Margin Notes

ROTATING CLASSROOM LIBRARIES

May
26

Last year the ASD-W Literacy team asked literacy teachers of grades 6-12 to complete a reading volume survey. That survey provided our team a multitude of valuable information.  One piece of data that resonated with me was the fact that 80 of the 84 respondents shared that they use personal funds to purchase books for their classroom library. We know that classroom libraries are recommended to include 20-30 books per student and that these titles need to appeal to a diverse audience and include selections accessible for all students.  This need for books can creates a financial burden for many teachers who want to provide students with rich reading experiences .

Given this reality for teachers, may I suggest a strategy to stretch both personal and school funds.  The recently published, Intervention Reinvention by Harvey et al suggests that teachers share books with colleagues to “maximize classroom library resources and ensure that every student has access to a range of appealing and varied texts” p. 144.

        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • By knowing your own library well, you can decide which topics, genres, or formats are needed to rotate to supplement your own library.
  • Connect with colleagues in your building and reach out to see if they are willing to collaborate and rotate books.
  • Identify rotating books with a sticker on the back or inside cover.
  • Organize rotating books in bins or a separate shelf.
  • Check out the school book room. If titles are available here, ask the administrator if these can be part of a rotating collection.
  • Finally, don’t forget to borrow from the school and the public library.

Curating a diverse well stocked classroom library is a huge challenge. Working with colleagues can stretch and strengthen your resources and knowledge of texts.

To learn more about Intervention Reinvention and other reading volume intervention strategies click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEING THE CHANGE: LESSONS AND STRATEGIES TO TEACH SOCIAL COMPREHENSION BY SARA K. AHMED

Mar
31

Last spring, literacy coach Sonja Wright and I participated in a virtual book study with several teachers in ASD-W on Being the Change by Sara K. Ahmed.

While this book focuses primarily on building personal identity, awareness, and classroom community, it does so through a wide variety of literacy activities that span all strands our English Language Arts curriculum.

Ahmed organizes the text through a collection of 6 chapters beginning first with personal identity and then moving outward to understand the acts of listening, being candid, informed, as well as personal responsibility. The book ends with the process of working together. Each chapter provides real world classroom activities curated by Ahmed illustrating possible discussions, teacher samples (anchor charts), student work, and recommended literacy “stacks” to engage students with each big idea.

Lessons and activities allow for multiple literacy connections; from the implementation of a writer’s notebook, and personal reflections through quick writes, use of mentor texts for poetry writing, opportunities for speaking and listening with think-pair-share activities and multiple inquiry activities . This list does not begin to scratch the surface of the possible literacy learnings that could arise when implementing Ahmed’s strategies.

In conclusion, I can not recall a professional resource that I have read recently that offers more meaningful and authentic classroom learning connections for students and teachers. To find out more about Sara K. Ahmed and Being the Change click here.

 

 

 

 

TRY THIS TOMORROW – ENCOURAGE STUDENT-LED BOOKTALKS

Mar
24

In their new book, Intervention Reinvention: A Volume-Based Approach to Reading Success, authors Stephanie Harvey, Annie Ward, Maggie Hoddinott and Suzanne Carroll advocate that teachers use reading volume as an intervention strategy for all students. In part three of their book, they provide numerous practical ways to teach your students about the importance of reading volume and strategies to increase their reading volume.

One of my favorites is Encourage Student-Led Booktalks found on page 169. So how exactly does a booktalk work?  When students complete a book that they feel others would enjoy, they simply provide a short talk introducing the book and share interesting elements of the text. As always, students will need guidance and modeling before they begin sharing independently. The authors provide a quick point form lesson detailing how to introduce this to students and provide time for practice. The main points are as follows:

  • Begin by pointing out to students that booktalks are an important way to share awesome books in your classroom community. Share that you have booktalked some of your favorites (if you haven’t done this, begin by trying it yourself a few times over a couple of weeks, before introducing to students). Let students know you are going to give them a chance to booktalk one of their favorite books today. Outline the main attributes of a booktalk: a quick commercial for the book, grab the listeners attention with any interesting or unique, but remembering not to give away any spoilers!
  • Next provide the students with a model: name a title and author of a book, share the genre or format, and give a brief overview.
  • Remind students to end their booktalk with a reason why others would enjoy the book. For example, “If you love mystery and intrigue, this is definitely for you”.
  • Finally, allow your students time, perhaps ten minutes to draft their own booktalk and practice sharing with an elbow partner. Let them know that you will provide time the following day for someone to give the first daily booktalk.

 

Providing the opportunity for students to prepare, deliver and listen to booktalks addresses ELA outcomes for listening and speaking, reading and viewing as well as writing and representing.

To view ASD-W teachers and the literacy team modeling booktalks check out our ASD-W Margin Notes K-12 Sharepoint site.  Scroll down the homepage until you see Booktalks.

To learn more about the book Intervention Reinvention: A Volume-Based Approach to Reading Success, click here.

 

DADDY SPEAKS LOVE BY LEAH HENDERSON

Mar
22

Many educators (including myself) will advocate that no students are too old for picture books. Picture books, as shared by Jill Davidson in an earlier Margin Notes post,  Picture Books in Grades 6-12,

“…make excellent mentor texts to use in mini-lessons or to demonstrate writing techniques since you can read them more than once in a short amount of time.  They can be used to develop background knowledge about a concept or topic or for quick writes and writer’s notebook responses.  Picture books can invite dialogue about tough topics and complex ideas. Most importantly, though, they bring students together into a shared experience that invites everyone in the reading community to celebrate beautiful words and images.”

Daddy Speaks Love by Leah Henderson is just one of these books that will provide teachers a segue to discussing difficult topics, the sharing of ideas and opportunities for critical thinking.  Motivated by the death of George Floyd during the summer of 2020 and the statement by his then six-year-old daughter that, “Daddy changed the world”, Henderson explores the relationship that fathers or father figures play in the lives of their children.  Love, support, and guidance are all explored in the text, as is unfairness and injustice.  The illustrations by E. B. Lewis will also provide teachers with opportunities to explore critical thinking activities, such as, “What does this picture say? What does it not say.”

Henderson’s words and Lewis’ illustrations provide a powerful and timely reflection on the state of social justice issues facing much of the world in 2022.  To learn more about this book and other powerful picture books check out our K-12 Virtual Books shelves on our ASD-W Margin Notes K-12 Literacy sharepoint.

 

YOU’LL BE THE DEATH OF ME BY KAREN MCMANUS 

Mar
15

“We all make mistakes, right? And almost never see the fallout coming.” 

If you enjoyed her books One of Us is Lying or The Cousins, you will be happy to pick up You’ll be the Death of Me. I enjoy a mystery and, even more than that, I appreciate how McManus captures the complexities of relationships in high school. Students gather together in one spot each day yet their experiences inside and outside that building are vastly different. This story centers around Ivy, a rich blonde who feels unseen under the comparison to her brother; Mateo, a mysterious student who is working multiple jobs to support his mother while also protecting his cousin; and Cal, an artist who romanticizes a middle school adventure as he experiences the life of an outcast in high school. 

The unlikely friendship that connects these three begins with the desperate need to escape their current situations. The trio once happened to experience “The Greatest Day Ever” in the 8th grade and circumstances have brought them together to try to recreate this before graduation. The fantasy of this adventurous escape, paired with the deep nostalgia of good times passed, is one with which teenagers can relate. Unfortunately for them, “The Greatest Day Ever” sequel starts with the discovery of a dead classmate and a witness describing one of them as the murderer.  

McManus’ writing is fast paced with vivid description casting a movie in your mind. Her depiction of the complicated nuances of relationships with friends, parents, siblings and partners creates a connection between the reader and characters. The book is another title to add to your mystery collection.  

 

DECOLONIZING YOUR BOOKSHELVES

Feb
17

In their new book, Intervention Reinvention: A Volume-Based Approach to Reading Success, authors Stephanie Harvey, Annie Ward, Maggie Hoddinott and Suzanne Carroll advocate teachers create and curate what they refer to as, “…robust, vibrant, and diverse classroom libraries”(p. 29). One way they propose to curate this library is to actively engage in decolonizing your bookshelves.  Classroom libraries need to reflect all students and the authors provide an abundance of research to support this stance.

As early as 1965 the Saturday Review article, “The All-White World of Children’s Books,” by Dr. Nancy Larrick, stated that though integration was the law of the land, most books children saw were white.  This lack of representation, she when on to say, “ …harms children of color by depriving them of opportunities to see themselves in books they read and in how they imagine their futures”. Almost 50 years later in 2014 author Walter Dean Myers published an op-ed in the New York Times, “Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?”. In 2016 and 2019 Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen, an associate professor at St. Catherine University and illustrator David Huyck published what is now a will known infographic displaying data collected about the representation of children of color in books published prior to 2019.

In February 2020, author, and educator Zaretta Hammond wrote, “Revisiting Your Library: Decolonizing, Not Just Diversifying”. She argues that while teachers are ensuring more books with brown faces are in their libraries, these books often still perpetuate black stereotypes.  For example, books that portray buses, boycotts, and basketball or only storylines that examine the challenges of inner city living.  She goes on to explain that while having books around a ‘Black Lives Matter’ theme and social justice is part of the black experience, it is not the only part.  Black life and lives are diverse and the books that reflect their lives should show this diversity.  Hammond offers the following three reflective questions to determine whether a book is worth including:

          • Does the book go beyond the typical themes about characters of color?
      • Do the children of color look authentic?
      • Are the texts, especially fictional stories, ‘enabling’?
(David Huyak, in consultation with Sarh Park Dahlen – Released under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)

Consider taking time to ask these questions of the books in your library and decolonize your shelves. Once finished, if you are looking for titles to add to your collection, check out our virtual bookshelves.

To learn more about the book Intervention Reinvention: A Volume-Based Approach to Reading Success, click here.

 

 

FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER BY ANGELINE BOULLEY

Feb
08

I am a frozen statue of a girl in the woods. Only my eyes move, darting from the gun to their startled expression.

Gun. Shock. Gun. Disbelief. Gun. Fear.

THA-THUM-THA-THUM-THA-THUM.

The snub-nosed revolver shakes with tiny tremors from the jittery hand aiming at my face.

                I’m gonna die.

                My nose twitches at a greasy sweetness. Familiar. Vanilla and mineral oil. WD-40. Someone used it to clean the gun. More scents: pine, damp moss, skunky sweat, and cat pee.

                THA-THUM-THA-THUM-THA-THUM.

                The jittery hand makes a hacking motion with the gun, as if wielding a machete instead. Each diagonal slice toward the ground gives me hope. Better a random target than me.

                But then terror grips my heart again. The gun. Back at my face.

                Mom. She won’t survive my death. One bullet will kill us both.

                A brave hand reaches for the gun. Fingers outstretched.

Demanding. Give it. Now.

                THA-THUM-THA-

                I am thinking of my mother when the blast changes everything.”

Angeline Boulley’s debut novel Firekeeper’s Daughter shares the story of Daunis Fontaine, the daughter of a local Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) hockey hero and a rich girl from the right side of the river. Daunis has had difficulty her entire life fitting in and feeling accepted by both communities she ferries between.  As I settled into this novel, I was convinced I was reading a coming-of-age story about how Daunis will find her place within her two families and succeed in her desire to become a doctor. I could not have been more wrong! While Daunis does endeavor to discover who she is, this book becomes so much more…a murder mystery entangled in organized crime, a love story, and at the same time, a beautiful reflection of indigenous teachings.

Boulley crafts her text with carefully layered hints that have the reader speculating who is behind the murders and distribution of crystal meth at the centre of the community’s heartache. She develops characters that are strong, loyal, and mysterious.  Daunis finds herself embroiled in the mystery and using both her traditional indigenous teachings and her uncle’s scientific method to find the killers.  Will she succeed?

Due to mature language and themes this book is matched best to older readers. I highly recommend Firekeeper’s Daughter for grade 11 or 12 classroom libraries.

To learn more about Angeline Boulley and Firekeeper’s Daughter click here.

DRESS CODED BY CARRIE FIRESTONE

Feb
01

In her debut middle grade novel, Dress Coded, Carrie Firestone pens a story all middle level classrooms need to have in their library. Molly Frost is an

eighth-grade student who has spent the last three years of her life terrified of being dress coded by “Fingertip” the school’s dress code enforcer.  Her female classmates have all suffered the same fate and when one friend, Olivia, is singled out, painfully embarrassed, and blamed for the senior class camping trip being cancelled, Molly has had enough.

Molly begins a podcast called “Dress Coded” to call out this unfair treatment and the inconsistent application of the school dress code policy by the administration.  As Molly convinces friends to share their stories, her following grows, including former students now in high school, who share their experiences of body shaming.  When one girl is coded for having hair styled “too high”, Molly decides they need to go to the school board.  This leads to her school’s first “camp in”.

Dress Coded sheds light on a practice that shames girls during a vulnerable time in their lives and pokes holes in the argument that dress codes are necessary to prevent boys from being “distracted”. I loved how Molly found her voice and stood up for her beliefs and overcame her own person struggles. Her strength, resilience and perseverance are to be admired.

THE ONLY BLACK GIRLS IN TOWN BY BRANDY COLBERT

Nov
30

Author Brandy Colbert best known for her YA novels The Voting Booth, The Revolution of Birdie Randolph, Little & Lion, Finding Yvonne and soon to be released Black Birds in the Sky has debuted her first middle grade novel The Only Black Girls in Town. Set in the small California surfing town of Ewing Beach, our protagonist Alberta is one of only a few seventh grade black students in her local middle school and while her long-time best friend Laramie is like a sister, there are still some things she doesn’t “get”.  To make things more complicated Laramie is striking up a new friendship with the “popular” eighth grader Nicolette McKee, who also just happens to be Alberta’s worst nightmare. So, when the bed and breakfast next door is bought Alberta is of course curious.  When she learns the family is black and has a daughter Alberta’s age she is beyond excited. Alberta and Edie (the new girl) soon become friends and of course this leads to misunderstandings and complications with Laramie.

As Alberta and Edie begin to navigate their new friendship they make an unexpected discovery of some long-lost journals in Edie’s new bedroom (the attic of the B&B). The journals belonged to the mysterious Constance. The girls soon begin to try and unravel the mystery of who Constance was and how her journals came to be in the attic of the bed and breakfast?

Against this backdrop the Alberta and Edie deal with microaggressions from classmates, first time crushes, and mean girl culture and begin to understand that while being the only black girls in town can be difficult, life for black people a few decades ago was much more difficult and even dangerous.

I loved The Only Two Black Girls in Town. It surprised me with complicated themes that I did not expect. I highly recommend this book for all middle grade classrooms.

To learn more about author Brandy Colbert visit here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

YOU’D BE HOME NOW BY KATHLEEN GLASGOW

Nov
23

Kathleen Glasgow’s newest title, You’d Be Home Now, exposes the tragic outcomes when children feel unseen and unheard, and the lengths they will go to escape these feelings.

Emmie Ward is someone most would call privileged. White, wealthy, intelligent, and a dancer on the school team – she appears to have it all. But she also has two parents too busy to notice her, a brother struggling with addiction, friendships that have been broken, a neighbor who offers an escape that only leads to a broken heart, a body broken by a car accident and the grief of the death of an innocent bystander to all of this. So, while privileged in some ways, Emmie is carrying more than anyone should have to.

When her brother goes missing after a relapse, Emmie is determined to find him. Somehow her strength and determination and love for her brother awaken something in her parents and they finally seem to see what is happening to their family, and more importantly, what they can do to save it.

With themes such as parenting, addiction, slut-shaming, and the bond between siblings wrapped into a story that is deep and beautifully written, this title is one that will be passed from student and to student and leaves its readers with the understanding that just because you’ve heard stories about someone, it doesn’t mean you know them. In Emmie’s words…

I’m a girl on a stage and I have nothing beautiful for you.

I’m a girl on a stage and you think you know my story.

But how can you know my story

when I haven’t written it yet

When I haven’t had a chance to live it yet.

How can you know my story

When you don’t even know me