Claire Schwartz is on the line.”

The letters are emotional and honest and the recommendations are fascinating. The recommending poet also includes a description of why they made the selection and bits of analysis of the poem are woven into the response.

Not only is this interesting reading and a terrific source of poem suggestions, it would also be an engaging activity for students to undertake. They can recommend a poem to a literary character, historical figure, person in the news, or even an inanimate object and provide the reasons for their choice modelled after the originals.

Try This Tomorrow- Taylor Mali’s Metaphor Dice

Jan
17

It’s all fun and games until someone writes a poem. Taylor Mali, who many teachers know from What Teachers Make, launched a KickStarter campaign to develop Metaphor Dice.

Each set of Metaphor Dice contains 12 dice: 4 red concept dice, 4 white adjective dice, and 4 blue object dice. Players are instructed to “Roll the dice until you formulate a metaphor that speaks to you, one that you think you could explore for a few minutes of writing.” There are options for playing alone and playing in a group.

We begin every literacy team meeting with a quick write and recently we decided to try out the dice. We each took a set, rolled once, and wrote for a few minutes off of the combination we got on the first try. Initially, I had no idea where time+backhanded bullseye would take me, but I ended up getting started on a piece of writing that I will return to because I ended up having lots to say. By stringing those three, seemingly unrelated words together, I found the seed of a writing piece that I probably would not have otherwise discovered.

Taylor Mali’s Metaphor Dice are a unique way to mine for writing idea and inspiration and to experiment with combinations of words.

Try This Tomorrow: Editing The Gray Lady

Jan
15

If you are not following Editing the Gray Lady (@nyt_diff) on Twitter, you are missing out on a never-ending source of mini-lesson ideas. This account tracks changes made to New York Times headlines during the editing/revision process.

There are so many options for using this resource in your classroom, from highlighting specific changes in mini-lessons about conventions, sentence structure, and word choice to inviting students to reflect on why specific changes were made and their impact on the overall effect.

Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little

Dec
06

Christopher Johnson begins Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little by explaining that we are living in the age of The Incredible Shrinking Message.

“Some of the most important verbal messages we encounter are also the shortest. Headlines, titles, brand names, domain names, sound bites, slogans, taglines, catchphrases, email subject lines, text messages, elevator pitches, bullet points, tweets, and Facebook status updates are a few examples.”

Johnson goes on to define microstyle:

“Messages of just a word, a phrase, or a short sentence or two—micromessages—lean heavily on every word and live or die by the tiniest stylistic choices. Micromessages depend not on the elements of style, but on the atoms of style. They require microstyle.”

Microstyle highlights many examples of short micromessages we encounter in day-to-day life and analyses what makes them effective or, in some cases, ineffective (and humorous). Through these examples and nonexamples, Johnson identifies the key ingredients of powerful and memorable micromessages.

His focus on taglines, those short memorable catchphrases or slogans often used to market movies, tv shows, and brands, made me think about possible classroom applications. Taglines are meant to capture and communicate the most important details or features of a product with precision and clarity, so why not invite students to create their own taglines to:

* summarize their learning,

* describe the book they are reading,

* identify the purpose of a piece of writing they are working on,

* introduce themselves to others,

* articulate the gist of a text,

* put words to an image,

* describe their performance on a task, or

* give feedback to a peer.

Creating taglines and other micromessages can be a quick, easy, and creative way to encourage students to consolidate and share their learning.

The 19 Best Sentences of 2017

Nov
05

Slate posted The 19 Best Sentences of 2017,  which in itself is extremely helpful to anyone looking for interesting sentences to share in sentence studies and mini-lessons. I think this list can be used in a variety of ways:

* Share some or all of the sentences on the list with students and discuss what criteria may have been used to determine that these sentences are, in fact, the best.

* Invite students to name the sentence on the list they would consider “the best of the best” and cite the reasons for their choice.

* Invite students to nominate sentences from their own reading that will be considered for The Best Sentences of the Year or The Best Sentences of the Semester. Determine selection criteria and select which nominated sentences will make the final list.

NY Times Article of the Day

Oct
29

Finding current and engaging articles can be a challenge, which is why the NY Times Article of the Day column is such a fantastic resource.

Here is their description of the site: “Every weekday we choose an important or interesting news or feature story to become our Article of the Day, then write a quick series of questions and activities designed to help students both understand the piece and connect it to their own lives. Each edition has suggestions for engaging students before they read, comprehension and critical thinking questions to support them as they go, and ideas for taking the topic further when they’re done.”

Topics range from science to sports to current events to video games and the activities offered are designed to spark critical thinking and discussion.

Taste Test

Oct
23

The Takeout is a goldmine for food lovers. The feature, Taste Test, is an excellent source of mentor texts. Each article analyses and rates a food that ranges from everyday fare to the exotic and/or outrageously priced. These short articles can be used by students as mentors to write their own versions about foods they love (or don’t). Also, they are brief enough to use in mini-lessons and contain excellent examples of description, word choice, and sentence variety.

Object Lessons

Oct
16

Object Lessons is a series of essays “about the hidden lives of ordinary things, from combinations to incarnations, sincerities to solutions” published online by The Atlantic. These essays are fascinating combinations of history, analysis, commentary, and personal narrative. They would be terrific mentor texts for writers delving into explanatory writing that focuses on why or how something came to be or how something works.

The Art of the Sentence

Oct
09

The website hosted by Tin House is a terrific spot for finding samples of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry as well as interviews with writers and reflections on their craft. I especially like the regular feature, The Art of the Sentence.  Each post focuses on a beautifully crafted sentence or passage. The writer analyses the sentence, shares information about the author and their style, and reflects on the impact the writing has had on them.

Not only are these excellent mentor texts for students to write their own versions of The Art of the Sentence, I really appreciate the way each post models reading through the lens of a writer and not only noticing but naming aspects of the writer’s craft. The posts also weave in elements of personal narrative as the writer explores their experiences as a reader. They read like personal essays and might also be used to explore organization structures that combine analysis and narrative. Sharing The Art of the Sentence with students is a way to invite them to notice, share, and celebrate the sentences and passages that impact them in their independent reading.

Using Infographics In Your Classroom

Oct
05

If you are interested in incorporating infographics, What Is an Infographic: The History and Evolution of Data Visualization, is an excellent starting point. This primer on data visualization defines infographics, identifies different types with a list of key features and examples, and provides a timeline of the history of infographics.

This information would be a terrific way to launch an infographic genre unit study that involves students both reading and creating infographics. This site, Daily Infographic, is one of my go-to sources, making it easy to gather lots of examples to share with students. Infographics are everywhere and students can also collect examples to share and discuss.