Margin Notes

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!

TRY THIS TOMORROW: MAKING OUR READING LIVES VISIBLE

Oct
17

As we continue to build community in our classrooms by modeling our own reading identity, another easy way to make our reading lives visible is with this great bulletin board/classroom door/out in the hallway idea. Check out these displays by Mrs. Muise at Ridgeview Middle School and Ms. Bourgaize at Fredericton High School:

You can photocopy the cover of your book, write it on a piece of paper, display the books, or use a whiteboard: the point is that the students see you as a reader. It’s a conversational starting point; it’s authentic, and it’s a great way to share your reading life with your students. Making your reading life visible will inevitably lead to discussions about books you loved, abandoned, struggled to finish, new authors you discovered, genres you tried for the first time – all the reader-to-reader conversations we want to be having with our students.

TRY THIS TOMORROW: SUMMER READING SHELFIE

Sep
27

file2-2For the first six weeks of school, teachers are often focused on building a community of readers and writers in their classrooms – this is a great investment that pays off dividends for the rest of the year.

A word of caution, hold off on getting your students to do their own shelfies until everyone has read a few books. This prevents some students from being embarrassed by their lack of reading over the summer. Remember, we want to grow their reading identity, not stunt it!

Take a look at the shelfies below from two middle school teachers at Ridgeview Middle School and one of our literacy coaches:

TRY THIS TOMORROW: IN FIVE-ISH WORDS

Sep
26

Every year I look forward to the announcement of the CBC Short Story Prize. When the longlist was announced (shout out to New Brunswick for making the list), I reviewed the interviews with some of the nominees. I love how each entry is described in five-ish words and my “reading like a teacher of writing brain” started thinking about ways students could use this strategy:

  • Describe the books you are currently reading in five-ish words
  • Summarize this text in five-ish words
  • Work with a group to consolidate your five-ish word summaries into ten-ish word summary
  • Explain the piece of writing you are currently working on in five-ish words

The “ish” gives students a bit of flexibility but challenging students to grasp the meaning of a full-length text in about five words requires them to be precise and deliberate in their choices. Try inviting your students to use five-ish word summaries or descriptions.

Try This Tomorrow: A Brief History of…

Sep
13

Here in New Brunswick, we have achievement standards for writing that outline the qualities of a variety of writing forms. We’ve been working hard to find examples of places where these forms live in the world outside of school. Where do readers encounter these kinds of writing? What do they look like out in the wild beyond the school walls?

One of the writing forms found in the Grades 6-12 standards for writing in the explanatory essay. This type of writing tells how something came to be or how something works. “A Brief History of…”  writing, is a version of the explanatory report that gives students an opportunity to explore a topic of interest and incorporate research.

This Brief History of the Waffle Iron from Smithsonian Magazine is a fantastic example for students to check out as a mentor text for “A Brief History of…” writing.

Just because the explanatory report is listed as a form of writing doesn’t mean we have to limit our students’ writing to printed text. Students can create their “A Brief History of…” as a podcast such as the A Brief History of Timekeeping episode from The Secret History of the Future or a video like The Secret History of Dogs (TED-Ed).

“A Brief History of…” writing incorporates explanation, analysis, cause-and-effect, and storytelling. If you’re looking for a unique take on the explanatory report, invite your students to create one.

 

TRY THIS TOMORROW: BOOK GRAPHICS

Sep
12

As you are getting to know your students as readers and establishing a reading community within your classrooms, check out Jarrett Lerner’s artwork Kids Need Books of ALL Kinds (https://jarrettlerner.com/2018/12/11/kids-need-books-of-all-kinds/) and Grant Snider’s comic Books Are… (http://www.incidentalcomics.com/2018/06/books-are.html). These two graphics are sure to ignite many conversations around books, what they offer us, and why we need so many different kinds of them!

Here are three possibilities of how to use these in your classroom:

  1. Students could respond to the images in their Writer’s Notebooks and then share their ideas to grow their thinking.
  2. You could share how some of the different books you have read match up with some of the artwork and ask students to think about the same. This could be followed up with the questions:
    1. What did I learn about myself as a reader today?
    2. What did we learn about each other as readers?
  3. You could use Kelly Gallagher’s Say-Mean-Matter Questions to guide students through their written or spoken conversations about the texts:
    1. What does the text say?
    2. What does the text mean?
    3. Why does the text matter?

If you use these in your classroom or have other ideas on how to share them with students, please comment below or tag us on social media!

Building A Community of Readers

Sep
05

Here’s an easy activity from Cultivating Readers by Anne Elliott and Mary Lynch (bonus-they are also Canadian educators!) that some teachers are trying out to start the year. Basically, you cut out footprints (copies are available in the book) and write down what you read over the summer. You chat with your students about your footprints (sharing your reading identity) then you ask them, “What did you learn about me as a reader?” They can turn and talk (talk helps to grow their thinking), share with the class what they learned about you, write their answers on a piece of chart paper and voila-there’s a snapshot of your reading identity.

We love this one because it lets students practice talking and thinking without being vulnerable about their own reading lives (until we get to know each other), and it gives them the language and vocabulary to eventually start talking about their own reading identity, which is essential to them becoming life-long readers.

If you try this out, please share your thoughts and experiences!

TRY THIS TOMORROW: FLASH ESSAYS

Jun
13

Two years, ago I was planning a workshop for teachers on using an inquiry approach toward genre studies in writers workshop. I wanted the participating teachers to explore mentor texts through the lens of the question “How is this written?” Unfortunately, we only had 90 minutes together, so our reading time would be limited. My solution was to use flash fiction. Because, by definition, the pieces would be short, we would be able to read and discuss several of them in the time available. When I started looking for examples, I discovered they were everywhere, including on the cups and bags at Chipotle.

I recently discovered that flash fiction has a cousin, flash nonfiction (aka the flash essay). Spry Literary Journal offers this definition: “Flash nonfiction, just like flash fiction, is a story shrunk into miniature form. It’s a single story, a moment, or a scene shaped and compressed into a small capsule.”

Using flash nonfiction as mentor texts is a way of supporting writers in examining craft in a larger variety of examples than they might typically be able to when reading only longform essays. This can also be helpful during mini-lessons because students can see the craft move in the context of the whole text and not simply an excerpt.

Invite students to write their own flash essays as a fresh alternative to the traditional memoir or personal essay. You might challenge them to revise a longer piece down to its essence or ask them to create a flash essay that will eventually be developed into a longer, more detailed text.

There are many possibilities for incorporating flash nonfiction into the readers and writers workshop. Here are some sites/resources to get you started:

Brevity Magazine

The Writers Alliance of Gainesville

Hippocampus Magazine

The Artifice

Teachers & Writers Magazine

TRY THIS TOMORROW: THE OPEN LETTER

May
16

The open letter is a form of writing that offers nearly unlimited possibilities for writers. Typically addressed to a specific reader or group, but intended to be read by a wider and more public audience, the open letter can be crafted as a memoir, a persuasive piece, social commentary, or a small moment/slice of life. The open letter can be serious and formal, or it can be personal and humorous in that “you’re laughing because you’ve been there” way.

Regardless of the approach, the open letter requires some intentional writer’s moves when it comes to addressing the audience. The open letter directly addresses the named reader or group, but it must be written to engage the public audience.

McSweeney’s features a column called Open Letters to People or Entities who are Unlikely to Respond. Some of my favorite open letters are:

An Open Letter to Coastal Living Magazine

An Open Letter to the Immigration Officer Who Confused Me for a Criminal

An Open Letter to those Who Want to Liberate Me from My Hijab

An Open Letter to Collegiate Basketball Benchwarmers

An Open Letter to the Box of Loose Cables in My Closet

I’ve also found some excellent examples on HuffPost:

Open Letter to the Lazy Mom in the Grocery Store

An Open Letter to My Adolescent Daughter

An Open Letter to Teenagers from a Toddler Mom

Your students might also enjoy My Open Letter to Open Letters Everywhere (Odyssey) as a humorous reminder to keep it real and avoid open letter clichés.