Margin Notes

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.

#ASDWReads

Sep
06

Since we had such a great time this summer looking at all the titles you shared on Twitter with the hashtag #ASDWSummerReads, we decided to continue the book love throughout the school year!  The hashtag is now #ASDWReads and we encourage you to snap a picture of the book you are enjoying then post it on Twitter and add #ASDWReads.

We gave away 5 books to teachers at the end of the summer and we will be drawing a name every month for a book to send to the lucky winner.  The more you post, the higher your chances are.  Happy reading!

Lightning Round Book Talks- Student Edition

Jul
05

After we blogged about our lightning round book talks, our friend and colleague, Sara Bamford, contacted us and asked if we’d be interested in visiting her Grade 10 classes but with the tables turned and the students presenting the book talks.

Of course, we were all in.  The plan was for the students to present short, informal book talks on their current or recent reads and for us to identify who “sold” their books best. Sara and her students co-constructed the criteria they wanted us to use to determine a winner and she created an anchor chart “cheat sheet” of information readers could include:

When we arrived, Sara had organized the class into small groups.  (more…)

Book Displays

Jun
25

Creating book displays are a fun way to advertise book titles.  Here are a few fantastic examples to inspire you:

Lindsay Perez at Nashwaaksis Middle School photographed students’ Book Spine Poems and created a collage:

Melissa Wilson-Smith at Bliss Carman Middle School makes the most of the wall space outside her classroom and even above the water fountain:

Sara Bamford at Fredericton High School invites students to post their book recommendations for classmates:

We always love checking out the theme-based displays at the Fredericton High School Library:

At the library at Leo Hayes High School, speech bubbles give a quick description of new titles:

 

Creating book displays contributes to the book buzz in our classrooms and schools and sends a message to our students that reading is a top priority.

We hope you’ll share some of your book display ideas in the comments section.