Monday, July 13, 2015

Abandoning Post-It Notes During Independent Reading



I have been a long time user of Post-It note annotations during reading.  In fact, I've written posts, like this one and this one, where I mention using them.  However, the nature of teaching is that we continue to learn, grow, reflect, and change our methods and instruction for the better.  That's sort of where I am now with Post-It note (which I usually refer to as sticky notes) annotations. I think we are parting ways when it comes to independent reading.

I have to be honest and share my teacher fail here.  I had done all the right things in implementing this.  We did lessons on what was worth writing a sticky note, the different types of things they could write a note about, etc. We practiced it in guided reading groups, I modeled it many, many times. However, it just didn't seem to stick (pardon the pun!) for many of my students. Oh, there were a handful that got it and did well, but many seemed to struggle with using them in a way that helped them as readers.

So, I tried to fix the problem. When I noticed the friends that would sticky note almost every page, we had one to one lessons reviewing their notes and learning why some were good while others were just filler.  We revisited the lesson on "sticky worthy" events. I had many frustrated days conferencing and reteaching with some friends that wouldn't write any sticky notes at all because, despite my exhaustive lessons, custom sticky notes with prompts, and the anchor charts hanging in the room, they would say they didn't know what to write.

I knew it was time to rethink this. How effective was having my students use sticky notes during independent reading?  Was it working?  In a word, no.  It wasn't working for enough of my students that I could say it was effective.  And, what really were my ultimate goals for my students?  I wanted my friends reading.  I wanted then to be immersed in a book they enjoyed.  I wanted them to have sustained reading time, to be excited about reading and talking about books with their friends.  What I had done by enforcing sticky notes was getting in the way of all of that.  My students are children reading 1-2 years below grade level.  Reading has been a struggle for them and not something they consider enjoyable. I was just making it more like work than the joy I know it could be for them.

Then, I thought about myself as a reader.  I read.  I read a lot!  And, I rarely stop to jot a note when I'm reading fiction.  Instead, I let myself be immersed in and carried away by the story.  I live the events with the characters and become invested in what they do.  I "feel" the book; laughing, crying, worrying, wondering, anticipating as the text pulls me in. This is what I want for my students. When reading nonfiction, I generally don't annotate unless I have a purpose of using the information in some way.  For my students, this would be if they were working on a research project or found some information so interesting they wanted to share it with a friend later. But, what would be my purpose in forcing them to write Post-It notes on a nonfiction book they were reading for enjoyment?

The last two months of school, I decided to give it a shot and abandon sticky notes.  Here's what I noticed immediately.  My friends spent more time reading.  Their enjoyment of reading increased. My most reluctant readers were no longer fake reading or complaining about having to read. They were talking more to each other about the books they were reading. They were spontaneously coming to me to talk about an interesting or funny part of their book. All those goals I had for my students were happening!

This September, I will not be using Post-It notes during independent reading.  That's not to say I won't be using them at all. Post-Its definitely have their place in the classroom.  We use them a lot during guided reading.  They are perfect for jotting down an answer, a great spot for a student to jot down something they want to share, something they notice, etc.  I will sometimes prewrite individual questions on them to differentiate for my students.  There are a million places where they work well.  I just no longer think independent reading is one of those places.

But, I do have to have something in place.  My district is all about accountability, so as much as I would like to set my friends free to go read and just enjoy their books, there needs to be more to it. Because I have my notes from student conferences, goal setting, and lesson observations, I knew I could keep this fairly short and simple.  Currently, I am thinking of having the kids do a single response when they finish a book.  I  plan on calling it Just One Thing! where students have a chance to share just one thing about the book they read.  It can be a book review, something in the book events they want to comment on, etc.  The point is they just have to say one thing about the book and it can be as detailed or as simple as they are capable of constructing at the time. This allows them to read without interruption or worry about writing Post-It notes.

Originally, I thought I would provide them with small, soft cove notebooks where they could write and I could respond.  But, then I realized this would be perfect for technology integration.  In the past, I've done a class blog where the kids responded to our read alouds.  It worked out so well. They commented on each others post and had real conversations about the books. I am leaning toward using a blog again for this.  A couple of suggestions from Instagram were to use Edmodo or My Big Campus. I am not super familiar with those sites, but I plan to check them out over the summer.

So, that's where things stand now.  I would love to know your thoughts.  What are you doing with independent reading?  Are you using sticky notes or have you found another way?  Any suggestions?



14 comments:

  1. .I love your idea of Just One Thing. I encouraged my students to use a folded sheet of printer paper as a bookmark. It was an easy way to jot page #s of things they might want to revisit later.

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    1. I like the paper bookmark Ramona. It gives them the option to note with no sticky notes cluttering the book!

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    2. I also like the idea of Just One Thing. I'm thinking about how to run it in my classes. I teach the English side of a Chinese Immersion class. Si it is essential for me to get the biggest bang from my buck. I only have each class for 2 1/2 hours a day to teach all ELA, Math, and Social Studies. Just One Thing sound like a fantastic accountability tool. Wish me luck.

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  2. This post is great, Nancy. I'm so glad that you're noticing what is standing in the way of your readers and you're making a move on it. I love seeing teachers reflect and change based on what the kids needs. That's why we're all here in the first place, right?

    After attending NerdCampMI last week, we had a big discussion about breaking the rules gently in our schools, making small changes to help kids when we know it's best and not necessarily what districts want. If you do not know Pernille Ripp, I really encourage you to check her blog Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension. It will help you stay up on current research that helps support this very decision you made and wrote about.

    Every time I tell teachers that my kids read only during IR time , they're shocked. They immediately want to know about accountability. I know it's hard for teachers because there is nothing on paper, no DRA mark up sheet, no MAP scores, but I use conferences as my accountability piece. I watch my kids during IR, I loop through my kids, meeting with almost everyone every week (almost! Sometimes it's every 2 weeks) and I TALK TO THEM. You seem to already have an excellent system in place, but for other teachers out there, I highly recommend using conferring and getting to know your kids as this piece. If you know your kids, talk to them and often about what they're reading you will know if they're reading or not. Is this the accountability you need? Knowing that they're reading a book?

    I find that teachers feel like they need a hard copy to "prove" to someone else what they are doing in their classroom.

    I think finding a way to keep track of conferring would be beneficial! I also like your idea for the end of books! We use book reviews, book talks, book trailers and reading responses in our classroom for this piece. We started using KidBlog last year and will begin tweeting this upcoming year AND responding digitally for the Global Read Aloud when we start our Fish in a Tree read aloud.

    Good luck! I love this post and that you're getting it out to other teachers. I wish others would follow your lead and provide more organic reading experiences for children. Kudos!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words! I do have a system for keeping my conference notes which I think will be enough data tracking to satisfy my district.
      I also LOVE your conversation about breaking the rules gently! It's all in doing what is best for our students! All I've been reading about Nerd Camp is making me want to go next year!

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  3. I have to say, as much as I love using sticky notes- I have had the same response from my kiddos as you've had. It just wasn't working for the majority! I have also considered using a blog type for responding this year! I have used a site called KidBlog before and it is perfect for the classroom and safe. Another one I'm going to look into this year because of the awesome blog from another teacher is called Weebly. I am excited to try something different! Thanks for your post!

    Lindsay
    Just Keep Teaching

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    1. I will have to check out Weebly. That's another one I don't know of. Thanks for the tip!

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  4. I think your post is very interesting. I just participated in an online book group reading Cynthia Lord's A Handful of Stars and we were focused on writing about reading. We each took notes on our thoughts in different ways. I was one who used post-it notes and I did have A LOT but it was to mark where something really struck me and to be a placeholder so I could find the correct spot when I wanted to reference it in my writing. This was very powerful to read how others took notes and their thinking. As for just enjoying a story, I don't ever take notes in any way, like you - I just read and fall into the story. So, for me, I know I'll need to be thinking about my purpose for my kiddos. If you're interested, we're having a Twitter chat Tuesday at 7:30 pm #WabtR. I hope you join us. Thanks so much for sharing this!
    Janie
    Are We There Yet?

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    1. i think there's probably not one right way to do this. Every teacher has to find a way that works for her and the students. Thanks for the Twitter invite. I will have to check the hashtag and catch up!

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  5. When I read your post, I felt like I could be reading about my own "sticky note journey" a couple of years ago!! I went through the exact same process of having students respond to reading on sticky notes, realizing that it was not working, and then abandoning them. Once we abandoned the sticky notes, my students and I had authentic conversations about what was going on in the book, connections, etc. instead of discussing students' sticky note responses. I felt like our discussions involved higher-level skills, as well.

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  6. Deb, how I wish I had seen the light two years ago! I'm so glad it worked out well for you. I can't wait to kick the sticky note habit in September! πŸ˜„

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  7. This could be one of my blog posts. I love post-it notes too but I have come to realize there is a time and place for them. Independent reading time is not one of them. My blog buddies and I just finished a blog hop/book study on Kelly Gallagher's book Readicide. Have you read his book? He talks about how over teaching novels has lead to students hating reading. He stresses the importance to letting students just enjoy a book. I would love for you to check out our posts.

    Also if your looking to integrate technology I would recommend taking part in Global Read Aloud. My class participated in Global Read Aloud this past year. We blogged with a class in another state about the novel. It was a great experience for the students.

    Kim
    Quinnessential Lessons

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  9. I just ordered a whole bunch of sticky notes since I've never really used them for IR response. Now I need to rethink this and maybe just use them when I conduct individual conferences with kids who need to practice a particular strategy. I like sticky notes but kids really do misuse them a lot.

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