Margin Notes



Margin Notes posted about the Poetry RX column in The Paris Review here. Dr. Maya C. Popa (@MayaCPopa), an acclaimed poet in modern poetry, has used her “X” platform to share the same idea of “Poetry Rx”. Read more about her work on her website.

She shares an ailment on “X”, and her followers will offer their prescribed poems, sometimes with explanations and other times without. The conditions are often timely with world events, seasons or connected to real people. Here are some examples:

These posts become curated poetry and art text sets on a topic/theme.

How to try this tomorrow:

Poetry Prescription Gallery Walk:

  • Curate a gallery of poems that were previously prescribed for various problems.
  • Divide students into small groups and have them rotate through the gallery.
  • Ask each group to analyze and discuss why a particular poem might have been prescribed for a given problem.
  • Encourage them to consider themes, tone, and literary devices – whatever mini-lesson you taught.

Classwide Poetry Prescription Database:

  • Create a shared online document or database where students can contribute poems they find or write for specific problems.
  • Have students categorize the poems based on the problems they address.
  • Students can take out the collection of poems when they need support in that area.

Rotating Poetry Prescription Circles:

  • Establish rotating small groups within the class.
  • Each group is responsible for identifying a problem and prescribing a poem to address it.
  • Rotate the groups periodically to ensure that students have diverse experiences in exploring and discussing different problems and poems.

Collaborative Poetry Prescriptions:

  • Assign each student a specific problem or challenge to explore through poetry.
  • Have them collaborate in pairs or small groups to find or create poems that address their assigned issue.

Poetry Playlists:

  • When teaching about character and theme development, have students create a poetry playlist to represent the emotions, actions or motivations of a character.

These ideas involve students actively engaging with poetry prescriptions, encouraging critical thinking, collaboration, and reflection on the choices made in selecting and discussing poems for specific problems.



Artists on Spotify can see every playlist their music is added to. A Tiktok artist @Johnwritessongs takes these playlist titles to create songs and have fun with the different spaces his music lands on Spotify. He has a whole playlist called songwriting challenges you can find here. You can listen to an example of a song written by playlist titles here.

*Teachers should preview all examples for language and content before showing a class.

Try this tomorrow:

Write your own found poetry: Have strips of paper cut up. Students can use their own Spotify playlist titles or search for the playlist titles of their favorite songs. Write each playlist title on a strip of paper and organize them into a poem. Encourage them to experiment with different themes, tones, and structures as they compose their poems. Collaborate, share and enjoy!

Analyzing structure and form: Have students analyze the structure and form of the found poems created by @johnwritessongs. Discuss how he uses the titles of Spotify playlists to construct lyrics and create meaning. Students can examine the organization of the playlists and how the artist selects and arranges the titles to create coherence and flow in the poem.

Understanding tone and mood: Explore the tone and mood conveyed in the found poems. Discuss how the choice of playlist titles influences the overall tone of the poem and contributes to the mood. Encourage students to identify specific words or phrases that evoke certain emotions and discuss how they contribute to the overall meaning of the poem.

This is a fun and playful way to bring poetry into the classroom but also provides a deeper conversation about how we build communities and connect through artistic expression. Use this lesson idea to embrace contemporary culture and the intersections of music, writing, social media etc.



We love the practice of introducing texts, topics, authors, and genres to students by reading the first chapter aloud. First Chapter Fridays are a wonderful opportunity to end the week with reading joy. It’s also a strategy that, when planned with intention, can support most aspects of the curriculum. This post is part of a series that will introduce ideas for leveling up your First Chapter Fridays without diminishing its central purpose of engaging readers. Read the previous posts here, here and here.

Because one of the goals of First Chapter Fridays is introducing a wide variety of texts, you can easily add graphic texts and comics into this routine by projecting the first few pages for the class to view while you read. Of course, it’s important to remember that graphic texts are a form and not a genre, so within this category you’ll find a wide range of both fiction and non-fiction options.

Here are some suggestions for incorporating graphic texts in First Chapter Fridays:

  • Use the text like any other to support word study, vocabulary, comprehension, and criticality/text analysis. Revisit portions of the text in targeted mini-lessons.
  • While reading, stop and model your use of specific strategies to comprehend the combination of words and pictures.
  • Introduce some of the unique and specific features of graphic texts. This is a good source of basic terms and concepts.
  • Invite students to take a closer look at a portion of the text by using a variation of the NY Times Learning Network What’s Going on In This Picture prompts: What is going on in this excerpt? What do you see that makes you say that? What more can you find?
  • Use See, Think, Wonder, Parts, Purposes, Complexities, or other protocols from Project Zero’s Thinking Routine Toolbox to explore portions of the text in more detail.
  • If possible, compare the graphic version with a print version and invite students to articulate their personal preferences, analyze decisions made and the impact these have on the reader, etc.




Kylene Beers, in When Kids Can’t Read What Teachers Can Do, shares this simple but effective idea for teaching homographs, words that are spelled the same but have different meanings. She first asks the reader to consider what the following words have in common:

  • leave
  • good
  • interest
  • date
  • type
  • fast

They are all words that have multiple meanings. As she explains, “Leave can mean to remain (Please leave the book there.) or to be absent from a place (She is on leave from her job.). Good can be a moral value (She is a good person.) or a level of skill They did a good job.) or something you can count on (The car was good for another year.)”.

What makes this important for teachers to consider is that words with multiple meanings are problematic for students who know the most common definition of the word, but not the lesson common definition(s). When reading a text, if a student encounters a word, and only knows the common definition, comprehension breaks down. While skilled readers, and students who have broad vocabulary and reading experiences know when to consider other definitions, “…students with reading difficulties often default to the only definition they know”.

So, with this knowledge, how can we support readers in our classrooms?

Beers explains that although wide reading exposure will help students with the multiple meanings of words, we can introduce discussions on homographs in the classroom by simply selecting a homograph found in a text students are currently exploring, and increase their understanding of multiple meanings through an activity she calls “Words Across Contexts”. Here are some examples:

What would jersey mean to

  • A rancher?
  • Someone from New England?
  • A football player?

What would bank mean to

  • Someone standing near a river?
  • Someone who wants to save money?
  • A pilot?

What would bolt mean to

  • A carpenter?
  • A weather forecaster?
  • A runner?

What would engage mean to

  • A couple?
  • Someone chosen to do a job?
  • A mechanic?

What would novel mean to

  • A writer?
  • A creative problem solver?

Beers then shares a list of words with multiple meanings that you can find here, as well as a template for this activity here.




When I find an author that I love, I will often follow them on social media. This gives me the opportunity to find out about upcoming book releases and gives me a glimpse into their life and thoughts.

I was checking out K A Holt’s Twitter/X the other day, and noticed a link in her bio to her author’s website. K A Holt is the author of middle grade fiction and picture books. (She has written some of my favourite books in verse, like House Arrest and Rhyme Schemer.)

On her website she has a “For Kids” page.

And I was delighted to see:


  1. Kari Anne was born in Atlanta, Georgia on September 10th, 19somethingsomething.
  2. When she was 13, Kari Anne accidentally stomped through a gerbil cage, resulting in five stitches on her calf. You can still see the zigzag scar.
  3. When she was young, her favorite author was Paula Danziger, followed closely by Lois Lowry.
  4. Kari Anne’s favorite food is almost always a taco, but there are times when a cheeseburger wins.
  5. She has synesthesia, which means she sees letters and numbers as colors, and she sometimes mixes up other senses, too. (Examples: the letter C is orange, the number one is icy white)

I instantly thought – what a great way for students to share facts about themselves…or about any topic, really. This would make a great quickwrite, or a way for students to organize their About the Author pages for their writing. Try this tomorrow!




In their newly released professional resource, How to Become a Better Writing Teacher, authors Matt Glover and Carl Anderson generously provide a wealth of insights, sharing 50 actionable strategies to elevate both engagement and achievement among student writers. Drawing from their collective 70 years of teaching experience, this resource is one that teachers across all levels of experience will benefit from. Much like their previous contributions, the core principle driving this guide is the unwavering conviction that, with proper support and instruction, every student can achieve as a writer. As such, the actions shared will equip and empower teachers to grow the writing of all students.

One action, of the 50,  is a valuable tool for teachers meeting with students who are hesitant as to what to discuss during writing conferences. This approach bridges the ongoing conversations in our district regarding the crucial role of vocabulary and background knowledge in comprehension achievement. It emphasizes the need for students to acquire the necessary vocabulary not only for comprehending texts but also for understanding and effectively engaging with writing instruction.

Action: Supporting Students’ Use of Writing Vocabulary

Teachers are encouraged to use the following conversational moves to “…help students develop the writing vocabulary they need to talk in conferences…”:

  • Bring a chart to your conferences that lists what you’ve taught in recent minilessons, and have students look at it to help them think about what to say to you (Laman 2013). [Adding to this point, a co-constructed class anchor chart, or, for a craft unit, a whole class text study chart (found in the amazing online resource contents that comes with this resource) could also be used to scaffold the use of precise language in conferences.]
  • List several things the student might be doing. You could say, “Hmm…are you trying to add dialogue, or character thinking, or character actions to this part of your story?’
  • Take a tour of the student’s writing, and describe what you see them doing: “I see that you’ve got a subheading for this chapter…and you’re describing what penguins look like by writing descriptive facts and what penguins do by writing action facts…Do you want to talk about one of these things today?” Hearing you connect writing language to their writing helps students understand these terms, and soon they’ll be able to use them on their own. (Anderson, Carl, and Glover, Matt. How to Become a Better Writing Teacher. Heinemann, 2023.)

If you’re looking for a scaffold to support precise vocabulary in  writing conferences, try this tomorrow!








Teachers, are you looking to enhance depth and detail in your students’ writing ? If so, you might want to head to TikTok!  Kate Roberts, literacy coach, has been doing a series on TikTok about teaching writing. In a recent video, she describes a great strategy for narrative writing: “I ADD”.

  •  I – Inner Thinking
  • A- Action
  • D- Dialogue
  • D- Description

Kate describes the strategy this way: “When you are stretching out a moment in a narrative, what you want to do is go line by line and sort of switch it up.” She then goes on to model an example in the video, showing how she incorporates the different parts of “I ADD”. 

I just thought this was a brilliant, yet simple, strategy that students could try immediately. Her other videos have more ideas for elevating student writing.

Kate Roberts is one half of Kate and Maggie Roberts are literacy consultants and coaches. Their latest book is DIY Literacy. You can follow them on Instagram @kate_and_maggie and on Tiktok @kateandmaggie.





When Taylor Swift announced her forthcoming album, The Tortured Poets Department, swifties around the world celebrated. At the same time, ELA teachers sent up a cheer because their mini-lesson for the next day had been written.

We all know that learning about grammar happens best in the context of authentic writing, and I loved every minute of following the social media debates over apostrophe usage. (Taylor, if you’re reading this, please incorporate a semicolon in your next album title.)

Literary Hub quickly posted the explainer, Is the phrase The Tortured Poets Department grammatically correct? This is a fantastic explanatory mentor text that can be used specifically as a model for students to write their own grammar explainer or more generally as an example of explaining something using an “if this, then this” structure.

Here are a few other options you might add to build an inquiry unit about explainers:

Quanta Magazine has an archive of Explainers that combine videos and articles to explain detailed scientific and mathematical concepts and phenomena. These can be shared as complete texts or you can pull out specific passages to demonstrate craft moves like word choice, use of context clues, and examples to support readers’ understanding of technical language.

Life Kit from NPR is a podcast that offers” how-to” advice from experts. Most episodes are shorter than 30 minutes and cover a wide range of topics, including 5 Simple Ways to Minimize Stress, How to Have a Healthy Relationship with Caffeine, and Popular Myths About Sleep Debunked. Life Kit episodes blend relatable examples and anecdotes with research presented in an accessible way and most of them conclude with a helpful recap.

Randall Munroe has created a playlist of short videos based on his books, What If? I and What If? II. The videos are under 5 minutes and combine words and images to answer such questions as “What if Earth suddenly stopped spinning?” and “What if NASCAR had no rules?”.




7 Mighty Moves: Research-Backed, Classroom-Tested Strategies for K-to-3 Reading Success by Lindsay Kemeny, is a treasure trove of actionable strategies educators can try tomorrow. While Kemeny’s focus is on critical foundational reading skills for K-3, many of these strategies extend beyond grade 3. 7 Mighty Moves helps educators to think about how they can effectively address all the strands in the reading rope across the day. Kemeny shares her ongoing learning journey, revealing the adaptations she has made and the practices she has abandoned in a clear and engaging manner.

Within Move 6: Focus on Meaningful Fluency Practice, many of Kemeny’s strategies are adaptable for adolescent readers. She challenges educators to incorporate the practice of repeated oral readings combined with listening to fluent reading. Notably, Kemeny emphasizes the impact of reading a passage four times, stressing it has a greater impact than reading it only once, twice, or thrice. Techniques like echo reading, choral reading, and partner reading are highlighted as engaging methods that afford readers ample opportunities to both listen to and practice fluent reading. Kemeny emphasizes steering clear of ineffective practices such as round robin or popcorn reading, underscoring the importance of respecting readers’ emotional experiences while reading aloud.

I love that Kemeny included one of the most authentic oral rereading strategies that all readers may enjoy, regardless of age, the performance of a text for an audience. Various types of text can be adapted for Readers Theater: poems, dramatic dialogues, short stories, fables, folklore, and humorous texts with multiple voices, graphic novels, and comics, etc., as these are all great opportunities for repeated reading practice. Picture books and children’s literature featuring engaging dialogue are also recommended, provided they serve the readers’ individual needs.

Check out this group of adolescent readers performing The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs as well as this great collection of Readers Theatre scripts: RTscripts – Dr. Chase Young (

Kemeny challenges educators to implement different ways readers can engage in reading aloud in safe reading environments. What meaningful fluency practice strategies are you currently implementing in your classroom?

Kemeny, L., & Archer, A. L. (2023). 7 mighty moves: Research-backed, classroom-tested strategies to ensure K-to-3 reading success. Scholastic.



In our ever-evolving digital landscape, navigating the nuances of media representation and diversity are integral to nurturing informed and empathetic students.  One resource that supports this endeavor is the “That’s Not Me” portal by MediaSmarts. This comprehensive resource is specifically designed for educators seeking engaging and relevant content to incorporate into their literacy curriculum.


This resource includes a Professional Development section for teachers, as well as the following:

  • “That’s Not Me” Tutorial: Empowers students to challenge media portrayals and advocate for positive representations.
  • Background Articles: Offers information on the media portrayals of Indigenous People, Visible Minorities, 2SLGBTQ+ Representation, Persons with Disabilities, and Racial and Cultural Diversity.
  • Lesson Plans: Engages students thoughtful lessons dissecting bias in news and exploring diversity in media ownership.
  • Diversity in Media Toolbox: A comprehensive suite featuring professional development tutorials, interactive student modules, lesson plans, and articles addressing bias and hate in media.

As with every resource, you will want to adapt lessons based on curriculum outcomes/skill descriptors and the needs and interests of your students, but this resource will provide you with great ideas and relevant and timely texts.