Margin Notes



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.




Landbridge: Life in Fragments by Y-Dang Troeung is a memoir that is fundamentally a reflection of the author’s family’s experiences as Cambodian refugees who fled the Khmer Rouge regime, ultimately finding sanctuary in Canada. However, this book can also be seen as a powerful exploration of the human experience as seen through the lens of a fragmented world.

Throughout the novel, the author takes us on a journey through time and space, weaving together narratives from different eras and regions. This book is not just about history, it’s about how history shapes our lives today. It spans continents and generations, revealing the hidden threads that bind us all. Through this book, we are invited to reflect on the concept of a “landbridge” and the idea that land is not just a physical space but a bridge between cultures, peoples, and memories. Troeung opens a window with her stories for readers to catch a glimpse of the challenging landscapes of immigration, memory, and family. This book challenges us to rethink our understanding of borders and divisions, showing us how they can be both unifying and divisive forces in our world.

Landbridge is a celebration of diversity and a call for unity. It’s a book that reminds us of the importance of preserving our cultural heritage while embracing the interconnectedness of our global society. This is a thought-provoking read that will stay with you. For students interested in history, culture, and the human experience, ‘Landbridge: Life in Fragments’ is a must-read. Y-Dang Troeung’s storytelling will captivate your mind and touch your heart.

Kate is a student in the Faculty of Education at the University of New Brunswick and is passionate about teaching. She is dedicated to fostering a love for learning and believes books in the power of books to inspire and teach.



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.




Ducks tells the emotional story of the author, Kate Beaton, and her journey from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, to the oil sands of Alberta. Her story will resonate with many Canadians, but especially those from the East Coast who so often need to leave their hometowns for financial reasons. This familiar theme makes Ducks a great addition to the classroom library as many students would have someone close to them who must travel for work, and will empathize with the issues Beaton articulates. The trials and tribulations Beaton experiences during her time in the oil sands of Alberta are very real, and because of this Ducks is best suited for mature readers who are prepared to grapple with, and reflect on, experiences of misogyny, coarse language and assault while working in the predominately male centered fields. On the whole, this slice of life story is a great way to get readers interested in different types of texts and can be a great resource to show that autobiographies can come in many more forms than students may have previously realized.

Besides the emotion present in Beaton’s story, the decision to make it a graphic text allows it to beautifully illustrate her journey.  This element allows readers a clearer window into the reality of these events to the point where one can almost feel as though they were present. As well, because this work is the culmination of many individual comics, it can be broken into smaller, individual, sections rather than needing to be read as a whole, and as well makes her story accessible to a wider audience of readers. Overall, the images and text work together to reveal Beaton’s struggles in a thoughtful manner.

Spencer is currently working towards his BEd at the University of New Brunswick, focusing on English, Social Studies and the International Baccalaureate. He grew up in Nova Scotia and studied at ST.FX University before continuing with his education in New Brunswick. Spencer has been an avid reader through much of his life and wants to promote different forms of texts, like graphic novels, as an equal form of literature, compared to traditional texts, in his future teaching.



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!




Vesper Vale feared the Storm just as much as most in the fifth ring did. Being in the outer most ring of this dystopian society, meant that Vesper and those she loved were on the cusp of death, or worst, the curse that the Storm bestowed on those who merely touched it. If the Storm didn’t get to them, then the unrelenting hunger might. When Vesper’s father is taken away for his revolutionary past and illegal use of magic by the men tasked to save their society, Vesper must sneak into the inner circles of society to save him. Navigating an unknown society of wealth and abundance, Vesper befriends Dalca, the son of the Regia and leader of the society. Yet, she may end up getting closer to Dalca than she had planned, putting everything into question: What was it that divided their people? What is the story behind her parents’ secretive past? What brought on the Storm? And what is Vesper willing to sacrifice to save them all? Confronted with her growing affection for Dalca and her conflicting feelings for her father, Vesper must decide for herself what she really wants, before others decide for her.

This novel covers themes of friendship, love, family, class discrimination, and the often complicated need for revenge. Woven together with stunning imagery and magic, this novel is perfect for high school students, especially those who enjoy genres of  fantasy and dystopian. Furthermore, this is the first of two novels in the series and the cliff hanger at the end will have any reader reaching for the next novel!

Isabella Lirette is a graduate of Mount Allison University and a current Education student at the University of New Brunswick. She is an avid EcoLiterature and Indigenous Literature fan and is eager to bring her love of reading and writing into the classroom.



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!








The novel Never Lie written by Freida McFadden is an exhilarating thriller underlined with multiple compelling relationships between characters. The book is centered around Tricia and Ethan, a newly wedded couple in search of the perfect house to grow their relationship. They stumble upon the most beautiful mansion, one previously owned by a famous psychiatrist named Adrienne Hale. The house recently entered the market after the investigation of Adrienne’s mysterious disappearance was concluded. The police were unsuccessful in finding out what happened to the renowned psychiatrist, and the house appears to hold no answers.

The couple makes a trip to view the mansion during a snowstorm, and unfortunately, they get trapped at the house, with no reception or means of leaving. While waiting for the snowstorm to pass, Tricia stumbles upon a secret room filled with tape recordings of every session Adrienne had with his patients. The tapes unravel events up to the disappearance of Adrienne Hale. Each tape has Tricia more and more on edge as she discovers more about Adrienne’s lies leading up to her disappearance.

This novel is the perfect thriller for any high school student who enjoys a great mystery as well as compelling love stories. Learning about the love Tricia and Ethan share, and what they would do to keep that love alive, as well as the toxic relationship Adrienne was in at the time of her disappearance, gives the reader much to consider. The short chapters make this novel a quick read and easy to pick up when you have a minute to spare. If you enjoyed The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, then Never Lie will also pique your interest. The plot twists throughout the story make this a page-turner!

Alisha Hathi is a first-year education student at the University of New Brunswick.



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.





Sopan Deb’s Missed Translations is a touching and humorous memoir about his journey of self-discovery and reconciliation with his immigrant roots. Despite his success as a New York Times writer and comedian, Sopan realized that he was often hiding his insecurities behind humor. While he told stories and jokes typical of an Indian immigrant, it was not true to his background.

The parents of Sopian immigrated separately to America, and, although not compatible, they married in an arranged marriage. Shortly after the birth of their second son, Sopian’s father returned to India without warning or saying goodbye.As a result of not knowing his father and isolating himself from his mother, he sought refuge in the homes and lives of his white-American friends. As Sopian approached his 30th birthday, he began to reflect on the fact that he knew nothing about his parents. How old they were, where they were born, if they had any siblings, and he didn’t even know his own mother’s phone number.

As a result of these reflections, Sopan travels to India to reunite with the father he hasn’t seen or spoken to in nearly a decade. The outcome is the discovery of a man who is thinking, passionate, and proud of his son. He makes discoveries about his father as well as his extended family, eventually leading him to reconcile with his past and reunite with his estranged mother.

Using Missed Translations in an English classroom to explore themes of identity and belonging or cultural perspectives would be a great use of this memoir. It could be used as a mentor text in many ways, including:

Voice and Style: Examine Sopan deb’s writing style and voice. Analyze his use of humor, wit, and emotional depth. Discuss how his unique voice contributes to the storytelling and engages the reader.

Character Development: Study how the author portrays himself and other characters in the memoir. Explore the development of his character and his family members. Discuss how dialogue, actions, and inner thoughts reveal character traits.

Transitions and Pacing: Study how the author manages transitions between different parts of his life and how pacing is used to maintain reader engagement.

Reflection and Analysis: Focus on how the author reflects on his experiences and analyzes their significance.


Ryan is a dedicated educator with a Master’s in English Language Teaching and a Bachelor’s in English Literature. With over a decade of international teaching experience, he specializes in innovative methodologies and teacher mentoring. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Education with an Englih and IB specialization, he’s passionate about advancing education.