Margin Notes

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.

Anticipation Guides

May
22

What it is: a pre-reading strategy used to activate prior knowledge and spark interest about key concepts in a reading or unit of study. Teachers create these statements and provide them to students prior to a reading or unit of study. These statements are then revisited after the learning has occurred to document any changes in thinking. As such, it serves as both a pre and post-assessment. More so, it can be used to guide class/group/partner discussion about key concepts.  Here is a one I used with a group of students who were reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

As with most topics, we generally have pre-conceived ideas and beliefs, even if these are largely unconscious. Use the anticipatory guide below to help you uncover your beliefs about these topics, and also to investigate whether these change as a result of your reading.

 

 

Before Reading   After Reading
There are times when you should tell your sister’s/brother’s/friend’s secrets to an adult.
If you do not consume alcohol as a teenager, you will not be accepted by teenagers who do.
You can be happy and sad at the same time.
The “cool” kids at school are the happiest.
There are certain things that are “off –limits” to talk about with your friends.
Good readers are good writers.
Being a wallflower means you are not participating in life.
Learning how to make friends is more difficult in high school than in middle school.
Adults forget what the intensity of a crush is like for a teenager.
If adults really knew what happened at teenage parties they would be shocked.

Teaching Literacy in the Visible Learning Classroom by Hattie et al lists the following three steps for creating anticipation guides:

  1. Identify the major concepts. What are the main ideas in the passage or unit of study?
  2. Consider your students’ prior knowledge. What misconceptions are they most likely to hold?
  3. Write five to ten statements pertaining to the unit. Don’t make them all factual – be sure to create open-ended statements as well. Look again at your major concepts to make sure you are creating statements that relate to larger concepts rather than isolated facts. For example, for a reading about drama in literature, the titles of various plays would not be useful.

If you try anticipation guides with your students, we’d love to hear how it went!

Compass Points Activity

Apr
23

Often when we ask students to make decisions and plans, we first ask them to brainstorm or create lists, such as a pros/cons. Recently, we have been using an activity we borrowed from Project Zero during PL sessions with teachers that we think would work really well with students – Compass Points. The Compass Points activity asks a learner, or group of learners to identify what excites them about a proposal, what worries them, what more they need to know, and finally to name their current stance or suggestions.

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The Rule of Three (because three becomes a thing)

Apr
18

I have written about Katie Wood Ray’s advice to “read like teachers of writing” and my habit of recording examples of writer’s craft I find in my reading that I want to use as mentors in writing workshops with students and teachers.  I believe this lens also means that we read the world as though it is one big source of mentor texts.  I am always on the look-out for forms of writing or organizing structures that students could try out and when I find a group of at least three similar texts, I think that is the magic number for an inquiry.  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.

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Book Spine Poetry

Apr
11

If you’re looking for a fun way to get students creating poetry and at the same time getting new titles into their hands, try using book spine poetry. This is such an easy activity that makes us all poets. Just scan your bookshelf for interesting titles-each title will make up a line of your poem, arrange the titles so that they run together as a poem, stack them in a pile and take a picture!

Here is a link to some 2017 book spine poetry winning poems (with the youngest category being 5 to 8 year-olds!).

Some real-world mentor texts of book spine poetry happened in 2015 when the Toronto Library and the Kansas City Library used spine book poetry to trash talk when their baseball teams were both vying for a spot in the World Series.  Take a look!

We recruited some of our colleagues from around the office and we wrote a few together this afternoon:

Melissa

Jill

Kelly

Derrick Grant-Subject Coordinator for Math (obviously…)

Gina Dunnett-Director of Schools for the Oromocto Ed Centre

Posting these on class Twitter and Instagram accounts are a great way to share the book spine poetry created in your classroom.  If you try it, we would love to see some examples of your students’ poems!